Happiness Revolution Illustration

Happiness Revolution

A young psychology student at Cal State, Ed Diener had grown up on a San Joaquin Valley farm and had been around farm workers all his life, and he thought it would be interesting to study happiness in migrant farm workers. “Mr. Diener,” his professor sniffed, “you are not doing that research project—for two reasons. First, farm workers are not happy. And second, there is no way to measure happiness.” Ed knew from firsthand experience that his professor was wrong on his first point. But just how do you scientifically measure the level of a person’s happiness? Ed was convinced this was worth looking into. He abandoned the project and did his paper on the topic of conformity. (History does not record whether the professor appreciated the irony.) When Happiness Was Out of Style That was the mid-1960s. By the early 1980s, now a tenured psychology professor, Ed threw himself into research on happiness. In 1984 he published his Satisfaction with Life Scale, a scientific index that so reliably measures “subjective well-being”— happiness—that it is still widely used today. Into the ’90s, he accumulated evidence and published papers on subjective well-being. His students and colleagues dubbed him Dr. Happiness. Still, the subject got little respect in scientific circles, and even as a tenured professor Ed was passed over for promotion by older professors, here calls, “because they thought what I was doing was so flaky.” He describes giving talks to economists in the early ’90s. “They just hated it,” he says, recalling times when he would barely get out a few sentences before being rudely cut off. “They were very aggressive in their colloquium,” is how the ever-affable Ed puts it. Dr. Happiness was still swimming against a massive tide—but a sea change was coming. A Chance Encounter In the winter of 1997 a man was hiking the beaches of Hawaii with his family, when his daughter said she heard a yell for help. “Sure enough,” he recalls, “down in the surf was a snowy-haired man, being pounded against the lava walls, razor-sharp with barnacles, and then being tossed back out into the turbulence.” He waded in and pulled the big man to safety, not realizing that he had just triggered a revolution. The man he had rescued was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced cheek-sent-me-high), a Hungarian-born psychologist. Mihaly, called Mike by friends and colleagues, had dedicated his career to the study of that state of total engagement he called flow. Growing up in war-torn Europe had given Mike a profound experience of human suffering and human resilience—and that second side of the human coin intrigued him. What brings out our best and noblest traits? He wondered. Mike’s rescuer was Martin Seligman, one of the most eminent psychologists on the planet. A self-confessed grouch, Marty might have seemed the least likely happiness revolutionary. He had built his career on the study of what he called learned helplessness. (His first book bore the cheery title Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death.) Marty had long held little regard for the science-worthiness of something as “soft” as happiness, and he wasn’t personally all that big on it, either: “The feelings of happiness, good cheer, ebullience, self-esteem and joy,” he later wrote, “all remained frothy for me.” Power of Positive Emotion But Marty also possessed an indefatigable curiosity along with an idealistic streak. He genuinely wanted to help make the world a better place. As Mike observed, “Marty sometimes wishes he had been a rabbi when he grew up.” The two men clicked immediately and soon realized they shared a burning interest. Both felt that psychology had lost sight of its central reason for being, to better understand and foster “life worth living,” as Mike put it, “including such qualities as courage, generosity, creativity, joy and gratitude.” Up to then psychology had focused on the study and treatment of human suffering, which Marty felt was “a vexation to the soul.” He agreed with Abraham Maslow, who a half-century earlier had written, “The study of crippled, stunted, immature and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.” Marty and Mike wanted to forge an approach focused on what goes right in human nature. A positive psychology. Birth of a Revolution Marty had a specific platform in mind. He had just been elected president of the American Psychological Association, which at 160,000 members was the largest scientific organization in the world. William James, the 19th century “father of modern psychology,” had held that chair, as did Carol Rogers, Abraham Maslow and other giants. Every incoming APA president was expected to set the membership’s agenda for the coming year, and Marty wanted to do something big. Talking deep into the Hawaiian night, the two men hatched a plan. Rather than trying to persuade their establishment colleagues to join them, they would focus on the classic tactic of revolutionaries: draw passionately committed new recruits from the ranks of the young. Over the following year they assembled a field of 50 candidates from among the most talented, promising students who were philosophically attuned to what they were up to and psychology’s most brilliant rising stars. From that 50 they winnowed a list of 18, whom they invited to a first-ever conference on positive psychology in Akumal, Mexico. All immediately accepted. Seldom (if ever) has a branch of science been planned so deliberately and precisely. Over