Happiness Makes Your Brain Work Better

Image   by: Jessica Stillman,  Inc.com

A Harvard psychology researcher explains that rather than thinking of success as the source of happiness, we should think of happiness as a source of success–and one that’s more under our control than we imagine.

Entrepreneurs, in general, are strivers. We set targets, battle to meet them, and believe that getting to that point, whatever it is, will bring us increased satisfaction. But according to one positive psychology researcher out of Harvard, as commonsensical as this tendency to chase achievement in order to attain greater happiness may sound, it’s actually got the equation reversed.

In a fascinating (and funny) TEDxBloomington talk, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, argues that while we may think success will bring us happiness, the lab-validated truth is that happiness brings us more success. And understanding this is particularly valuable for entrepreneurs, Achor said in an interview. Business owners, he said, need to, Reverse the happiness and success formula.

We think if we work harder and achieve some entrepreneurial goal, then we’ll be happier. But the research is clear that every time you have a success, your brain changes what success means. So for you and for your team, if happiness is on the opposite side of success, you’ll never get there. But if you increase your levels of happiness in the midst of a challenge—in the midst of searching for investment, in the midst of a down economy—what we find is that all of your success rates rise dramatically – every business outcomes improves.

The brain, it turns out, works significantly better when you’re feeling positive, so developing a sunny outlook allows you to be smarter and more creative. “We found that optimism is the greatest predictor of entrepreneurial success because it allows your brain to perceive more possibilities,” said Achor. “Only 25 percent of job success is based upon IQ. Seventy-five percent is about how your brain believes your behavior matters, connects to other people, and manages stress.”

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.
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If you’re all set to argue that your level of optimism or ability to handle stress is out of your control and determined by either your genes or your childhood, requiring a Woody Allen-level commitment to psychiatric intervention to reverse, Achor would like to correct you. “It’s a cultural myth that we cannot change our happiness,” he said, explaining that:

Genes are really important to happiness, but that’s based upon the cult of the average. What that means is that the average person doesn’t fight their genes. So if you’re born with genes for obesity or for pessimism, and you don’t change your behavior than your genes win. Happiness comes easier to some people, but happiness is a possibility for all if we change our behavior or our mindset.

And changing your mindset is probably less difficult than you imagine. “No one would think that something small could change patterns of pessimism from decades or from genes,” conceded Achor, but he said research proves the doubters wrong. “What we found was something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism and it holds for the next six months. The research is amazing. It proves we actually can change.”

So if you’re looking for more ways to boost your personal happiness quotient, than check out Achor’s TED talk below for some simple interventions that have been proven to help (they’re towards the end). Or if you’re more focused on helping your team perform better by being happier, check out Achor’s recent Harvard Business Review Magazine cover story, explaining, as Achor put it, that “happiness leads to greater levels of profits. In the article I described some things you can do at a team organizational level” to promote it.

  

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Train Your Brain to Become Your Inner Neuro-Coach: Replace Unproductive Habits with Irrepressible Motivation by John Assaraf

By applying brain science to coaching and achieving your goals, you can create powerful, effective, and transformational exercises to solve your personal and business problems in a fraction of the time.  Instead of spending 10, 20, or 50 hours with a coach who uses traditional strategies, you can use brain science to solve the same problem in 10, 20, or 50 minutes.

I’m going to guide you through an imagination exercise – what Einstein called a “mind experiment” – that has helped thousands of people achieve excellence by tapping into the inner wisdom of your brain.  And, if you share the experience you are about to have with others in our community, you’ll add great value for everyone who is reading this column. Together, we can create the first neuro-coaching MasterMind experience.  Make sure you have a pen and a sheet of paper in front of you.

So let’s begin. Imagine that you have been invited to meet with the most extraordinary and famous coaches, therapists, and consultants in history.  You walk into a beautiful, elegant room, and there, sitting on the couch, is Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung!  Leaning back in a pair of armchairs are Warren Buffet and John Assaraf.  Milling around the room is the famous hypnotherapist Milton Erikson. He’s talking to John Gottman (the psychology guru of couples therapy), Aaron Beck (the father of cognitive therapy), and Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology. Over in the corner are the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Socrates, who are delighted that you have come to join in this circle of mastermind coaches and leaders.

They beckon you to an empty chair, and as you sit down, everybody turns toward you with a warm smile on their face. You literally feel their love flowing out for you as you prepare to have the most incredible coaching session in the world.

But there’s a catch:  you only have 30 seconds to ask these geniuses a single question.  You freeze and think to yourself:  “My god!  What should I say?” Fearing that you may blow this amazing opportunity, your mind starts racing a million miles per second. You are about to fry your brain.

Freud steps in to help:  “Lie back in ze chair and relax.”   So do so, right now: lean back and stretch your arms, hands, and legs.  Don’t just do this in your imagination; just take a moment to shake out all of the tensions in your body.

The Dalai Lama chimes in:  “Take a deep breath and let all of your current thoughts and feelings float by, without judging them.”  Do so, right now.

Mark Waldman, who had fallen asleep behind the couch, suddenly wakes up and shouts:  “And don’t forget to yawn!”  So take 10 seconds right now, and yawn.  Feel all of your tensions melting away as your mind becomes crystal clear and calm, and now ask yourself this question:  “What problem do I have that I would like this roomful of brilliant advisors and coaches to respond to?”

On your sheet of paper, write down the first three questions that come to mind.  Circle the most important one and say it out loud to yourself.  Notice how it sounds. Then ask yourself, “Is this really the most important question and problem I want to address?” If not, write down a question, the answer to which could change your life for the better. Again, say the question aloud.

Imagine that one of the gurus in the room speaks a single sentence, filled with wisdom and solid advice. Write down what your imagination hears. It doesn’t matter if the answer is silly, but if nothing comes to mind, just keep asking this question to yourself. In 5 minutes, or maybe an hour from now, you’ll hear a whisper coming from your unconscious brain, from a place where our inner wisdom is born and stored. You are engaging in an exercise that has been confirmed by the latest neuroscientific research on creativity, imagination, and problem solving.

Look at the advice that you “heard” (and you really want to have some fun, ask each person in this imaginary room to give you a piece of wisdom. Make sure you write it all down. The advice you hear may the best advice in the world. It’s generated by one of the newest parts of your brain – the anterior cingulate – and you can “innercise” it through mindfulness, concentration, self-hypnosis, affirmations, and meditation. It will suppress disruptive feelings and thoughts that hold you back from achieving inner and outer greatness.

This imaginary exercise actually changes your brain by replacing unproductive habits with irrepressible motivation. It’s a neurological “call to action” that brings you closer to achieving your dreams and goals. Indeed, you are literally training your own brain to become your inner neuro-coach.

 To Learn More

1) Opt into our free “Winning the Game of Money” video series to learn more about making more money using the latest brain research. You will also have a chance to win $5000 in personal coaching with John Assaraf!

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