Happiness Makes You More Productive

It’s that time of the year for TED, which means thousands of the world’s top creative minds are gathering in Long Beach, California this week to hear short, inspiring talks from some of the greatest minds in technology, entertainment and design. This year features the likes of poet Billy Collins, climatologist James Hansen, and energy theorist T. Boone Pickens. 2011 TED Award recipient, street artist JR, presented his Inside Out Project at the conference. Inside Out let people send in photos of themselves and receive giant posters in the mail of the portrait to paste up in their own environment. I produced the website with TED in the early stages of its design and love taking breaks to browse the now-populated site full of people’s pictures from all over the world.

In celebration of TED for those of us not on the ground, here’s a fresh video from TEDx Bloomington, Indiana, featuring Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc. Achor specializes in positive psychology and tackles the happy secret to better work in the above video. It’s the best 12 minutes I’ve spent all day.

Does our external world predict our happiness levels or our internal world? Achor is aiming to turn upside down how we view the path to happiness in favor of the latter. In reality our job success is not predicted so much by IQ and environment as our own optimism and ability to handle stress. Traditional ideas of happiness tell us that if we work harder we’ll be more successful, and the more successful we are, the happier we become. Yet every time we hit a measure of success, our brain gives us a new level of success to hit. “I finally got my own office…now I want the corner office.” If success is always a measure in the future, there exists a constant gap and our brain never reaches the point of happiness.

We must train our brains to be positive and happy in the moment. When we work to be positive in the present, our intelligence, energy, and creativity rise, leading to more happiness in the future. Easier said than done when even the smallest nuisance can cause us to be stressed all day. Yet Achor has nailed a surefire plan to change our thought patterns in a mere three weeks. Here are the ways to train a brain into happiness: journaling daily about one new positive experience, physical exercising to acknowledge that our behavior matters, meditating to focus our lives, expressing three new things we’re grateful for each day, and practicing random acts of kindness. Just writing a positive e-mail to a friend or coworker counts for this latter act. I’m on it!