the coming decade, these 18 would emerge as pioneers and prime movers in an explosive new field of psychology. Announcing a Manhattan Project Meanwhile Marty began preparing his inaugural address for the APA’s annual convention that summer, an event that would bring together thousands of top psychologists from around the nation. It wasn’t hard to imagine reactions ranging from polite skepticism to rejection to outright hostility. After all, hadn’t Marty himself viewed the whole idea of happiness as “frothy”? In August, as Marty took the podium, a hush fell over the crowd. Word had gotten around that something big was coming. “Entering a new millennium,” he said, “we face a historical choice. We can continue to increase our material wealth while ignoring the human needs of people on the rest of the planet. Or we can articulate a vision of the good life that is empirically sound, and show the world what actions lead to well-being, to positive individuals, to flourishing communities and to a just society.” The creation of a new science of positive psychology, he added, could serve as a “Manhattan Project” for the social sciences: requiring substantial resources but holding unprecedented promise. I have often been asked what was my reason, deep down, for running for president of APA. I will tell you now. I thought that in serving as president, I would discover my mission. And I did. That mission is to partake in launching a science and a profession whose aim is the building of what makes life most worth living." The “Manhattan Project” analogy may have been a little over the top, but it served its purpose. The auditorium rang with applause as the staid psychologists stood. “People came up to me afterward with tears in their eyes,” recalls Marty, “and said, ‘This is why I became a psychologist!’" Positive psychology was off and running. Funding a Revolution It takes cash to stage a revolution—especially in science. Happily, Marty also has gifts in this area, and in those early years his fund-raising skills brought in millions of research money from private foundations. Billionaire Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies helped establish the Positive Psychology Network, and billionaire physician turned-investor John Templeton funded the annual Templeton prizes, which at $100,000 a pop was the largest cash award ever given in psychology. The young movement had also built a strategic advantage: the Akumal Eighteen and its elder statesmen—Marty and Mike, along with Marty’s mentor and APA CEO Ray Fowler, Gallup organization CEO Don Clifton and Ed—held positions as editors of key journals in their field. “In 1981, when I started,” says Ed, “there were something like 100 published articles a year that even referred to well-being. In 1999 that number started to skyrocket.” Today it’s about 12,000 per year. In January 2000 the APA devoted a special issue of its flagship journal, American Psychologist, to positive psychology, with Marty and Mike as guest editors. It was the movement’s birth announcement to the profession. By late the following year the U.S. News & World Report published a cover story, “Happiness Explained.” For most of the 20th century, happiness was largely viewed as denial or delusion. Psychologists were busy healing sick minds, not bettering healthy ones. Today, however, a growing body of psychologists is taking the mystery out of happiness and the search for the good life. Three years ago, psychologist Martin Seligman … rallied colleagues to what he dubbed “positive psychology.” The movement focuses on humanity’s strengths, rather than its weaknesses, and seeks to help people move up in the continuum of happiness and fulfillment. Now, with millions of dollars in funding and over sixty scientists involved, the movement is showing real results." The American Psychologist special issue reached 160,000 psychologists. The U.S. News & World Report story went out to more than 2 million households. If the timing had been different, it might have been positive psychology’s shot heard round the world. But the impact was short-lived. The date on that issue’s cover? Sept. 3, 2001. What Good Is Happiness? Barbara Lee Fredrickson was making her way to a family funeral when she heard the news from lower Manhattan. “In a heartbeat,” she later reported, “my entire world no longer felt safe.” A psychologist at University of Michigan and the first recipient of the prestigious Templeton Prize, Barbara was one of the leading lights of positive psychology. Yet the events of 9/11 threw her into an emotional tailspin that she had a hard time shaking at first. “I was plagued by doubt,” she wrote of those dark days. “I wondered, Who will care? I honestly felt that the science of positivity was no longer relevant in this new era of terrorism. For the first time, I questioned the relevance of my life’s work.” Marty’s reflections were similar. “Since Sept. 11, 2001,” he wrote a few months later. “In times of trouble, does the understanding and alleviating of suffering trump the understanding and building of happiness?” The U.S. News & World Report story was quickly forgotten, and it would be years before the media would show any significant interest in the movement. At the moment, nobody was interested in reading about subjective well-being. In the long run, 9/11 and its aftermath had hardly any impact on the surge of new positive psychology research. But the questions highlighted one of the challenges: Can we justify pouring precious resources into studying what makes people