Shawn Achor: “Before Happiness” | Talks at Google

Shawn Achor: “Before Happiness” | Talks at Google


CHADE-MENG TAN:
Morning, everybody. Thank you all for being here. My name is Meng. I’m the Jolly Good
Fellow of Google, and I’m delighted to be
here with my friend Shawn, a fellow Jolly Good
Fellow and also a fellow international
bestselling author, whose latest book is
“Before Happiness,” available at all
major bookstores. The first thing you need
to know about Shawn Achor is that he is
genuinely really nice. You know about his
public persona. He’s that nice,
smiling, happy guy. And in person, he
is really that guy. So that’s the first
thing you need to know about him, genuinely
beautiful human being. The second thing you
need to know about Shawn is that he has one of the
most popular TED Talks ever, almost 6 million
views the last I checked, like 5.9 million or something. So if he has $1 per
view, he’s going to be the Six
Million Dollar Man. He’s going to run in
slow motion all the time. His lectures airing on PBS
have been seen by millions. He is the winner of a dozen
Distinguished Teaching Awards at Harvard University,
a fairly good university the last I heard. Just kidding. Shawn is one of the
world’s leading experts on the connection between
happiness and success, and he has traveled
to 50 countries. The first 49, it’s kind of meh. But 50, that was impressive. With that, my friends, please
welcome my friend Shawn A. SHAWN ACHOR: Thank you. Thank you, everyone. CHADE-MENG TAN: So thank
you for being here. I’ve been looking
forward to having you for a really long time. SHAWN ACHOR: Me too. I’m absolutely thrilled. And thank you so
much for coming out. It makes it so much more fun to
have even all the people that are being streamed in. So thank you. CHADE-MENG TAN: So this is going
to be purely a conversation. Q&A is a composition
between us and Shawn. And I’m just going ask a
couple questions, and about halfway into this
conversation we’re going to invite you
to ask him questions. Feel free to embarrass him. Don’t embarrass me. Embarrass this guy. So Shawn, my first question
for you a very simple question, how do you define happiness? SHAWN ACHOR: It’s actually
pretty difficult for us to define it. As Meng mentioned,
I’ve traveled to now over 50 countries over
the past seven years studying happiness,
which is great. And one of the things that
I realized very quickly was that everyone had
a different definition of happiness, What they
thought would create happiness, the triggers for
happiness seemed to be different based
upon different cultures, different individuals, even
at the same organization. So if you can’t define
it, maybe can’t study it. And if you can’t
study it, then we can’t have things like
positive psychology that are looking at how do
we raise levels of happiness for other people. Part of what we found is
that even though everyone in this room and
everyone watching has different
definitions of happiness, if I ask you on a
scale of 1 to 10 how happy you felt over the
past two weeks, most of us can kind of put ourselves
on that spectrum. We can put ourselves
somewhere on that range. What we found is that
even though that’s a subjective experience,
if I go into a hospital with a broken arm, there’s no
pain meter they can hook me up to that automatically means
I’m experiencing an 8 out of 10 on a pain scale, the
same thing is true happiness. We treat people
based upon the pain that they actually experience,
and we can actually study people based upon
their subjective experience of happiness that they’re
experiencing in the world. Part of what I’m hoping to
do and part of the reason I wanted to come to
talk with you is that what I’d love for us to do
is to help the world redefine what happiness actually means. Because I think that there’s
a lot of confusion about what happiness actually is. And if we do come up with a
definition that’s aspirational, maybe we can start a movement
not only within our schools and in our families but in
our companies worldwide. There’s a lot of articles
that are coming out right now talking about how
having a happy life and having a meaningful life
that a meaningful life is so much better than having
a happy life in terms of the levels of health you
experience in the long run. I think those studies,
while well-meaning, are actually leading us astray. Because I think it’s
impossible for us to sustain happiness
without meaning. And as soon as we start to try
to define happiness in our life without having meaning,
all we’re talking about is pleasure. And pleasure is very
short-term, right? We could put chocolate bars
in front of each of you, and then we’d be done in
terms of our happiness. Somebody’s like, wait, was
that an option this morning? I didn’t even know that
that would be an option. CHADE-MENG TAN: It’s Google. It’s always an option. SHAWN ACHOR: Exactly. Exactly. You’ve got pleasure
at your fingertips, but that doesn’t necessarily
mean that you automatically have happiness at
your fingertips. Because happiness,
the way that we are hoping to start your
redefine this for the world is to not have
happiness be pleasure, because that’s very short-term. And we get addicted to It. We were talking about
that this morning. If happiness is just a pleasure,
it becomes a trap, right? So if I’m not feeling
pleasure right now, well, then I must not be happy. Then I’m not going to
keep working at this, or I’m not going to keep
trying, because this is too difficult now. What I’m interested in is
how do we redefine happiness to be– I stole this definition
from the ancient Greeks– the joy that we feel
striving for our potential? And I love this definition. I was at the Divinity
School before getting into studying
positive psychology, and I was studying Christian
and Buddhist ethics. Because I was interested
in how does the beliefs you have about the
world change the actions you decide to do
within that world. And one of the things that I
loved about this definition when I saw it is it changes the
way that we pursue happiness. Because if happiness
is just pleasure, we have to keep running
after it very quickly, and we know it’s
not going to last. But if happiness is
joy, joy is something we can feel in the ups
and downs of our life. It’s something we can experience
even when things are not pleasurable, when you’re working
on a very difficult project, when you’re going
for a difficult run, or when you’re biking into
and it’s a really long bike ride, whatever is it
you’re experiencing. Even childbirth is not
a pleasurable experience all the time, but
you can actually feel joy in the midst of that. What I want people to do is
to recognize and to actually seek out that joy, which I know
is one of your pet projects as well. How do you see joy, but joy
that’s connected to growth? Because if happiness is actually
disconnected from growth, it turns out we stagnate
and our happiness goes away pretty quickly. I love playing video games. I love them. And they’re very high levels of
pleasure, and I’m OK at them. But in terms of
long-term meaning, there’s not too much
for me in my life. Now for some people, there’s a
lot of meaning in video games. But for me, not so much. So if I keep doing it, even
though I’m having pleasure that pleasure actually
dissipates after a while, because I’m not actually
pursuing any of my potential except within that one domain. The thing I love about
joy that we experience striving towards
our potential is that potential
could be anything. It could be as an entrepreneur,
as a business leader. It could be as a lover,
as a son, as a daughter, as a human being. And the more than we actually
strive towards that potential, that’s where people
experience that greater levels of happiness,
and it allows us to stop making that disjunct
between happiness and success. Because I was out in Indonesia,
and I was speaking out at one of the factories there. And one of the managers
came up to me and said, this talk on happiness might
work at places like Google or it might work in
places in America, but seriously actually our
problem in our country is not that people are unhappy work. Our problem is sometimes
people are way too happy. Because I had this guy come into
work three hours late today, and I tried to yell at
him, and he was like, what are you doing? Let’s just relax and
just enjoy ourselves. And I was like, that guy
didn’t make me happy at all. But what he’s talking about
there is not happiness, right? That’s short-term pleasure. The guy decide to
stay home that morning and didn’t do the work that
he was supposed to be doing. But if that’s what
it is, then long-term his levels of happiness are
actually going to decrease. He’s never going to get to
see what his potential was within that organization. He might not get to see
what his potential was in terms of applying his
self-control and his behavior to his task. So what we want people
to do is to recognize that that can be more
on the side of apathy. I think the opposite of
happiness is not unhappiness. The opposite of
happiness is apathy, which is the loss of joy that
we feel within our lives. Because if you think about
it, unhappiness can sometimes make us breakup with people
we shouldn’t be dating. Or unhappiness can cause us
to move to do different jobs, or it can cause us to want to
get better grades in school. Unhappiness can be very helpful. What I think becomes
the problem is when we’ve lost that
joy in our life, when we lose that joy striving
towards our potential. So I think that there’s a
revolution inside of us. If we can help people
realize that happiness is joy that we feel on the
way to our potential, some amazing things
start to change. CHADE-MENG TAN: Fascinating. It’s especially
