I’ve been thinking about happiness for quite awhile now. Being gracious, thankful, happy, etc. I want that. It’s not that I’m unhappy, but that things can always improve.
I’ve read (but never finished – truthfully) several really good books on the subject:
- Before Happiness, by Shawn Achor
- The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn
- Choosing Gratitude, by James A Autry
- Saying What’s Real, by Susan Campbell
- And probably a few others that were somewhat related to the subject.
I am currently working through Before Happiness and will be blogging about this in an effort to get these concepts to stick in my head.
Working on Choosing a Reality
Recognize Alternate Realities
This is simple, recognize that what you initially perceive as reality may not be the only reality. If you land in a potentially negative situation, there may be an opportunity hidden in there somewhere.
Shawn Achor’s books are wonderful. It is amazing how much input our minds receive moment to moment. How do we decide which input to focus on? We can only focus on 40 bits of information per second out of over 10 million bits we receive. Shawn talks about recognizing alternative realities. With that much information pouring into our senses every second, we need to learn how increase our likelihood of seeing these other realities. He talks about vantage points. You’ll have to read his book for the details, but I see this as “looking at the BIG picture.”
I’ll use a floundering marriage as an example. If you are only focusing on your unhappiness, you may not see that you are truly loved by your spouse and that she is showing it in ways you may not recognize. Maybe you wanted her to be the entertainment planner but she’s focused on making sure the house is clean so that you don’t need to worry about that when you get home. In order to see that she really is showing her love, you need to look at things from different angles. This might involve learning more about love languages (there’s a book for that: The 5 Love Languages, by Gary D Chapman) and learning how to communicate with her about what makes you feel loved. It might involve studying other couples to consider the various ways they show love. Or if you’re really brave, maybe it would involve reading a love story, keeping in mind that the situation in the book will be so over the top that it will knock you back down into what is real.
Pursue Valuable Reality
Now that you can see different realities because you’ve added vantage points, it is time to learn how to pursue the reality you feel is most rewarding. This part is less clear to me, so forgive me as I muddle through. Shawn talks about the positivity ratio, which I’ve read about before (especially in How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald O Clifton, PhD). For every negative in a work relationship, there should be 3 positives to maintain a positive work environment (engagement, sales, productivity, low turnover). In marriage the ratio is 5 positives to 1 negative.
Next Shawn moves on to talking about overcoming blind spots. I see this as an effort to gain perspective, gather data / information, and consider multiple view points. This relates it to his next topic in the pursue the reality you feel is most rewarding section – Embracing Multiple Cultures. Discuss things with a variety of different people: male, female, American, European, Chinese, executives, professionals, etc. To me this is just a continuation of vantage points, but maybe that is because I have more difficulty with the abstract than the concrete.
Ultimately, the difficult part is to recognize alternate realities – not to choose one that is beneficial.
Stay tuned for the next chapter, Mapping Your Success Route.