Before Happiness: How Creating a Positive Reality First Amplifies Your Levels of Happiness and Successby Shawn Achor
A practical guide for those seeking to make positive changes to their reality so that they can finally achieve the success and happiness they desire. Before Happiness shows you how to see the world through a more positive lens so that you can leverage your motivation, emotion, and intelligence to achieve your personal and professional goals. The book consists of 5 major strategies that will help you create renewable positivity that allows you to reach your fullest potential.
Choose your most valuable reality
“If we want to be able to select the reality that will lead to greater productivity, engagement, and revenue growth, we first need to recognize that we have control over how we choose to interpret the objective facts in our external world”
Two individuals in the same situation can have two different perceptions of the experience, with both opinions being equally true. Your brain can receive as many as 11 million bits of information a second. However, it can only process 40 bits of information per second. This means that at any given moment, your brain is ignoring millions of possibilities that may lead to a completely different perception of reality.
Therefore, your reality is simply based on the choices your brain has made.
This is good news because if reality is a choice, then you can select a reality that’s more beneficial than the one you’re currently living. There are three main ways to improve your reality. The first is to recognize the existence of multiple realities, meaning we can determine our reality through our choices. When you believe in the possibility of multiple realities, you make decisions that are aligned with your ideal one.
The second strategy is to train your brain to switch perspectives as you evaluate different options. Reality based on only one (limited) point of view is full of blind spots. The third strategy is to choose the most valuable reality that’s available to you. This is the reality is the reality that is the most true, helpful, and growth-producing. Once you realize the existence of alternate realities and can switch your viewpoint, you can pursue the reality that can lead to your greatest success. The ability to change your perspective of any situation can help you boost your sales, improve your productivity and even enhance your lifespan.
Actions to take
Chart the best route to accomplishing your goals
“Whether you realize it or not, right now your brain is using a map. Powerful, yet usually hidden, mental maps are what guide your actions anytime you make a decision, face a challenge, or set a goal, be it large or small. If you don’t have a good map of reality, there is no chance of a successful mission”
If you find your work to be unfulfilling, your goals unattainable, or your challenges insurmountable, then it’s likely that your mental map of life lacks meaning markers. Meaning markers are those things that matter most to you e.g. your career, better health, or your spirituality. A mental map without meaning can result in apathy, burnout, and an inability to leverage your multiple intelligences (IQ, EQ, and social intelligence) to boost your success.
There are three common mistakes that people make when drawing their mental maps. The first is having the wrong meaning markers. This is where you choose a path that is full of things that you don’t truly care about e.g. chasing money over your health. The second mistake is having too few meaning markers. This occurs when you follow the crowd and end up on a path that has scarce opportunities instead of following your heart. The third mistake is focusing on escape routes instead of paths to success. Sometimes we focus too much on negative outcomes when making our plans that we fail to see the open opportunities around us.
Therefore, to avoid these pitfalls and make a better mental map, you have to highlight your true meaning markers. Once you know what is most valuable to you in life, you can then chart more direct routes to your goals. This will allow you to harness all your resources to their fullest potential. Finally, you need to prioritize your success routes to improve your odds of getting to wherever you want to go.
Actions to take
Accelerate yourself toward your goals
“At the precise moment your brain realizes that attaining your goal is not only possible but probable, it releases a potent stream of chemicals that help you speed up”
If you’re a fan of marathons, you’ll realize that most athletes accelerate the moment the finish line comes into view. The same applies in football, where running backs are known to run faster and harder the closer they get to scoring. Why does this happen? When the reward you’ve been struggling to attain finally comes into view, your brain tells your body to release as much energy as possible instead of reserving it for future goals. The result is a boost in speed, vigor, toughness, and mental clarity.
But you don’t have to be an athlete to take advantage of this phenomenon. You can use it to improve your career, complete a project or even lose weight. Furthermore, you can leverage this phenomenon simply by changing your perception of the distance to the finish line. Instead of waiting to see the finish line, all you have to do is realize the probability of achieving a positive reality.
There are specific skills that can help you create more positive perceptions of your goals. The first is to zoom in on your target. If you have a goal, you need to show your brain that the target is getting closer so that it can give you the boost you need. Secondly, you can magnify the likelihood of success so that your brain perceives the goal to be possible. Finally, you can trick your brain into believing that it doesn’t need to spend too much mental energy to cross the finish line. These skills can help you construct a reality where your goals are always within reach.
Actions to take
Cancel the negative noise
“Noise can be a huge distorter of reality. Vegas casinos know this; that’s why they overload your brain with sounds and lights to distract you from the reality that you are losing money. But noise is much more than just a distraction; it blocks out signals that can point you toward positive growth”
When you want to achieve any kind of goal, you have to focus on true and reliable information that propels you to your fullest potential. This information is referred to as signal. At the same time, one of the obstacles you’re likely to contend with is noise. Noise is any false, negative, or unnecessary information that distorts your positive reality or distracts you from your path to success.
In today’s world, we’re inundated with so much noise that it’s getting increasingly difficult to focus on the positive signal. But this noise doesn’t originate just from the external environment. Some of it comes from within your head i.e. the internal voices that fill you with fear, anxiety, and negativity. Therefore, if you want to create the most valuable reality in your life, you have to block out the external as well as the internal noise.
This is possible by first training your brain to distinguish between the signal and the noise. Then you have to learn some practical steps that you can use every day to stop your addiction to noise. You can also learn how to actively cancel the internal noise so that fear, pessimism, and self-doubt no longer control your reality. By focusing on these strategies, you can boost the strength of your signal by as much as 25 percent.
Actions to take
Transfer your positive reality to others
“Positive inception is not just about spreading happiness but helping others see the reality in which success (and happiness) is possible. It’s about helping others tap into their multiple intelligences and cognitive resources…to create happier and more successful teams”
After you’ve learned how to create your positive reality, the final step is to transfer it to others. Though you cannot force people to embrace your positive perspective, you can still plant seeds of positive realities in their minds. This is known as positive inception. Through positive inception, you can increase the number of positive geniuses within your social circle or company. Furthermore, it makes it easier to sustain your positive reality.
There are 3 things you can do to achieve this. The first is to identify one aspect of reality that you can replicate and then share it with others. The goal here is to help people replicate a positive behavioral pattern that leads to success. The second strategy is to rewrite the social script. As a collective, we are all influenced by hidden social scripts. By using more positive social scripts in your interactions, you can create a positive social influence that leads to positive inception.
Finally, you can create a shared narrative that appeals to the emotions of the people you seek to influence. Whether you’re a leader or not, sharing your emotional experiences with others can help bring a team closer together and get everyone on the same page. Ultimately, the goal is to create a renewable source of positive energy that motivates everyone around you.