fascinating in the context of one of your teachings
from your previous book, which I thought was
ground-breaking. And when I first read it,
I was really impressed. In your previous book, which
is “The Happiness Advantage,” you talk about the relationship
between happiness and success. And you put it on
its head, the reverse of what everybody
else was thinking. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. CHADE-MENG TAN:
Which is everybody was thinking that if you’re
successful, you’re happy, which is basically the
premise of Asian parenting. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] CHADE-MENG TAN: Right? Trust me, I know. But what you say,
and I agree with you, is that it’s the reverse. It’s that happiness
brings about success. So can you talk more about that? SHAWN ACHOR: Sure. So you guys might have heard
“The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” book that came out
about tiger parenting, which is the style of parenting
you’re describing, which is I’m going to
push you so far right now, and you’re going to hate me for
it, but when you’re successful, when you’re off at
Harvard, Stanford, when you’ve got a good job,
then you’re going to be happier. CHADE-MENG TAN: Right. SHAWN ACHOR: And it turns
out that that formula, which undergirds our managing styles
at most companies, our learning styles, our personal
development styles, it’s scientifically broken and
backwards for two reasons. The first reason is that every
time your brain has a success– and you’ve experienced this. Everyone in this
room has experienced this– your brain just
changes the goal post of what success looks like for
you almost immediately. You’ve got good
grades in school? Don’t get excited
yet, because now you need to get into better schools. You got into a better school? Don’t get excited there, because
then you have to get a job. You don’t even have
a job yet, right? So you have to get that
internship and job. You hit your sales target? We raise your sales target. You had double growth
earnings last year? That’s phenomenal. That means we can double
the growth again this year. And that’s not the problem. We want to see what your
brain is capable of. We want growth to improve. We want to see
sales improve, all of these different
types of things. The problem is where happiness
comes in that formula. Because if happiness
comes after success, which is a moving
target, the brain never gets there for very long. We can raise your success
rates your entire life. We can raise your income. We don’t actually do this. We watch people whose
success rates rise. That’d be very
hard for us to do. We watch people whose success
rates rise dramatically, and their happiness
levels flatline. They actually don’t move. So as your success
rises in your life, your happiness levels will
actually remain about the same. But flip around
the formula, if you can get people to deepen the
social connection they feel, the meaning embedded in the
relationships, the breadth and depth of the relationships,
if you change and raise their levels of optimism, if
you get people to see stress as a challenge instead
of as a threat, when our brain is
positive first, every single educational
outcome and business outcome we can test for
rises dramatically, and our success rates rise. So raised success rates,
happiness flatlines. But raise levels of happiness
withinside organizations and schools, and
their success rates rise dramatically,
which is phenomenal. I spent 12 years at Harvard,
first as an undergraduate and then I was at
Divinity School, and then I was a
teaching fellow there. And when I first got into
Harvard, I applied on a dare, so I didn’t expect to get in. We didn’t have any
money for college, but I got a Navy
ROTC scholarship, which allowed me to
go there through MIT. And so I found myself in
classrooms full of people who were incredibly smart
and were just amazing. And I remember that I could
have felt bad about myself, like the mistake, but I remember
just sitting there thinking this is amazing to get
to have the opportunity like this morning,
to get to spend time with all these incredibly
brilliant and motivated people. And you can look around,
and for many of you– I know some of you are
from Harvard, actually– and you could see
the students who saw their education
as a privilege. They saw what they were
doing as an opportunity, and they invested in it in
completely different ways. They’d take classes that
they’d get a bad grade in, like an A-minus, just
because they wanted to learn. Or they’d get involved
with a sport– CHADE-MENG TAN:
Obviously not Asian. That’s like an Asian C. SHAWN ACHOR: Exactly. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: I like that. CHADE-MENG TAN:
I’m just kidding. Almost. SHAWN ACHOR: We’d
have people that would ride the bench on
a sport for three years just so they could
make friends, and those are the people who
loved their time there. And actually, in
one of our studies we found that those
are the people who give the most in
alumni donations back to the school
later on, which is why Harvard got interested
in happiness in the first place. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But afterwards,
I got the opportunity to stay at Harvard. I knew that if I left they
wouldn’t let me back in. And so I stayed there
for the next eight years, and I lived in the dorms with
the freshman as a Proctor there. And Harvard invited me to do
that– I wasn’t that guy who stays in the freshman dorms
meeting people– for most of it. So what it meant was I could
watch these students transition from high school to college. And what I saw very
quickly was no matter how happy they were getting into
that school, two weeks later, many of them, their
brains were not focused on the privilege of
being there or even fully focused on their
philosophy or physics. Their brains were scattered
thinking about the competition, the workload, the stresses,
the hassles, and complaints. And very quickly, what was
promised to create great happiness wasn’t. 80% of Harvard students,
according to the “Crimson” poll that they had, 80%
of them reported experiencing depression at
sometime during the four years there. And a study that came out in
2003 by the University Health Services, they measured
6,000 undergraduates and found that 10% of them
had contemplated suicide at some point during
their time there, which is extraordinarily high. And I know that
these are statistics, but those are human beings. And it was heartbreaking
watching some of these students and some of the
people that we know lose that connection to meaning
in their life and the potential that they had. One of the studies that
I got to do early on was I looked at 1,600
Harvard students to find out who
rises to the top. If you have people that
are extremely intelligent, extremely successful,
ambitious, who rises to the top in terms of
their happiness and success? And I looked at everything. I looked at what grades
they got in school. I looked at their
familial income. We looked at the SAT scores
before getting into school. We looked at the number
of friends on Facebook. We looked at the number
of romantic partners that they had had. Which by the way,
at Harvard they’ve dated less than one
person, on average, after their entire
four years of college. CHADE-MENG TAN:
Must be engineering? I don’t know. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. Possibly. It was lower than any
school we saw so far. It was actually 0.5 sexual
partners per Harvard student. CHADE-MENG TAN:
Yep, engineering. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: Which I only
mention because I don’t even know what that
statistic means, 0.5. We were always
taught to round up. CHADE-MENG TAN: Better than MIT. SHAWN ACHOR: Possibly. Probably. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But
0.5 sexual partners, it’s the scientific
equivalent of second base, and it was useless
information to us. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: What we did find
was imagine a student who ever since they
were one-year-old was placed into a crib wearing
a onesie that you can buy at the bookstore, at The Coop,
that says “Bound for Harvard” and maybe a cute little Yale
hat, in case something terrible happened. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: And
ever since there were in special pre-K school
that they got into four years before they were
conceived, they were at the top 1% of their class. Junior high, high school,
standardized tests, top 1%. They get into Harvard, and they
have a terrible realization. 50% of them are
now below average. And to put it more
poignantly, when I was counseling students
I would tell them it seems as if 99%
of Harvard students do not graduate in
the top 1%, which they don’t find funny at all. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But the
reason that’s interesting is they decide
the only way I can be happy is if I’m in the
top 1% of one category of one institution, right? Not worldwide. And they pick
grades– which if you know the research on grades,
you can roll a pair of dice, and that’s as predictive
of your future job success as your college GPA
is, which is why a lot of people who make
straight A’s in college work for people who got
straight C’s in business school. Some of you are like, yep. But part of what I
think is fascinating– [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: What I think
is so fascinating about this is that we’ve got the
formula backwards. They thought, well, if I
got into a good school, if I got a great job, if I
got to where I am in life, of course I’d be happier. And it turns out that
it doesn’t automatically cause greater
levels of happiness. But amazingly, the formula could
