Around 20 years ago, Martin Seligman, popularized a new psychological theory called Positive Psychology. It focuses on the character strengths and behaviors that allow individuals to build a life of meaning and purpose—to move beyond surviving to flourishing. While Sigmund Freud launched a psychoanalytic theory, focusing on our unconscious and how it affects our personality, positive psychology focused on our conscious shaping of beliefs and behaviors.
Shawn Achor has popularized Positive Psychology through many books, TED talks, etc. One key contribution is pointing out an important mistake many of us make. Many of us believe that: “if I work hard, I will become successful; and once I become successful, then I will be happy.” In other words, we need to achieve success to become happy. Decades of positive psychology research has shown that the formula is backwards: the true cause-and-effect process is that being happy leads to being successful!
In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Achor identifies 7 principles to increase your happiness, and shares many research studies to support his principles:
- The Happiness Advantage. Happiness is the experience of positive emotions – pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. It implies a positive mood int eh present and a positive outlook toward the future. It causes successes because positive emotions affect our brain function and change our behavior. So practice behaviors, like exercise and meditation, and infuse positivity into your surroundings to give yourself and your organization a competitive edge.
- The Fulcrum and the Lever. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”; attitude determines behavioral success or failure; mindset shapes your perception of the objective world. Change your mindset to change your behavior.
- The Tetris Effect. Don’t fall into a rigid pattern of thinking or behaving one way; train your brain to capitalize on possibilities. Don’t lock your mind into a cognitive pattern that looks for negatives or blocks success. Adopt a growth mindset: scan the world for opportunities and ideas for growth.
- Falling up. Use failures as learning platforms. We see objective reality and then infuse it with our beliefs: we are “meaning-making machines”. Use the ABCD model of interpretation: Adversity (the event); Belief (our reaction: why did it happen; Consequences – what does it mean for the future; Disputation – remind yourself that the belief is not a fact; just a belief.
- The Zorro Circle: Instead of trying to do too many things, limiting your focus to small manageable goals which allow you to expand your sphere of power. Gain control, one small circle at a time.
- The 20-second rule. Use barriers, such as time to start an action, to stop bad habits and form good ones. He discovered that a 20 second delay was enough for him to change or enable a habit. What times and distances serve such functions for you?
- Social Investment. Social support is your single greatest asset. Subjects in the classic Harvard Longevity study who reported having stronger relationships for social support tended to live happier, healthier and longer lives.
One outgrowth of positive psychology was introduced by Shirzad Chamine and popularized in his book Positive Intelligence and his Tedx talk.) We all develop negative tendencies (Saboteurs) as we grow up; therefore, Positive Intelligence focuses on helping people build “mental health muscle” to unleash our “Sage” and be more empathetic, curious-explorers, innovative, wisdom-seekers, and action-focused. You can take a free assessment to discover your Saboteurs and learn about the program. (If you’re interested in taking the program, feel free to contact us.)
To help Age Brilliantly members develop happier and more fulfilling elongated lives (to 100+), we will be introducing a mentoring/coaching program using key attributes of positive psychology and positive intelligence later this year. To learn more about our FLM program, contact us!