Writing with Robin Van Auken

Small Changes Ripple Outward

I spent a delightful 12 minutes watching a Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, a psychologist who teaches about positivity and its effect on happiness.

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor
(Photo courtesy Alexismbr, Wikimedia Commons)

Not only did I laugh most of the the time, but I was inspired to pause the video (so yes, it took longer than 12 minutes to watch) to jot down some  notes. I am a fan of being happy and living in the present, a process I practice every day because every night I toss and turn and my mind wanders and I worry about upcoming tasks and deadlines.

According to Achor, “We think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier. But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order.”

Be happy and success follows, Achor says, basing his ideas on the latest research from the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience. He adds, “one of the key lessons of ‎positive psychology is that happiness is (always) a choice.”

What choices am I making that interfere with my happiness and success? Am I setting myself up for failure by setting too many immediate, insurmountable goals? Are you?

Everyday we set goals, but are we setting the right goals? Are we trying to achieve too much too fast?

“People often get frustrated because they pick huge goals which are way off in the future,” Achor said in an interview on Ted Talk. “But the human brain needs to record victories. Otherwise it gets exhausted.”

Achor said, “… we found that if you can provide humor and connect at an emotional level, people will remember information much longer. One of my favorite professors at Harvard was a man named Brian Little who was in the psychology department. He would tell these stories, and the stories would take forever, and I remember taking notes and I would be like, I don’t know what he could possibly ask on the exam, because it’s just long, humorous stories. But I can tell you those stories today, and I can tell you the psychological importance of them and the lesson that we were learning. So I think if it’s practical, if it’s emotional or humorous, and if it’s science-based, I think you’ve got the best chance of creating an educational revolution.”

Small changes ripple outward. You can start today to  “rewire your brain” to be positive in the present. Here’s a short list of daily tasks that you can perform to create lasting positive change:

  • Make a note of three gratitudes
  • Make a journal entry of a positive experience
  • Exercise (I know, I know …)
  • Meditate
  • Perform a random act of kindness

Want to know more about Shawn Achor? Here’s a short bio on the Ted Talk website:

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard.

He is the CEO of Good Think Inc., a Cambridge-based consulting firm which researches positive outliers — people who are well above average — to understand where human potential, success and happiness intersect. Based on his research and 12 years of experience at Harvard, he clearly and humorously describes to organizations how to increase happiness and meaning, raise success rates and profitability, and create positive transformations that ripple into more successful cultures. He is also the author of The Happiness Advantage.

Watch this delightful, witty video and become positive today.