actually work in the other way. We found something that we now
call the happiness advantage, which is when the brain
is positive it has an unfair advantage over the
brain at negative, neutral, or stressed. You’re 31% more productive. Sales rise from a
neutral salesperson to the same salesperson
at optimistic by 37%. We found that people who
provide social support work, you’re 40% more likely
to receive a promotion over the next two-year
period of time. We find that you live longer. We just did a study, actually. I love this study. I got to work with
one of my friends who w one of my students
at Harvard, Alia Crum. And she went off to Yale. We did a joint study
at UBS in the middle of the banking crisis,
the big Swiss bank. And one of the things
we were looking for is that oftentimes
the companies would want to push you very hard, and
then your stress levels rise, and then they give you a
stress management program. And the stress
management program goes something like this. Did you know that stress is
related to the 10 leading causes of death and disease
in the United States? Did you know that the
World Health Organization found stress to be
the number one killer? Stress is related to 80% to 90%
of all doctor-related visits. And stress is catabolic. It literally tears down every
organ in the human body. As soon as you hear that,
what do you think it? [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: More stress. You’re like, stop
emailing me so much work. You’re destroying every
organ in my body, which I think would make a great
away message at work. But part of what we found
is that all of that’s true. All of that information
is absolutely true. Stress is terrible killer. But just like with Vitamin
C and coffee and alcohol, we keep finding
studies that are like, alcohol will save your
life, and it will kill you. Vitamin C causes cancer
and cures cancer. And we get so frustrated. We’re like, well, what
am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to
drink coffee or not? Am I supposed to
drink red wine or not? The reason is that it’s less
about the external world but about how your
body and your brain process what comes into your
system and what you experience. The same thing’s
true with stress. So there’s an equally
true information that says that stress actually
releases a growth hormone that speeds up the
recovery of your cells faster than anything we’ve seen. Not low levels of stress
but moderate to high levels of stress actually
turn on your immune system to the highest possible level. We found that stress deepens
your social bonds more than anything, which is
why last week I was out working at the Pentagon, and one
of the things they were saying is that’s why we on-board
people in the military with bootcamp and
not a beach vacation, because we know that that
stressful period doesn’t tear people down. It actually causes them
to create these meaning structures, these narratives,
and these relationships that they talk about for the
entire rest of their life. In fact, every moment
of high human potential occurs in the midst of
stress, not the absence of it. So what we did is we
just showed them videos and created a small
training for the UBS employees in the middle
of a banking crisis when they went through
four restructurings and they were told that
they didn’t get their bonus. One of my very first
talks was actually at a Swiss bank out in Zurich. And the introduction
was, we don’t have bonuses for everyone,
but here’s a talk on happiness from
a guy from America. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] CHADE-MENG TAN: Yay. SHAWN ACHOR: Exactly. Which is amazing,
because they immediately stonewalled the information. But 10 minutes later,
as soon as they started hearing that
there’s research about this, suddenly things
started to change. Because it wasn’t
about just, oh, let’s be happier in the midst
of this challenge. It was like, here’s how we can
actually change the way that we view this world and
actually ripple this out to other people around us. I’m going off track. We can come back to that. But the part of what I found was
so interesting about the stress study was we had two groups. One group saw stress
as debilitating, and one group saw
stress as enhancing. And we tracked them
for the next six weeks. And I was hoping that the group
that saw stress as enhancing would actually have
lower levels of stress. That was my hope,
and we were wrong. Turns out they had equal levels
of stress and extremely high. But their health-related
symptoms, their back aches, headaches, and fatigue,
their energy levels at work improved by 23% for the group
that saw stress as enhancing, a nearly 30% increase
in their productivity, and their levels of
happiness improved. What that means is stress
is inevitable in our lives, but the way that we
perceive stress changes how it affects the human body. And the reason why we feel such
a negative effect from stress is because stress should
be meaningful, right? If I tell you your inbox is
full of spam, you’re like, OK, I don’t care. But if your inbox
is full of things you need to get back that
you wanted to get back to that are meaningful for
your job or connections you want to make, suddenly
you care about it. Or if I tell somebody that
somebody’s kid is failing English, they don’t really care. If their kid’s failing English,
they care a whole bunch. Stress has meaning in it. But when we separate the energy
from stress from meaning, that’s when we get these
negative health effects. So what we found is we can
actually train people out of these ideas,
which is incredible. So all we have to do is deepen
somebody’s social connection, change their optimism, or change
the way that they view stress, and we can actually improve
every single business and educational outcome
worldwide, which is incredible. CHADE-MENG TAN: Lovely. Your first book, that really
spoke to me on one level. Because when you talk about
the happiness advantage, like happiness before
success, I reflect on my life. And for me, I’m a meditator. I’ve been doing it 20 years. And if your meditation
practice is deep enough, you get into a
state where you are happy independent of
sensations and thoughts. You are just happy. And then everything you
experience is bonus. And then I found that
when I’m consistently in that from of mind I
became even more successful. And what you gave me was the
vocabulary and the research to understand this
whole experience. So I’m really grateful
to you for that. So for me, I decided to
dedicate my life to creating the conditions for world
peace by making peace, joy, and compassion
universally accessible. And I know that’s what
you want to do as well. And so my question next to
you is, how do you spread it? How do spread happiness? You and maybe in general. How do you spread
happiness in general? SHAWN ACHOR: Well,
we’re actually helped out by our brains. One of the things that I’ve
found so incredible in some of this research that’s coming
out is one of the experiments that I have people do
in some of my talks– which actually we can do
it right now, if you want. Let’s do it real quickly. So you don’t have to do any
of my experiments today. I’m not allowed to bring
consent forms to talks, because we had an electric shock
problem a couple years ago. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But here’s
what I need you to do. And you can do
this even if you’re watching from a remote location. All I need you to do is
just partner up with someone that’s sitting next to you. Partner up into pairs of two. Of course pairs of two. Partner up into pairs. The only caveat is legally I’m
required to tell you you cannot partner up with someone that
you’re married to for this experiment or that you
want to be married to. So move around if you’re
struggling with this. CHADE-MENG TAN: You
know who you are. SHAWN ACHOR: Yes, exactly. So does everyone have a partner? You can move closer, because
you need to sit next to them. So here’s what I need you to do. The person that’s sitting
closest to this wall, to the exits is your person
number one in the pair. The person furthest
from that wall, you’re person number
two in the pair. If you’re remote, just pick
one person to be number one. Some of you are
like, I already knew I was person number
one in this pair. There should be a two
and a one in each group. So raise your hand if
you’re person number one. Raise your hand if
you’re person number two. OK. That’s not the experiment. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: I have to do that. Because I did this experiment
on Wall Street a couple months ago, and it literally took that
struggling bank five minutes to figure out who number
one in the group was. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: Which explains
what’s going on there. So here’s what I need you to do. How many of you, by the way,
have a psychology background, read a lot of psychology
books, studied psychology? OK. So for my psychology
friends, this is the emotional prime
of the experiment. For everyone else,
this is nothing. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But here’s
what we ask you to do. Over the course of
your life, you’ve taken your genes, your
genetic predispositions, you’ve beat both those genes
out through your self-discipline and your self-control. You were able to pass the
classes that you needed to in school to get
into the schools you wanted to to apply yourself
to your job here at Google. What I’d love for
you to do is to use all of that
self-discipline and control that you’ve been
cultivating for decades, and I’d like you to use it to
control your behavior for just seven seconds of this
experiment, if you can. At eight seconds,
you can do whatever you want to or
with your partner. But for seven
