Great to see a Harvard guy make good; Shawn Achor is introduced as a graduate of both Harvard and Havard Divinity school, and for a period, the most popular lecturer at Harvard, on the topic of Happiness.   His project, he explains, is to take the research of positive psychology and bring from it the most important nuggets for parents and educators.

Shawn shares a scatterplot graph with a very clear trend, and as he talks about it, he makes fun, funny, and self-deprecating comments; while soft-spoken, he is already impressing us with his charm.

Traditional psychology is about how we can move depressed people back up to average; but Achor worries that only reduces the purpose and project to only how we help people become average.   If we study positive outliers, we can move up the average to a higher place, and help everyone to become happier.  We need to stop focusing on ‘getting rid’ of the bad things and focus on “other side of the curve” towards thriving.

Our brains are not just hard-wired for sympathy, but we are also hard-wired for empathy.   Just as we pick up smiles and yawns so quickly, and so powerfully, we also can mirror (in our mirroring nuerons) others’ anxiety, stress, sadness.   We need to watch for this in our schools.

90% of our longterm happiness is affected by the lens through which people view the world around them, NOT by the actual realities of that world around them.   So no matter how fabulous your external circumstances, 90% of your experience will be subject to how you see and feel those externalities.

Harvard is Achor’s focus: “the more I loved Harvard the better I did there:” we need students and teachers to love being in our schools.

So the project we have is how to help people see the world around them.  Achor tells of a study of 1600 students at Harvard.

So much of our experience, so much of what we see, is based on what we are looking for: a wonderful video to display this is here.

75% of your job success is predicted not by your intelligence, but by your positivity and performance. “If I know your level of intelligence, I can ONLY tell 25% of the reason you may or may not be a success in life.”

Dopamine, the happiness hormone in our brains, turns on all of our learning zones in our brain. A brain primed to be positive has higher success rates than one primed to be negative or neutral.   Hapoiness is a precursor of success, NOT merely the result of it.  If we can get teachers and students positive going into learning, we can have higher results.

The Happiness Advantage: better secure jobs, better keeping jobs, better productivity, more resilient, less burnout, less turnover, greater sales.

Another wonderful video about the value of joy in the world

Achor makes the point that when these people, happier, go into their classrooms, they are that much more primed to be successful in their day.

How create this happiness advantage?

Raise optimism and success rates for six months, after 21 days of training.  21 days is enough to create a habit.

  1. 3 Gratitudes: 2 minutes a day writing what you are grateful for.
  2. Journaling: Five minutes a day about a positive experience.
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditation
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: praise somebody, five minutes day, in a way different from usual.

What is the mental barrier that gets in the way of doing all the good ideas we have learned?

Achor urges people to retrain your brain, using these five tools, which are available at his site here.

Achor’s was a very charming and warm talk, with good advice and good counsel.  At times it seemed he played more to the laughs and to the warm anecdote over the concrete counsel and significant research (and maybe it is my bias that I want more “meat”), but it was nevertheless clearly a big upper for this audience.  It is lovely to sit here at the back and write this, seeing so many folks walk by with smiles and words like “this was wonderful.”   Good stuff; great conference.