feel good when there are so many pressing problems? To put it bluntly: What good is happiness? How to Positively Thrive One of the earliest scientific answers came from Barbara. Her “broaden and build” theory (published in 1998) proposed that while negative emotions serve the evolutionary purpose of helping humans survive, positive emotions help us thrive. While feelings of fear, shock and anger tend to focus our thoughts and actions, positive emotions—such as joy, interest, contentment or love—have the opposite effect. They open the mind’s focal lens wider (broaden), leading to greater discovery, learning, growth and development, allowing us to become more mentally resourceful, creative and socially integrated (build). In essence, being happier makes you smarter. According to a 2001 landmark study, it makes you live longer, too. Nearly 700 nuns, ranging in age from 75 to 102 and hailing from seven congregations across the U.S., had been followed for about 15 years, when researchers discovered that an archive had preserved a set of brief autobiographical sketches the women had written back in the 1930s, when they took their original vows. The scientists studied the sisters’ language, charting linguistic evidence of their enthusiasm, optimism and joy (or lack of them) and then cross-referenced the results with the women’s life histories. The results: At age 85, 90 percent of the most positive group were still alive, compared to only 34 percent of the least positive group. And by age 95 those numbers were 54 percent versus 11 percent. Knowing which nuns had written more positively about their lives in their twenties—some 70 years earlier—predicted which would live significantly longer. Happy Means Healthy Scores of studies soon followed, linking happiness to a wide range of tangible benefits, including less incidence of stroke, better resistance to colds and increased immune function, greater resilience to adversity and stronger intuition, less physical pain, lower cortisol levels and less stress and inflammation. In 2005, Ed and two of his Akumal Eighteen colleagues—Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside and Laura King, a professor of psychology of the University of Missouri, Columbia—made an extensive survey of the literature, reviewing some 300 studies involving more than a quarter million people. In their published metastudy, “The benefits of positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?” they reported compelling evidence that happier people are more likely to have: • better health and longer life • more fulfilling marriages and relationships • higher incomes and more financial success • better work performance and more professional success • more altruism and social and community involvement What’s more, they found happiness didn’t just correlate with these conditions, it preceded and predicted them consistently. Can You Really Increase Your Happiness? The growing evidence was unmistakable: increasing happiness is worth the effort. But the young movement faced a second, even bigger scientific hurdle: According to established scientific fact, happiness levels were pretty much established by our genes, and there wasn’t much we could do to change them. The idea of a genetically determined “happiness set point” came from studies based on the Minnesota Twin Registry, a major body of psychological and demographic data yielded by studying dozens of sets of twins. One landmark 1966 paper, for example, captured its depressing conclusion in its title: “Happiness is a stochastic [i.e., random] phenomenon.” Every individual has a distinct personality tendency, said the study’s authors, including a mood profile, and that profile is largely inherited. Plainly put: happiness is a roll of the genetic dice. Moreover, studies of lottery winners and paraplegic accident victims seemed to show that even when people experience extreme, unexpected fortune—good or bad—the resulting leap in happiness or despair tends to flatten out over time. In other words, we get used to it. If the change is bad (even awful), we learn to cope. If it’s good, no matter how good, we soon start taking it for granted. This behavior pattern, called “hedonic adaptation,” had been accepted scientific canon for decades. The authors of the “happiness is stochastic” study summed up this position in a wry note that became famous in scientific circles: “It may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.” Now it was up to the positive psychologists to challenge that notion. Akumal Members Tackle the Dogma For Sonja Lyubomirsky, the happiness question piqued her interest at an early age. Upon emigrating from Russia, she immediately realized that people in America seemed happier. From then on, she became intrigued with the question of what makes some people happier than others. In January 2001, Sonja suspected that people could increase their own happiness levels and empirical evidence could surely be discovered. So, just as she had done previously with Ed to the “Does happiness lead to success?” study, she along with two Akumal alums combed through data from existing studies as well as recent work and found a critical flaw in the happiness set point theory. It didn’t fit all the data. It fit about half. In their paper, “Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change,” the three researchers described three prime factors that influence our individual level of happiness: • our genetic makeup • our external circumstances, such as location, surroundings, level of income