Leveraging the full potential of people to achieve awesome results is ultimately what inspires and motivates me in my work. Whether it be working with athletes to compete at elite levels or leading corporate teams to overcome big challenges, tapping into passion, energy, drive, determination and ultimately discretionary effort is something I am fascinated and inspired by. I enjoy observing what people are capable of achieving when they really want to and endlessly curious about what helps people move from average (or beige as I like to refer to it) to being brilliant and achieving incredible things.
In my observation potential is encapsulated in two aspects of the human being:
1) their talents – the things they are capable of doing because of their knowledge, skills and experience
2) their spirit – the strength of the reserve of positive energy they have and are able to choose to tap into to get the job done
The importance of spirit is reflected in the work of Shawn Achor, the CEO of Good Think Inc.
In this insightful and entertaining TED speech, Shawn shares with the audience the work he and his team are doing to build understanding of where human potential, success and happiness intersect. Shawn gives us insight into the power of positivity and the impacts it has on productivity and ultimately performance.
Shawn and his team of researches are interested in positive outliers – the people who are well above average. While conventional science practices see us delete these oddities in the data, Shawn and his team are studying these people. “… what I posit and what positive psychology posits is that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average. Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is say, why? Why is it that some of you are so high above the curve in terms of your intellectual ability, athletic ability, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, your resiliency in the face of challenge, your sense of humor? Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information — not just how to move people up to the average, but how we can move the entire average up in our companies and schools worldwide”.
Some of the pearls of wisdom Shawn shares in his talk include:
- “[It’s] the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”
- Traditional science “assumes that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.”
- “… Only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by I.Q. 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat”.
- “If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves”.
- “Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed”.
- “If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently”.
- “Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way”.
- “In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We’ve done these things in research now in every single company that I’ve worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they’re grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world, not for the negative, but for the positive first.