seconds, you’re mine. So what we ask you do in this
experiment, person number one, is to not get angry
with person number two when they do to you
what I’m about to tell them to do to you. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: Don’t get angry. Don’t get sad. Please, please don’t cry like
the group at the Pentagon. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: I was
so embarrassed. CHADE-MENG TAN: Those generals. SHAWN ACHOR: Person
number one, you basically are going to do nothing
with person number two. So person number one and
two, please turn and face one another. Person number one,
make sure you’re within striking distance
of person number two. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: And
person number one, just go neutral on the inside. Try to feel no emotions,
and try and think no thoughts, which
for some of you might be extremely
easy right now. Then control your hands,
person number one. Don’t move your hands
even to defend yourself from person number two. And person number one,
just control your face. Show zero emotion on your face. No fear, no flinching, no
frustration, zero emotion. Once you’re ready,
person number one, you’re using your decades
of self-discipline to control the control your
thoughts, your emotions, your hands, and your face. Then person number two,
please turn to them, make sure you’re
looking at them directly in the eyes, and for
the next seven seconds, person number two, please just
smile genuinely and warmly but directly up
into the eyes while looking at them
warmly and deeply. Ready? Go. Some of you already failed. And stop. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: So we’re
going to switch it around, because some of you
were terrible at that. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: Just switch
it around real quick. My psychology friends know
you never repeat a psychology experiment with some
form of deception in it, but just switch it around. It’s incredibly easy,
we know at this point, for person number to
control themselves. But just try it. Person number two, go
neutral on the inside. Using your self-discipline
and control that makes you a lot more
successful than person number one is at life, just
control yourself. And person number
one, look at them. Make sure you look at them
directly, deeply, warmly in the eyes. And for the next seven seconds,
it’s your turn for retaliation. Go. And stop. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: So what I
love about this experiment is even if you’re
successful at it, as soon as you say stop
people relax as if that was the hardest thing they had to
do all day, which literally was doing nothing for
the seven seconds. But first of all, I’m
just curious in this room, it’s a quiet room, so it’s hard. This experiment
works much better if you’ve got more
priming going on. But I’m just curious,
failure at this experiment means you smiled when
I asked you not to, and success means that
you did not smile. Raise your hand if you failed
miserably at this by smiling. Oh, OK. So a lot of you. That’s terrible. Raise your hand if
you successfully did what I asked you to
for the full seven seconds. So 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. 18 liars. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: What we find is– CHADE-MENG TAN: Pants on fire. SHAWN ACHOR: Exactly. Actually, I don’t know
why I counted you, because I don’t know how
many people are in the room. But what we find is 80% to
85% of people worldwide cannot control themselves for the seven
seconds of this experiment. I did this with senior-level
bankers, all men, all in their mid-50s
in Tokyo, Japan, and the smile
percentage was 77%. What we’re finding is
it’s extremely universal. You mentioned I’ve been
to over 50 countries, and I’ve done this
experiment in all of them. But one I made a mistake with. And this gets directly
back your question. But I wanted to
tell you about this. So last year I got invited by
the royal family in Abu Dhabi, as one does, to get to
give a talk on happiness. And I was so excited
about this opportunity that I went over there and was
meeting all of these people that I’d never met before
and been to a place I’d never had that I wasn’t thinking
when I got into the talk, because I was too excited. And one of the talks there was
for 300 women in the Middle East about how we can raise
up levels of happiness and positive leadership there. And some of you are
smiling because you know the mistake I made. I tried the smiling experiment
in the talk and only halfway through realized
that 90% of the room was veiled for the
smiling experiment, which had I thought it before I would
not have made that mistake. But I’m so grateful I did,
because the women in the room taught me something. They told me that
the experiment still worked because they could see
the smile in the other woman’s eyes. And even behind the veil,
the smile was contagious. The reason why this is so
fascinating is what we found is inside the human brain, what
we discovered also by accident is over the past 15 years
we’ve discovered these things in the human brain
called mirror neurons. So if you put me into
a fMRI brain scan, scan my brain while I’m
smiling, parts of my brain will show activation
telling me that I’m smiling. But if I stop
smiling, which is what you were just trying to do,
and someone smiles at you or you see a picture
of somebody smiling, those small parts
of your brain called mirror neurons will
show activation, and they’ll tell you you’re
the one that’s smiling. And your motor neurons
will cause your face to contort into a smile
before you can stop yourself, because you already
think you’re smiling. So if you were looking
at your partner and their lips were
quivering while they were trying not to
smile, that’s weird. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: That
shouldn’t be happening. But what’s occurring there
is their mirror neurons are fighting against
their motor neurons. Your brain already
thinks you’re smiling, so it’s like, what’s
the problem here, face, as your brain
is trying to find out what’s going on between those. These happen with yawns. So if you see somebody yawn,
our likelihood of yawning increases because
our brain actually tells we’re the
one that’s yawning. But why this is so
fascinating and why this is crucial to
this contagious effect that we can have is it
turns out that if you have 15 strangers waiting for
a plane– they don’t even know they’re part experiment yet. They’re just at an
airport– and you introduce an
undercover researcher, a confederate to stand in
the middle of the 15 people and bounce nervously in place,
tap his foot on the floor and look at his watch repeatedly
with a frown on his face, within two minutes of waiting
for that plane or train, depending on the study, 7 to
12 of the 15 individuals will unconsciously start
bouncing nervously in place and/or tapping their
foot on the ground and/or looking at their
watch more than four times in two minutes. If you don’t believe
me, this is one of the experiments
you can do yourself the next time you
get on a plain, if you want to spread
stress and negativity– [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: –to the
people on your plane, which is why do this
at a different gate. But the reason I love
this experiment– [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: –is it shows
this, that not only do smiles and yawns spread, it turns
out negativity, stress, uncertainty, pessimism we can
pick up like secondhand smoke. You can be optimistic,
but if you’re surrounded by people
who are negative, your brain through these
mirror neurons can pick it up. And when we tell people
that, they’re like, OK. Well, here are the people
I’m cutting out of my life. I’m not going to hang
out with this person. I’m going to de-friend
them on Facebook. I’m not even going to look
at this person anymore, which is awkward because
they’re in my family. And what happens is in
each one of those moments we’re eliminating
social connection. But these mirror neurons
give us the power to actually spread positive
change even better. Because as we’ve
been studying you, we’ve been studying you wrong. There’s no wires
connecting your brains. There’s no organic material. So we’ve made the
mistake of assuming that all of your brains were
separate, and they’re not. It misses out on how beautiful
the human organism actually is, because our brains
are not wired together. Our brains are
wirelessly connected through a mirror neuron network. Your thoughts right now are
changing your nonverbals, how you’re sitting here, which
is changing the way that people sitting next to you are
processing this information. We’re in a continual
feedback loop with the people that we walk past
in the cafeteria. We’re in a continual
feedback loop with our family members
and our friends. And what we found
is if we can buffer our brain against the
negative, if we can create even a single positive change in
our life, meditation, exercise, gratitude, whatever
it is you’re doing, we can actually watch
that positive effect that’s occurring in your
brain wirelessly impact the people’s brains of
the people around you. One of the opportunities
I got last year was to work at a hospital. And hospitals have
a terrible time, because when you
think about hospitals you think about sickness
and disease, Right? And you can’t change that. But we went into
the Ritz Carlton to figure out what
they were doing to get people to
love coming there. And they have nice
buildings, but one of the things that
the train– maybe you know this– they teach
them to do something called the 10-5
Way, which is if you walk within 10 feet of
somebody at a Ritz Carlton, they’re trained to make eye