and job • our own behaviors Genetics, they found, dictate about 50 percent of our happiness level (set point), and circumstances change that very little, or up to 10 percent (adaptation). The remaining 40 percent is determined by what we say, do and think. About 40 percent of our own level of happiness is entirely within our own control. Sonja and her colleagues cited experiments, called “happiness interventions,” that showed simple daily activities could measurably increase positive well-being—and that those increases stayed in place even long after the experiments ended. One such study showed that students who kept a daily tab of minor positive events in their lives for 10 weeks showed less illness, a more positive outlook and greater happiness than the groups who noted daily hassles or emotion-neutral events. Another study had a trial group perform five “acts of kindness” every week for six weeks and found the same general impact. A flood of similar studies showed similar results. In an interview a few years before his death, David Lykken, the researcher who made the “as futile as trying to be taller” statement, said he regretted the remark. He added, “It’s clear that we can change our happiness levels widely—up or down.” The Revolution Hits the Streets In January 2005, Time magazine ran a cover story, “The Science of Happiness,” including the articles “Why Optimists Live Longer” and “Is Joy in Your Genes?” to “Does God Want Us to Be Happy?” A constant flow of coverage followed, from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to CNN and the BBC. Popular books followed, from Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness (2006) to The How of Happiness (2007) by Sonja to Barbara’s Positivity (2009). In 2011, a New York author, Gretchen Rubin, published an instructional memoir about her project to take on a different strategy for greater happiness each month for a year. The Happiness Project shot to the top of the New York Times Nonfiction Best Sellers list and stayed for weeks. Not long after the Time piece ran, the press picked up a story on a course in positive psychology offered at Harvard by a young associate professor named Tal Ben-Shahar. When he first offered the seminar in 2002, eight had signed up. Two years later, offered as a lecture course, 380 students enrolled. A few years later he offered it again—and this time 855 students made it Harvard’s largest course. Be Happy in Your Work The business community caught wind of the revolution. In 2010 The Business of Happiness, by billionaire serial entrepreneur Ted Leonsis, Happiness at Work, by influential Long Island University business professor Srikumar Rao, and The Happiness Advantage, by Harvard assistant psychology professor turned- business consultant Shawn Achor appeared. That year, when Zappos founder Tony Hsieh published his business memoir, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, it debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list and stayed for 27 consecutive weeks. In 2012 the Harvard Business Review, the gold standard of academic business journalism, dedicated its January/February issue to a cover story, “The Value of Happiness: How Employee Well-Being Drives Profits.” Its lead editorial explained their decision: “Happiness can have an impact at both the company and the country level. We’ve learned a lot about how to make people happy. We’d be stupid not to use that knowledge.” Toward Gross National Happiness With the help of Ed and Nobel Prizewinner Daniel Kahneman, Don Clifton’s Gallup organization developed increasingly powerful survey tools providing exhaustively comprehensive data. And in the past few years local and national governments around the world have been floating and in some cases implementing proposals to measure subjective well-being, along with economic measures like GNP and GDP, as yardsticks of their state of health. Marty says, “I just reviewed a proposal for the National Academy of Science, in which a dozen of the most prestigious economists and psychologists in America propose to the government that they create the equivalent of a Bureau of Labor Statistics for well-being.” Ed explains, “People pay attention to what is measured. In my mind, this is the biggest story in positive psychology.” The movement is not without critics. “There are clinical psychologists who still regard me as the Darth Vader of psychology,” muses Marty. “I get hate letters every so often.” And there are those who deride positive psychology as a careless “happiology” campaign led by zealots and simplistic thinking. But these are in the minority. Psychology Gets With the Program “I Google positive psychology every day,” says Marty, “and I’d say the ratio these days is about 5:1, positive comments to negative. I recently saw a Google Ngram search [a search of words and phrases in Google’s library of digitized books] that showed references to the phrase positive psychology now outnumber references to cognitive neuroscience. Right now it’s probably the most popular movement in psychology.” This new level of respect, he adds, offers a wide-open field for young researchers who aren’t likely to face the skepticism he did half a century ago. Thankfully, Marty, Mike, Ed, Barbara, Sonja and many other positive psychologists did weather early trials and challenges. Their work has sparked conversations and initiatives around the world on happiness. People everywhere are benefiting from positive psychology—even if they don’t know about its amazing and unlikely beginning.
