Be happy, work better!

Shawn Achor takes a look at it from perspective of positive psychology. 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. He researches and teaches about positive psychology.

We believe we should work hard in order to be happy, but in this humorous TEDx talk Shawn Achor suggests that happiness inspires us to be more productive.

His way of weaving funny stories in his talk and driving home his point are specially noteworthy – that not only makes his talk pleasure to listen, but also ensures that we remember the story and understand the message. Here is one from this talk –

And I saw my sister’s face, this wail of pain and suffering and surprise threatening to erupt from her mouth and wake my parents from the long winter’s nap for which they had settled. So I did the only thing my frantic seven year-old brain could think to do to avert this tragedy. And if you have children, you’ve seen this hundreds of times. I said, “Amy, wait. Don’t cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you’re a unicorn.”

Now, that was cheating, because there was nothing she would want more than not to be Amy the hurt five year-old little sister, but Amy the special unicorn. Of course, this option was open to her brain at no point in the past. And you could see how my poor, manipulated sister faced conflict, as her little brain attempted to devote resources to feeling the pain and suffering and surprise she just experienced, or contemplating her new-found identity as a unicorn. And the latter won. Instead of crying or ceasing our play, instead of waking my parents, with all the negative consequences for me, a smile spread across her face and she scrambled back up onto the bunk bed with all the grace of a baby unicorn — with one broken leg.

What we stumbled across at this tender age of just five and seven — we had no idea at the time — was going be at the vanguard of a scientific revolution occurring two decades later in the way that we look at the human brain. We had stumbled across something called positive psychology, which is the reason I’m here today and the reason that I wake up every morning.

And as he asserts in his talk, being happy makes us more productive and makes our work much better. I really liked when he asserts that lack of disease is not health, this is what her says –

The absence of disease is not health. Here’s how we get to health: We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. In the last three years, I’ve traveled to 45 countries, working with schools and companies in the midst of an economic downturn. And I found that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.

Watch his funny but insightful talk here:

The featured image used in this article is a snapshot from the talk.