AchorShawn

At this year’s Serious Business in New Orleans, Louisiana, opening keynote Shawn Achor set out to shift the perspectives of the 1,500 audience members by showing them how to create their own happiness. The former Harvard psychology professor, founder of Good Think Inc. and author of the “The Happiness Advantage,” says when humans change the lens through which they process information to one that is more positive, their success rates improve dramatically.

“There are studies that show that negative stress can spread from person like second hand smoke,” Achor said. “On the other hand, positivity has a magnification effect.”

Achor first started studying depression and positive psychology at Harvard, observing incoming freshman and how their perspectives shifted from optimism after their arrival. “Within the first months, 4/5 of students reported depression and 10 percent reported that they had contemplated suicide,” Achor told the audience. “For every single human brain, 90 percent of it is how your brain processes the world.”

Through research, Achor honed in on what he called The Three Greatest Predictors of Success: 1) Optimism, a belief that behavior matters, 2) A strong social connection; and 3) Perceive stress as a challenge.

Achor says when humans can raise their optimism, become more socially connected and change the way they view stress, they are:

3 X more creativity

31% more productive

40% more likely to receive a promotion

23% fewer fatigue symptoms

Up to 10 X more engaged

Achieve 37% higher sales

39% more likely to live to 94

“Too many of us tell ourselves, I’ll be happy when I finish this project, earn that raise or make enough to pay off this, but every time we have a success, we change the goal for when we’re going to be happy,” he says. “But you can flip the order, make your brain positive and the goals will follow. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

But Achor knows it’s simply not enough to tell people to be happier, he has to show them how to shift their minds into positive gear. He’s identified five easy daily activities that he says if participants to do just one of them for 21 days in a row, they can create sustainable positive change:

Three Gratitudes: “Upon waking up in the morning, jot down three things for which you are grateful in a journal. The three items must be different each day.”

The Doubler:  “For two minutes each day, open a blank word document and write about one meaningful experience you had that day. Include every detail of that experience, which is the greatest, fastest way for you to find its meaning.”

Fun Fifteen: “Choose to do 15 minutes of a fun activity each day. When you do things like exercise, you’ll find it’ll give you the energy to do more things you want to do.”

Meditation: “For two minutes, simply watch your breath go in and out.”

Conscious Act of Kindness: “Choose someone in your life and send them praise through an email or note, let them know what they mean to you and why.”