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Happy coworkers

3 Ways to Spread Success and Happiness

In Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, Harvard University-trained researcher Shawn Achor builds on his international bestseller, The Happiness Advantage. In his new book, he identifies ways to positively change your own perception of reality as well as other people’s world, making them not just happier in the moment, but more engaged, more motivated, more alive—permanently. In this condensed excerpt from Before Happiness, which premiered at number two on the New York Times Best Sellers list, Shawn discusses inspiring others to share the happiness you’ve achieved. Positive inception is not just about spreading happiness but about helping others see the reality in which success (and happiness) is possible. Inception is about better helping others tap into their multiple intelligences and cognitive resources, and thereby to create happier and more successful teams. That involves the mastery of three key strategies. Strategy 1: Franchise Success. The first step in creating a positive inception is to identify one aspect of a reality—yours or someone else’s—that, if replicated, would help other people harness their drive, motivation and multiple intelligences and become more successful. Research shows that to be contagious, these “success franchises” must be based upon a simple, easy-to-replicate idea. Strategy 2: Rewrite the Social Script. Every aspect of our work and home life is guided by hidden social scripts. But certain social scripts wield more influence on our collective behavior than others. Social psychologists have found that the more positive one’s social script, the greater one’s ability to create positive social influence. Strategy 3: Create a Shared Narrative. Finally, for positive inception to occur, you need to appeal not just to reason but to emotion. One of the best ways to plant a positive reality is to construct a narrative around some shared emotional experience, positive or negative. Interestingly, my research shows that creating a shared narrative around past adversity or failure is one of the best techniques for creating positive inception. The goal is to help you transfer your most valuable reality to your teams, colleagues, friends and family. In doing so, you will create a renewable, sustainable source of positive energy that motivates, energizes and summons the collective multiple intelligences of those around you. Without inception, our own reality becomes less stable. Strategy1:Franchise Success(Make it contagious) What is a success franchise? “Success franchising” is the technique of getting others to replicate a positive cognitive or behavioral pattern that continually leads to success. Any success that can be observed can also be repeated. We all have patterns in our lives, but the key is to create and repeat patterns or behaviors that continually lead to success. This principle sounds obvious, yet we choose the wrong realities to replicate all the time. Until we learn how to replicate our positive reality, we will be forced to waste valuable resources trying to reinvent the wheel each time. If we want to be successful, we need to learn not only how to replicate our own most valuable reality but how to spread it. When we look around, it seems that we are all unique individuals with different personalities, thought patterns, beliefs, values and learning styles. And while this is technically true, it misses an important point. Our personalities may be distinct and unique, but our brains are highly interconnected; they are linked on a wireless mirror neuron network. Mirror neurons, as readers of The Happiness Advantage may remember, are those receptors in our brains that cause us to unconsciously mimic the actions of those around us. But mirror neurons are so key to positive inception because our thoughts and perceptions are what dictate our nonverbal actions. Researcher Paul Marsden at the University of Sussex wrote a great review of this research showing that not only yawns and smiles are contagious but also emotions like stress, anxiety, optimism, confidence, boredom and engagement. Thanks to our mirror neuron network, we are hardwired for inception. Perhaps my favorite example of social contagion is the Dancing Plague of 1518. According to reports, it began when a woman in Strasbourg, France, started dancing in the streets and could not stop. Eventually she collapsed from exhaustion. At first people thought she had had a psychotic episode and that was the end of it. But then she started dancing again. In the next few days, thirty other people also experienced this same uncontrollable need to spastically dance. The authorities had to get involved because four hundred villagers were compulsively dancing day and night... and not out of joy, either. This was manic, desperate dancing, resulting in heart attacks and, incredibly, deaths. Such stories show how easy it is for us to “catch” the mindset of even a single person. But people rarely talk about the positive contagions that have occurred throughout time: mass decisions to abolish slavery, global declines in smoking rates or widespread nonviolence movements in India or Egypt. Positive outbreaks also begin with a single dancer. You have the power to franchise positive habits in your home or workplace.Strategy2:Rewrite the Social Script (Make it positive) No one has ever had to tell you that you mustn’t lie down in elevators or pluck a french fry off a stranger’s plate. These unwritten rules that govern our social interactions are known as social scripts. To be sure, social scripts play a valuable role in our society. The