contact and smile at you. And within 5 feet, the employees
are trained to say hello. It’s actually really
fun to go in and out of those sphere with
them at the Ritz, even if you’re
not staying there. But what we love
about the experience is that we could import
it down to this hospital, to these groups of hospitals. And we trained them
post-Katrina down in Louisiana. And some of the doctors
were like, why would you have to train people to smile? Isn’t that human nature? But then other doctors
were like, uh, you hired me to save people’s lives. It doesn’t matter how I
walked down the hallways. I save people’s lives. That’s what I’m hired for. I’m not going to do this stupid
smiling initiative from HR. So we said, that’s fine. But then we trained
11,000 of their coworkers to make eye contact and
smile and to do the 10-5 Way. And what happens is
everyone started picking up the pattern, the doctors,
and nurses, the staff. But the cool part
was the patients, who didn’t know
what was going on, picked up and then started
initiating the social script, because they were learning that
when I walk down this hallway I’m supposed to treat people
as if they’re human beings. We pick up social
scripts all the time. If you get onto subway in
New York or The T in Boston, you start smiling,
some people start moving away from you, right? Because we know
the social script. Let’s not necessarily
do eye contact, and let’s not actually
smile at strangers. We know that rule. But part of what we
were finding was not only did hospital
hallways change, which would be a cute story
about how hospitals can change, what I was interested
in is what happened six months later to
their business outcome. Six months later, the
hospitals that did this, they saw a significant increase
in their unique patients that came to the hospital. The likelihood of
patients to refer the care, the quality of care
that they received skyrocketed. And the doctors’
happiness level at work were the highest not only
in the hospital chain but in a decade at
that organization. That’s a one-second
behavioral change that shows we can change the
social script around this and actually impact not only
our happiness but the quality of care that we provide
and our business outcomes. My question– and it’s the one
that you have been championing here at Google– is, what if
we had more than one second with somebody? What if we could change
somebody not just short-term? But what if we could
actually change the very lens with which we viewed the world? And that’s where things become
really powerful, I think. CHADE-MENG TAN: I have
a suggestion for that– SHAWN ACHOR: Yes. CHADE-MENG TAN: –wish
is to look at human being and to think, I wish for
this person to be happy. You don’t have to
do or say anything. Just think. And that thought alone
changes everything. Because it changes
your facial expression, changes your behavior,
and eventually people, they like each other, and
they don’t really know why. This operates on an
unconscious level. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. CHADE-MENG TAN: So I
suggest that to everybody, that one thought. I wish for this guy to be happy. And then leave it at that. See what happens. SHAWN ACHOR: That’s cool. CHADE-MENG TAN: Oh, I love
how you say it’s beautiful. I see it, and I raise you one– SHAWN ACHOR: OK. CHADE-MENG TAN:
–which is I think that in addition
happiness is contagious. The other thing I found to
be contagious is calmness. If you walk into a room in
a meditative, calm state, no matter how bad things
are, if you walk in and sit down meditatively
calm, it starts to spread. People start calming down. So for those of you
who are meditators, practice that in a meeting
where things are not going well. Give that a try. See if you can change anything. And sometimes people notice. That guy, every time he walks
in the room, something changes. See if that happens to you. SHAWN ACHOR: That’s cool. CHADE-MENG TAN: Which leads
me to the next question. The thing I really like
about this book are two words that you use,
which I thought was genius. And the words you use
are positive genius. And can you talk about
what is a positive genius and how that relates to
happiness and success? SHAWN ACHOR: Sure. So only 25% of your
successes here at Google are predicted based
upon your intelligence and technical skills. CHADE-MENG TAN: The rest
is their good looks, right? SHAWN ACHOR: The
rest are good looks. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: Which we know from
tech, financials, and medicals, where I thought IQ would
matter more, it doesn’t. About 25% of job success is
predicted by how smart you are. 75% of your successes
are predicted by three other
factors, your optimism, the belief that your
behavior matters, your social connections, and
the way you perceive stress. What we found are that
there’s these individuals and organizations– and not
even organizations, nonprofits and families– that we call
positive geniuses, who, regardless of the environment
that they find themselves in, are able to continually
architect these realities that cause them to see past to not
only success but to happiness as well. Your brains are phenomenal. Some of you are like,
yeah, I knew that. That’s why I work here. But your brain can
process about 40 bits of information per second,
which is really fast. The only problem is your brain
receives 11 million pieces of information per second from
all of your nerve endings. So as you’re constructing
a picture of the world, your brain picks and chooses
two to four small facts, and then you architect an
entire reality around them. And if we know what those
facts are for you, if we hear how you’re describing
your work or your relationships or your life, those facts
you go to immediately, those actually predict
not only your levels of happiness and
your stress levels and how calm you are, but it
predicts your success rates, your educational outcomes, your
health outcomes in the future. Part of what we found is
that these positive geniuses have practiced or have
created these patterns where they can continually architect
these positive realities over and over again. And what I loved
about this is it was something that
could be taught. I think one of the deepest and
coolest parts of this research in positive psychology
is this idea that I believe at base is
just that change is possible, which I actually think
most people would give lip service to but don’t
actually believe that. Because I think most people
think that just their genes are their environment,
that that person’s happy because they were born happy. Or I’m happy because
I was born optimistic or my parents were
optimistic, and that’s the end of the story. Or there are some people
that are pessimistic as well. There is a researcher up in
Minnesota who’s studying twins. And they found if you
take identical twins and raise them apart–
they were already going to be raised apart. They didn’t do
that for the study, but that they have
identical twins raised different families, different
environment, same genes, and what they found is,
on average, the levels of happiness were very similar. So he concluded 80% of
your long-term happiness is based upon your
genes, which actually I believe most people believe. They think the majority
of our happiness is based upon the way your brain
was wired from the beginning. And if you believe
that statement, you have to believe
the next one, which is his famous statement. Stop trying to change
your happiness. You’re as likely to
change your happiness as to change your
height, which is also 80% determined by genes. He’s since recanted that
statement, because it turns out he was only half right,
which in this case makes him fully wrong. Because genes do set
the initial baseline. We can shine a light
at a three-day-old, and if they turn towards that
light and that auditory click, they’re trying to increase
their neocortical arousal, and they’re more likely to
be an extrovert at age 10. They turn away from
it, and they’re more likely to be an introvert. That’s day three. We haven’t even had time to
screw them up yet, right? They’ve got these
predispositions for this. Some of you,
genetically happiness is a much easier choice
than it is for other people. Same thing with obesity,
with alcoholism, all of these different
types of things. But that’s only the
beginning of the story. The reason why we keep finding
genes to be so important is that average person
doesn’t fight their genes. And if you’ve seen my TED Talk,
one of the things I talk about is how most of
our research we’re interested in the average. We want to find out how many
aspirin the average person should take if they
get a headache, which we should already see a problem. Because regardless if you’re
90 pounds or 250 pounds, yeah, about two pills should do it. But as soon as we ask
questions about potential, about happiness, about
optimism, about success, those are a different
group of questions. And when we ask questions
like that, what we do is we create a cult
of the average. Because if we ask questions
like, how fast can a child learn how to
read?– and in our research, we changed it to, how fast
does the average child learn how to read, and then
we tailor the classes right towards that average. Same thing with genes. If we look at how much genes
matter, we look at the average, and the average
person does not fight their genes and
their environment. But if you look at those same
graphs with those same twins, we find that they can
scatter dramatically from their genetic set point
and from our environment. Only 10% of your long-term
levels of happiness are predicted based
upon the external world. 90% of your long-term
