Do you want to know the secret to success?
Those three words have a lot to answer for: Secret to Success. They are weighed down with connotations as heavy as the expectations that they set. The phrase has become synonymous as a short cut or a quick fix - an easy solution to the human condition’s most existential of problems.
It is for this reason that the power of positive thought is not valued in contemporary society let alone the modern workplace. Positive thinking is deemed akin to tarot cards and snake oil - a hocus pocus notion achieving nothing more than a placebo effect. But, new research shows that this placebo effect could have very real results on your career.
Why We Need To Change The Way We Think
Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? It turns out the way that you answer this questions says a lot about you as a professional as well as a person.
Most of us have been taught that having a successful career will lead to happiness. This doesn’t have to be the case. Happiness, or more specifically positivity, could be the single most important ingredient for a successful career. We need to reverse the formula to think happiness first, career second. We should never be so busy making a living that we forget how to live. We should work towards creating a life that we don’t need to take a vacation from.
The Science Behind Positive Thinking
“90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.”
Psychologist Shawn Achor argues that the secret to success can be found in reversing the formula for happiness and career. Anchor justifies this is saying that "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." This means that ‘positive thinking’ is not just some vague platitude. It is a real force with measurable outcomes and a quantifiable effect on your career.
- "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 and more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when in a positive mindset instead of negative, neutral or stressed."
These incredible results come down to a single chemical named dopamine. Dopamine is not only responsible for happiness levels but can also activate the learning centers in the brain to change the way that you adapt to the world around you. The good news is that the research proves you can rewire your brain to be more positive.
How To Change The Way You Think
This research is revolutionary - whether your happiness is dependent on internal or external factors makes the world of difference. It means that our lives and jobs don’t have to be dictated by stress, poor performance, or bad bosses. Our happiness is decided by the way we encounter and react to these things.
’Positive thinking’ can seem like a vague concept or professional attribute to work towards. But, the good new is that there are actually some very easy, concrete steps that you can take to foster a positive outlook. Anchor’s research had participants writing down three new things that they’re grateful for, 21 days in a row. This simple exercise proved to train the brain to “scan the world for positive rather than negative aspects”. The study showed that it is possible to train your brain in a similar way that we train our bodies. We can exercise our happiness ‘muscle’. It only took two minutes a day. Writing down a positive experience allows your brain to relive it, and the dopamine release that it triggered.
The dopamine and the repetition combine to create a healthy habit. We can make a habit of happiness, to seek out the positives in all situations.
The act of journaling could have a very real impact on happiness and thus your career. We can train our brain to think happiness first, career second. It is in reversing the formula that the secret to success hides.
Positivity In Action
In contemporary society, there are some innovative companies that are leading the way when it comes to positive thinking by creating work environments that foster happy and healthy employees.
Google’s famous ‘20% time’ policy places them in this category. By allowing their employees one day a week to work on side projects, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin give their employees opportunity for growth through play and experimentation – a creative and positive company culture. The policy has proven results. Gmail, Google Talk, and Google News are said to have their roots in this fertile ground.
The Swedish government is likewise going to extraordinary lengths to promote positive thinking. The city of Gothenburg is testing the benefits of the six-hour work day. The theory is that, by working shorter hours, workers will prioritize leisure over work. It is hypothesized to lead to healthier, happier employees and greater productivity. If the experiment is successful, and workers are found to have improved mental and physical health, the reforms may be extended to the entire Swedish civil service.
Tower Paddle Boards follows a similar policy. CEO Stephan Aarstol explains “We do a 5 hour work day Monday to Friday, 8am-1pm. The rest of the day is ours to live extraordinarily - to be active, to nourish our relationships, and to pursue our passions. To a large degree, our passions are significantly aligned with our work. You can find us occasionally burning the candle late on a project, but it’s because we love to, not because we have to."
We are working on creating a life where we are just as excited for Monday as we are for Friday.
This attitude structures the workplace around the worker’s lives rather than the traditional working week. As one of the fasterest growing companies in San Deigo, Tower’s results speak to the great impact that a positive company culture can have on both its employees and it’s business.
Do What You Love?
‘Do what you love’ has become the catchphrase for our generation. It is offered as the ultimate solution to any of our professional problems. Yet we have to look beyond this platitude to recognise that even if you are working in a field that you’re passionate about complications can still arise - dreams don’t work unless you do.
Perhaps a better way of looking at things would be to bring a little love to whatever you do. Create a positive mindset so that you can see the good in any situation. Foster optimism within yourself so you can counterbalance a society that is ever more cynical. Whatever it is that you are doing, do it with love.
The words love, happiness and peacefulness may seem like the language of wishful thinking. But, in truth, they make up the backbone of our professional lives - they really are the secrets to success. It is all about the way you see the world. In this case, no matter how you look at the science, it’s easy to see: positivity will get you positive results.
Have you ever tried approaching work with a more positive mindset? What were the results? Let us know below...