problem arises when these scripts infect us with negative realities that lessen our likelihood of success. That’s why the second technique for creating positive inception is finding ways to rewrite the social scripts. Three Men Make a Tiger According to psychology researcher Bibb Latané from Columbia University, every social script has three components: the strength of the message (S), the immediacy (I) and the number of sources (N). So the degree of social influence a script exerts is determined by the following equation: S+ I + N = Social Influence. The stronger and more important the message is, and the more people delivering it, the more influence it will have. When I was in divinity school, I studied Buddhist and Confucian thinking. One of my favorite Chinese proverbs was “Three men make a tiger.” The story behind it went something likethis: On a starless night, four men are sitting quietly. All of a sudden, a wild pig runs past, knocks over one of the men, and escapes into the night. The fallen man yells, “Tiger!” Two of the other men, panicked, also yell “Tiger!” As a result, the whole village awakes, and chaos erupts, as the three men tell the harrowing story of the tiger attack. A hunting party is created to rid the village of the terror. The pig, calm now, watches impassively from the trees as the villagers begin to build wooden fences and worried mothers keep their children inside their huts until the “tiger” can be killed. The (false) reality of a tiger on the loose has come to dominate the social rules of the village. Sometimes, depending on the cultural norms in your family or at your company, it can be difficult to increase the strength of a positive message without being written off or ostracized. And it is hard to increase the immediacy without sounding hysterical or shrill. So the best approach is to increase the N, the number of people buying into the positive message. Like a politician securing his or her base, focus on the low-hanging fruit—the like-minded, positive people—first. Once you have increased the N, you will have more influence over the middle-of-the-road group. Then once you have planted the seeds of positive change in both those groups, you can work on the most intractably negative people. Many people identify the most negative people and then throw all of their energy and resources into trying to get them to see more positives. That is a doomed strategy. It’s far better to first find people who are more likely to tip to positive; only then, once you have increased your social influence, should you go after the cynics. Change your face When it comes to social interactions, many individuals forget how big a role facial expressions play in transferring our realities. Worse, they often fail to realize when their face is communicating the complete opposite of what they actually feel or believe. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked out at a member of an audience who looked as if he were just hating my talk, then had him come up afterwards and, with the same sour expression, tell me that the talk was life changing. It’s as if we were all walking around talking in a foreign language that no one understood. A simple but incredibly powerful way to ensure that your nonverbals are positive is one that I learned from a manager. Here’s the secret: take a look at the person talking to you. Thanks to our neural network, we unconsciously mirror the people we are with. So if the person you are talking to is not smiling, seems fatigued or disengaged, or seems anxious, chances are your nonverbals are not as positive as they need to be. If you don’t like what you are seeing, change yourself first and see if the other person follows the new script. Change your Script from Tragedyto Comedy The best script writers are those who write comedies, not tragedies. Humor wields more social influence—and is therefore more effective in creating positive inception. Humor is attractive because it is a signal of cognitive fitness. Your brain must be flexible, quick and sharp to comprehend or create humor. You could say that humor is a marker of an individual’s ability to add vantage points. But what is it that causes people to find humor in some realities when others find only irritation or embarrassment? Not surprisingly, the answer lies in positive genius. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s “broaden and build theory” suggests that experiencing positive emotions expands people’s momentary “thought-action repertoires,” those paths to using our intellectual resources in the most productive way. That’s a fancy way of saying that your perception of reality determines your actions: if you see a path to a positive reality, your brain will be quicker to see humor in negative events. Thus, when you have a negative external world at work, you can use humor as a strategic tool to help others see a more positive reality.Strategy3:Create a SharedNarrative (Make it Meaningful) There are few projects I’ve felt more proud of than getting to lead the Everyday Matters campaign. This is a joint partnership between the National MS Society and the forward-thinking biomedical giant Genzyme to create a happiness movement for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This illness literally tears apart your brain’s ability to communicate effectively with the nerves in your body, resulting in recurring bouts of bone-deep weariness, pain andparalysis. Enter the champions: 1,200 brave individuals dealing with the physical, emotional and social challenges of MS applied to be part of a program in which they would use some of the techniques from my last book, The Happiness Advantage, to improve their