levels of happiness is predicted by how your brain
processes that external world. And one of the things we found–
and there might be people here in the room, you’ve
seen a change in your life. You’ve actually seen how you’ve
become more optimistic or more jaded in your life, whatever
direction you’ve been going on that trajectory– I was
telling you this morning, I had an identical twin come
up to me after one of my talks and she said, I used to be
a very negative person, just like my sister, but now
I’m extremely positive. I’m like, that’s amazing. What did you do? How did you break that
cycle from your genes? That’s what I study. And she thought about it,
and she was like, actually, I think it happened
when I was 15. I was involved in a horrific
car accident, and I almost died. And I realized that
life was a privilege and that I had a whole
new lease on life. And from then on,
I’ve seen the world in a completely different way. What I love about that is that’s
a trauma that caused growth. It wasn’t just
post-traumatic stress, which is all we hear about. But actually, it was trauma
that caused somebody to not only grow, create post-traumatic
growth but a deviation from our genes. And that is what I find that
these positive geniuses are able to do is to realize
that they can actually be co-creators of the
lens with which they view the world with their
environment and their genes, so much so we can get people
with genes for pessimism to act in the world and to
become high-level optimists. We actually haven’t
found anyone who is not capable of
changing if they’re willing to be able to make
some of these positive changes within their life,
which shows us that if we just push against
our environment and our genes and create some of
these positive habits that you’ve been doing here
at Google and the programs where you get people
to create these ideas, if you take advantage of some
of the exercise equipment and all of the incredible
things you have, you can actually get people to
change from their genetic set point and create a whole new
trajectory, which is amazing. CHADE-MENG TAN: Yeah. Thank you. So Alex has the mic. Let’s get some questions
from the audience. Yeah, Alex, you get to choose
who to give the mic to. He has the power. AUDIENCE: Hi. A direct follow-up to
what you just said. I grew up with the
quote 10% of the world is what you make
of it, and 90% is how you take it, which is
kind of what you just said. You said 90% of
your happiness is based on how you process
your external world. Do you have some
scientific fact? How did you come
up with that 90%? Because before I thought
that that was made up. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. That research comes
from a researcher named Sonja Lyubomirsky. And part of what they
were looking at initially was if we know your
external world, we can predict short-term
happiness very easily. If a stock goes
down, your happiness goes down, unless
you short the stock. Or if something
bad happens to you, immediately you have
a response period. If you don’t actually have a
response period completely, sometimes that can
actually be problematic. I don’t study people that
are happy all the time, because that can actually be a
form of a disorder where they don’t– CHADE-MENG TAN: Or
they live in Colorado. SHAWN ACHOR: Exactly. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: So
anyway, what they found was your happiness levels
in aggregate over time, which is when we watch your
patterns move, only 10% of it was predicted by any of
those external factors that we were looking for. So the rest of it
had to be determined based upon your genes and what
she calls the voluntary actions you make in your life. Those are the habits. I like where she’s
going with this, and it’s helpful sometimes
to say those things. But I also think we get
stuck with the percentages. Because if I’m born with genes
for pessimism– actually, I was born probably with
genes for depression. I actually went through two
years of depression myself when I was at Harvard while
I was at the Divinity School. And as I was coming out of that,
what was helping me pull out of it was positive psychology
and some of these habits that we were doing. I was doing this journaling
exercise where you actually journal about
positive experience and meaningful
experience over the day. And because our
brains can’t tell the difference
between visualization and actual experience,
it doubles the experience for the brain, and you
start to see more meaning. Even though I have
genes for that, I don’t actually experience
depression very much any more. And when I start to go down
into a trough a little bit, I know it’s short-lived, and I
can actually pop back out of it faster and faster now. And if that’s the
case, then how much are the genes mattering
at this point? Are the genes starting
to go from 40% down to 30% down to 0%? If I have genes for
pessimism but I’m acting like an optimist,
maybe they have 0% of effect upon people. So part of what I think
is just the recognition that the external
world does not have a tyranny over people’s
levels of happiness, which is why if you’ve
traveled a lot you’ve seen– I’ve worked with very
wealthy bankers who have just been so depressed and devastated
in the middle of a banking crisis. And I’ve worked with
farmers in Zimbabwe who lost their land who are living
under a military dictator, and they’re some of the
most optimistic people I’ve ever met. So I think it goes
with the common sense that we can find people
within every environment that are positive and negative. I think the key, though,
is how do we view reality. Because I was actually
out in northern California out here speaking to a
group of software companies, all CEOs of these top
software companies. You probably know
all these people. And one of the CEOs offered
to drive me to the airport after my talk, because
he wanted to figure out how we could cascade
this research out through his organization. And so I got into
his really nice car and put on my seat belt, and
he got in on the other side and immediately started
talking to me about what his company was experiencing,
all the change and stress. And that bell was
going off in his car because he hadn’t
put on his seat belt yet and just kept going off
and eventually got tired and just stopped. And I turned to
him and I was like, you don’t wear a seat belt? And he said, no, I
listened to your talk. I love your research. I’m an optimist. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: I was like,
oh, you’re an idiot. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But I’d
love to work with you. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: Optimism is
great for a lot of things, but it doesn’t stop
cars from hitting us. It doesn’t stop reality
from impinging upon us. And that’s irrational optimism. And there’s books
and ideas out there that if you’re like, if
I just change my mindset, everything will change for me. And that’s actually irrational. Because if you
sugarcoat the present, we make bad decisions
in the future. And if we think that
reality won’t impact us, we don’t make any
changes to that reality, and it causes us to be blind
to injustices that are going on in the world or to racism
or to weaknesses in our life that we want to improve. Irrational optimists
don’t put on a seat belt because they don’t think
anything bad can happen to them, and a pessimist
doesn’t put on a seat belt because they think they’re
going to die anyway. But a rational optimist, which
is what I’m hoping people go for with this idea,
rational optimism doesn’t start with
rose-colored glasses. It starts with a realistic
assessment of the present, both the good and the bad,
but maintains the belief that our behavior matters. It’s linked to our
social support networks. I love that. The rational optimism takes
a realistic assessment of the present
first but maintains the belief my behavior matters. It’s linked to the
people around me. And that, I think, is where
we want to go with this. I get people after
my talks who say, I’m not an optimist
or a pessimist. I’m just a realist
right now, which usually means
they’re a pessimist. But what they’re saying
is actually nonsensical, because both optimists
and pessimists can both be realists. Realism’s seeing the problems
in this world and in our work and in our lives. Optimism and pessimism is what
happens after the problem. So you have to see reality. You know that reality
has an impact. But do I believe
that that problem is permanent and pervasive,
it affects everything, or it’s local, it’s one
part of your reality, and that it’s temporary? This too will pass. That’s where we want
people to get to, not to ignore the
reality but to realize that they can change it. So I love that quote
that you were talking about that you grew up with,
because it really is about, how do you take the world that
you have and move forward? So thank you. AUDIENCE: Thank you. AUDIENCE: I’ve heard the saying
you are the average of the five people you associate
with the most. SHAWN ACHOR: Wow. AUDIENCE: And whether
it’s five or six, I don’t think the
quantity really matters. And the intent of
the question is you grow with the
people around you. And so I started to really
question my relationships from high school to college and
now Google and moving forward. Were these relationships
based– they’ve changed so much, and people that I
used to care about I haven’t talked to in so long. And I’m progressing
forward in my career, and I’m really only
associating with people– I try to have genuine
conversations with everyone. But then I realized
two years later that, oh, I don’t even talk to
this person I cared about so much, just because he’s not
a part of my career anymore. Because it’s such a
