I am going to stray from my usual blogging topic of…well…photography…and instead point you to a TED talk that I watched recently and that I really think is worth spreading around. For those of you not familiar with TED, these are short, online talks given by leaders in industries ranging from technology, design, entertainment, education, research and the like, all broadcast free online and available for the enrichment of our brains!
This TED talk by Shawn Achor, the CEO of Good Think, Inc. is called “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” To summarize, his research has found that the happier people are, the more successful they are in their work, businesses, and lives – NOT the other way around. Typically we think that if we work harder, we’ll be more successful, and then we’ll be happier. Shawn puts this idea on its head by explaining how happiness is actually a precursor to success, not a result of it.
You might think he is saying something that intellectually doesn’t make sense. How could you NOT be happier if you made more money, got a better job, or surpassed your sales goals? The reason, he explains, is because we are always raising the bar of what “success” means, and thus always struggling to reach it. For example, you’ll want to make MORE money, you’ll want an even BETTER job, you’ll raise your sales goals even HIGHER. And, therefore, success – and happiness – are always just out of reach.
Instead, he suggests, we should work to find happiness in our everyday and then success will come from that positive outlook. For example, if you wake up every morning and write down 3 things you are grateful for, then you’ll go through the day feeling more generous and appreciative. You’ll make new friends, solidify business relationships, please your clients. If every time you open your email program, you send one nice email to someone you know, you’ll start getting nice emails back. People will reach out to you, they’ll want to do business with you, they’ll refer to you to their colleagues and friends. In other words, the happiness and the kindness predicts the success.
According to Shawn Achor of Good Think, Inc., our success is created not by our reality, but by our perception of reality. In this down economy, when you turn on the news you see stories about war, unemployment, rising health care costs, crime and other unhappy things. That makes you feel unhappy; it makes you perceive your world negatively. How is one to feel successful with that kind of negativity brewing?
Shawn says the answer is not in working harder, spending less time with family, toiling away at the office, skipping vacations, and not sleeping. The answer is to embrace optimism and positive thinking – to find and create happiness around you so that your perception of reality is more positive. Positivity breeds success.
So why is a photographer blogging about positive thinking? Because in addition to being “just a photographer,” I am a small business person. And in my life, nothing has been so hard as being a small business owner trying to stay positive in a down economy. But luckily for me, a lot of things have happened in my life to contribute to my feeling happier. I won’t go into personal details, but suffice it to say that when I started feeling happier about my life, my relationships, and myself, business started improving. It really did! The last quarter of 2011 was my best quarter ever, and the only thing that changed is that I went into the fall feeling happier and more positive.
We all have our demons. True happiness is a process in and of itself. Shawn has a number of suggestions for how to approach each day with a little bit of positivity and I, for one, am going to try them. These last 6 months have proven to me that happiness does indeed breed success and this talk on TED is one more reason why I believe it.
Shawn’s talk is only 12 minutes long, so watch it when you can and let me know what you think!!
And now, just to be consistent, I’ll share an old photo with you that always makes me smile 🙂