coping skills and even reduce their symptoms. Then, from this large group, we chose five individuals who would become our champions of inception. We didn’t select these people because they were the happiest, but rather because their stories would show the rest of the MS Society and the world that happiness is a choice. We spent a weekend going through positive psychology findings and laying out a plan for their next few months with their happiness coach, Michelle Clos, who also has MS. From June to October, they were filmed by Kristen Adams, an Emmy Award-winning TV producer (who also has MS), and the film was shown to the rest of the society. I could have spoken to those 1,200 brave MS patients for hours about the science of happiness, and it wouldn’t have had nearly the effect of those videos on the website (everydayMSmatters.org). That’s because to better plant the seeds of a positive reality in a group of people who are confronting a certain challenging experience, you need an emotional narrative delivered by individuals who share that experience. Creating a shared, positiveexperience If you are successful at creating a positive reality but incapable of sharing it with others, then that reality will be limited and short-lived. But by utilizing the techniques of positive inception you can create a renewable source of positive energy for you and the people around you. We have discussed the three big keys to positive inception: franchising, script writing, and creating a shared narrative. The key to mastering them, though, is to let go of the myth that you cannot change other people. We can change people, but only by planting the seeds of a more positive reality. So remember, if you want to successfully transfer your positive reality, you must make that reality contagious, influential and meaningful. Once you have done that, you have become a master mental architect, capable not only of creating positive genius but of spreading it on a massive scale. The farther and wider you spread positive genius, the more potential you’ll be able to unleash. Once you have amplified the collective intelligences of your teams, companies, families, and communities, there is truly no limit to what you can achieve. Reprinted from the book Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Changeby Shawn Achor. Copyright 2013 by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
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Profile: Ed Diener

For a man told in his 20s that “you can’t measure happiness,” Ed Diener has certainly carved a career out of the impossible. Starting with his elegant Satisfaction with Life questionnaire(five questions, each answered with a digit from 1 to 7), to the database generated by the Gallup World Poll, which measures a representative sampling from 95 percent of the world’s population, Ed has mastered the art and science of putting accurate numbers to the subjective experience of human wellbeing.He points out that even so-called hard science measurements, like those of physics or medicine, are not as precise or infallible as people often think. “Our measurements aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty good—on a par, say, with GDP.”He recalls serving as editor of the famous “nun study,” published in 2001, that so clearly linked happiness to longevity over a stretch of some 70 years. An entirely different set of measurements is the stream of accolades he has received lately. “In the past couple of years I’ve won virtually all the awards in psychology—the biggest award from APA, the biggest award from APS [Association for Psychological Science], honorary doctorates and so forth.… It’s more proof that the field has become more respected.”He’s quick to point out that for him personally, the awards are rather incidental. “I mean, it’s nice to get external acknowledgment. But you still better love your work.”It takes no special index to see that Ed Diener loves his work very much indeed.
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Profile image of Barbara Fredrickson

Profile: Barbara Fredrickson

When Martin Seligmanfirst encountered Barbara Fredrickson’s work, he bounded up the stairs two at a time. He blurted out to his wife: “This is life-changing!” Marty says that while his daughter had convinced his heart that positive emotions serve a valuable function far beyond simply making us feel good, “it took Barbara Fredrickson to convince my head.”Barbara’s broaden-and-build theory showed conclusively that positive emotions play a critical role in human development. But that didn’t mean negative emotions had no value. Such feelings as apprehension, fear, and even anger and outrage serve vitally important roles. The goal of positive psychology, as Marty has pointed out, was not to sweep all negative feelings under the rug and turn people into unthinking smiley faces but to “aim for the optimal balance between positive and negative thinking.”So what exactly was that balance?For example, Barbara points out that her “positivity ratio” is closely echoed in the work of John Gottman, the world’s leading marriage researcher, who spent years studying the emotional dynamics between married couples. For marriages that flourish, reports John, the ratio of positive to negative behavior and communication is about 5-to-1. Less than that, and the marriage is in trouble; down to 1-to-1 or worse, and you’re in divorce court.“What I was seeing,” Barbara writes in her landmark book, Positivity, describing the moment when the discovery first presented itself, “was no less than a prescription for life and how to live it. This stunned me. It still does.”
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