huge part in my life. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. AUDIENCE: And so
it’s really tough to see are all my
relationships that superficial to the point of
helping me just kind of be a more powerful
force in the world? Because I think we all care
about changing the world and having an impact,
and that’s really hard when you try to really
build relationships. And when you say cut
people out of your life that are bringing
you down, it may be that they’re in a stage
in which they need the most, and you’ve just cut them out. Sometimes I reflect on this,
and I go into a very dark place very quickly. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. AUDIENCE: I’m pretty happy
guy, more or less than not. But I think about
this stuff a lot, and I was wondering
what your opinions are. SHAWN ACHOR: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that,
because I think about this lot too because I find
the same thing. It’s less about my career. It’s more about who’s in
my immediate vicinity. I even saw it with my freshmen
then when I was a Proctor. I’d be so close and
tight with my freshmen. And then as soon as
they got moved off to the River Houses or
the Quad, I was like, OK, I’ve got my new friends,
the new freshmen that came in this year. And what I found was it was
so frustrating because I cared so much about my family
members, these friends that I had had in the past, but
they were outside of my sphere, because we’re so
used to interacting with the people that are in
your sphere, which at work, if you’re focused on work, that
entire sphere might be here. So of course the
people closest to you might be the people that
are directly related to that career. And I make a little bit of fun
of cutting the negative people out of our life,
because I actually don’t want people to do that. I think it misses out on
how powerful we can actually be in these relationships,
even if they’re short-term. Because at Yale they
found that if you have three strangers
come into the room, all with different emotions– I get asked a lot,
who’s more powerful, the positive people in your
life and the negative people? You might have a positive
team, but there’s this one negative guy
on the team that’s dragging the whole team down, or
one positive person that you’re talking about that’s very calm
that gets everyone else to be calm. We can’t answer that question,
because it’s different every time we test it. Sometimes it’s the
positive person. Sometimes it’s the
negative person. What we found is it was
a different variable. They found that the other
two people in the room leave with an increased
likelihood of experiencing the emotions of
the most verbally and non-verbally expressive
person in the room. So what that means is
verbally or non-verbally, if I’m very expressive of my
pessimism or my negativity, I’m changing that social script. And what we found is social
influence in our lives is defined by three
things, the strength of our message, the immediacy,
how important that message is to people, and the
number of sources that are giving
that same message. What we found is that if you’re
wanting to try and create a positive effect
upon other people, you want to increase the
strength of that message, to be more positive verbally
and non-verbally in those relationships to try
and change those five or six people that might be
in our average circle. But also, you’re trying
to increase the end. Oftentimes when we think
about those negative people, we should actually
not be going straight for the negative person. We should be increasing
the positivity of the people in the middle that
we could tip towards positive that help make that
person actually see a social script
that’s more positive. But what’s interesting, the
other part about your question, is these strong ties versus
weak ties, which I actually do a lot of research on. Weak ties are actually
much more predictive of your long-term success
than the strong ties are. Happiness levels,
though, are related to both, the breadth and
depth of your relationships. So part of what
we find is people, depending on your introversion
or your extroversion, you can have lots of friends or
small friends, deep or broad, and what we found is that
it really is how you see it, how you see those interactions. Do you see them as only
weak ties, in which case they don’t actually
provide as much meaning to you, in which case
you don’t actually feel sustained by that
social support network? It’s what we see with
social media a lot of times. When people follow people on
Twitter or on any social media platform, if they
follow people they don’t know they get no return
on their investment of time in terms of social connection. But if they follow
people that they’re friends from high school
and they see that they just had a kid or they just got
a job and they actually do see them at some point or
they do interact with them, they have a depth of
their social knowledge that deepens that relationship
and causes more meaning. So what I’ve been doing in
my life– this sounds very similar to what
you’re experiencing– is I try to reconnect with
some of those people in very short bursts but
in meaningful ways. And one of the habits
that I have people do at these companies
is every day when you get into work write
a two-minute email praising or thanking or reconnecting
with one person. That’s it. Two minutes maximum,
so it’s super short. It’s two or three sentences. Try it today. Just connect with
one of those people you feel like is outside
of that career sphere. And if you do it for
three days, you’ll literally become addicted
to it, because you’re going to spend all day long
thinking about how amazing you were for writing that email. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: But what happens
is 21 days later as you’ve reconnected to those people,
your brain realizes, wow, I have incredibly
robust social support. I saw some of you this morning
that I hadn’t seen from my time at Harvard, and
it’s so exciting. I haven’t seen you in so
long, and it’s so exciting to have those opportunities. What we found is social
support is the greatest predictor of long-term
happiness we have. So instead of
fleeing from negative or only investing in our sphere,
if we can find just small ways to increase and deepen
that social connection, we’ve found it’s the greatest
predictor of happiness. At Columbia, they
found that if I know the collective IQ on a team
and the years of experience, neither of those are
as predictive as how tight the team feels, so
we know it’s important. But then the last part, my
favorite statistic right now, which is actually by a guy
named Dr. House, which I think is hilarious, he found
that the social connection is as predictive of how long
you will live as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking. We fight so hard
against the negative, and we forget about how
powerful two minutes of a positive
interaction could be. So yeah, I feel the
exact same thing, and I think it’s how we
perceive those relationships that, while they
might be temporary, that doesn’t take away the
meaning involved with them, just as everything that
is temporary in life is not destroyed of meaning. This is from Buddhism, right? While things are
temporary, that doesn’t mean that there’s
not meaningful. In fact, that can actually
increase the meaning of those short times that
we have with those people. CHADE-MENG TAN:
We’re out of time, so I just have one short
last question for you, Shawn. What can we, Google, do for you? SHAWN ACHOR: Oh. You already did it for coming. Thank you so much for coming. I think the biggest
thing is help us get this positive
research out there more. Tal Ben-Shahar told me that he
had an adviser who said that the average scientific journal
article is only read by seven people total– [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: –which
is incredibly depressing for a researcher
to hear, because I know that also includes my mom. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] SHAWN ACHOR: So
if there’s any way you can share this research. I think the best way is
to tell people about it. Tell people they’re
not just their genes or their environment. But really the best
way is to show them. Pick up a positive habit. Get involved with
one of these programs to create one of these
positive changes. Because what we find
is that it ripples out so much to effect other people. Real quick story. I was working with a CEO
of a fast food company. He sold his company for
hundreds of millions of dollars and had a breakdown. He made millions of dollars. But that night he went
on track with his wife and start walking off some of
the weight that he had gained and talking about things that
he was grateful for, doing that positive habit. It was so helpful that they
start doing it and telling their kids that
they were doing it. And they got a call from one
of their friend’s parents who said, did you hear what
happened at the summer party for your daughter? And they were like, oh, no. Was there drinking or boys? And they said, no, she got
everyone in her friend group to sit around and
talk about the things that they were grateful for
that were going on at school. We can actually create a
different social script for the world where people
don’t wait for happiness off in the future but actually
are creating it now and actually are
tipping this world away from negativity and
stress to a world that believes this behavior matters
and can see ways of changing this reality into a better
reality for all of us, which is why I get excited. CHADE-MENG TAN: Thank you. SHAWN ACHOR: So thank you. Thank you so much. CHADE-MENG TAN: Thank you. [AUDIENCE APPLAUDING] CHADE-MENG TAN: Thank you.

