… is stumbling on super cool research while slogging through studies and academic treatises on the Internet.
Because I often write about family dynamics, I end up doing a lot of research on what makes people happy. After all, as parents our #1 concern is that our children grow up to be “happy” (yes, we also want them to be “successful” and healthy, but their happiness will typically make us feel like we’ve done a good job).
Frankly, happiness is a hard thing to write about. I often find myself quite frustrated trying to untangle the various ways in which parents influence the long term happiness of their children. There are days when I’m confused, irritated, and even a bit bored by our culture’s insistence on happiness.
And then I start surfing the web. When I stumble on talks like this, by Harvard researcher Shawn Achor, I’m happy again.
First, I love the way he makes his points by telling vivid stories. It reminds me that above and beyond everything else, when we’re trying to change how people understand the way the world works, we are most effectively served by telling stories. Lively stories about real people are relevant, meaningful and have impact.
Second, I love to a good laugh. I learned a lot about how to give a great speech by listening to this one. I don’t consider myself a funny person, though actually my husband insists I’m hilarious (um, should I be taking this as a compliment??)–but wouldn’t it be great to be informative AND entertaining?
And finally, I think his insights are both clear and helpful. I eagerly listened to The Secret in my car when it was all the rage, and I just couldn’t quite buy into the idea that you create your own reality with your thoughts (so my dear friend who is dying of ALS–it’s his own fault?).
But I get what Achor is saying. “When you can raise someone’s level of positivity in the present,” he says, “then their brain experiences a happiness advantage.” He explains this as a state of being in which you are able to increase your intelligence, creativity and energy.
The key is not to expect work or success to create a feeling of happiness. The key is that when we live in a happier state–when our brains are more positively inclined–success follows. “So if we change our formula for happiness and success,” Achor explains, “what we can do is change the way we can then affect reality.”