50 thoughts on “Shawn Achor: “Before Happiness” | Talks at Google

  1. 51:33-What I find interesting is how often that saying comes up in the Google discussions. "I heard the saying, 'You are the average of the 5 people you associate with the most." 

  2. Need to have a Cal Newport and Shawn Achor roundtable. Cal Newport's ideas appear to conflict greatly and I think Cal presents the stronger case. 

  3. This is such a fantastic discussion. We are actually starting up a tech company in Waterloo that is dedicated to building software that will support this kind of thinking both individual and organizational happiness. Shawn and Meng are both champion exemplars of how life should be lived and we should be grateful as a race to have them leading the charge.

  4. Shawn Achor is one of my speakers that has a lot of good information. There is so much bad news anymore we must get his information out to people. The news media loves bad news. In fact, I've heard it said that "bad news" is "good news" for the "bad news industry" like NBC, ABC and Fox news. That's why I like social entrepreneur work.

  5. It's an unintelligent and weird psychology that we should just "imagine" to be happy and be happy when he states that we are determined by our genes and environment anyway.

  6. Shawn Achor inspired a few of us at the University of Virginia. We decided to conduct a social experiment during finals week. It was a success. Feel free to check it out on my channel. Stay tuned for more…

  7. Shawn Achor makes my heart happy 🙂 Watching this seminar while working on a friday at work = definitely the best way to end the work week!

  8. One of my lessons is – if you lack notoriety borrow it from others – this is an excellent example with the host "riding on" the notoriety of Shawn Achor – another example is myself, sharing this. 

  9. had to watch it back to back.. incredible. there is a potential revolution instilled within Shawn's philosophy and findings, and i hope I am privileged to live in the world that is a display of such principles and virtues.. share, but ACT 

  10. Fantastic. <3   Talks at Google & TED talks  are really some awe to watch/listen…. Awesome… Thanks for sharing.

  11. Ironic how the author of the book on happiness, whos main message is to be kind and thankful managed to include so many jabs and demeaning comments about the groups of people he lectured, from Wall Street types, Asian businessmen to the guy who offered him a ride to the airport and wanted to hire him to better his startup. What happened to his happiness, joy and gratefulness? Even more interesting the very smart people at Google, surely thought something along the lines ´the way he talks about other groups, what is he going to say about us.´ Achor´s next book should be: ¨ After Egotism:  ¨Why I am superior, and you are dumb.¨ 

  12. he literally just spoke for an hour, memorizes everything he was gonna say, did not drink any water or seem tired… an hour?!?!

  13. I love your talks!!! You're terrific! Who you are makes a difference!! Thank you for sharing. I wish I was in the room, in Abu Dhabi, when you were here. I live in AD!!! Please come back!!! Stay well and keep sharing your message! 😀 Aloha, Denise

  14. Nice Humanistic thoughts and thinking in relationship to life, but it really boils down to is Attitude, The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

    "Attitude to me is more important than facts, its more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. Its more important the appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home.
    The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. the only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

    And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes." Chuck Swindoll

  15. Thanks Shawn for your story! I am very gratefull that told it in this video and i am looking forward to read your book the hapiness adventage! I learned a lot from you!

  16. I'm kind of frustrated with this.  Shawn keeps talking about a  "program" or a "plan" that folks can do to put these theories into practice.  He talks about sending out three positive emails every morning, physical exercise, writing down what you are grateful for and he alludes to a 7 (?) part program.  So I went out and bought all his books, studied, highlighted, etc.  But I cannot find anything written about this plan that he speaks of and how to do it!?!?

  17. * Write down 3 new things you are grateful for each day into a journal.
    * Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the last 24 hours.
    * Exercise for 10 minutes a day (at least).
    * Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breathing.
    * List 3 Great Things you encountered or accomplished yesterday.
    * What are you looking forward to tomorrow? What would make your day awesome?
    * What are two things that make you exceptional?
    * Write a message on FB first thing in the morning thanking or praising a friend.
    * Smile at strangers.

  18. What a wonderful talk this is. Lots of information on how to make better decisions. I like how he is advocating taking a frame of reference and using that to solve for your own situations rather than a list of things to do to be more happy. He still gives some tips but each one is linked to the ideas so you can see how it fits. Give people the tools and they fashion solutions that are right for them.

  19. Had to watch this for my Positive Psychology class in college, and I'm so glad I did. I absolutely loved this 🙂 🙂 🙂

  20. I have watched this talk a lot the last two years! I think something like 15-20 times and I learn everytime some new things and I try do implent the things they talk about in my daily live. I succeed in doing the 10 to 5 way in my neighbourhood and it is really nice! I have benefit a lot from it! I also think a lot of times: "I wish for that person he or she will be happy". I do it usually when I am with a group of people like on a birthday or when I have Floorball (sport) training on university. I notice that I feel more happy and that the atmosphere changes for the better. I am very gratefull for that exercise and it helped me a lot!

    I also sent those thank messages where Shawn Talks about. It helped me a lot and made me more happy. I also made a lot of other people happy and it feels great to open my mailbox, because I really got a nice respons of people. Thanks for sharing this video and thanks Shawn for your research!

  21. The first thing in my life I hear an Asian be very funny … good the presentation at the beginning , really according to the title video

  22. Happiness can be measured by the lack of stress. You are right, happiness should not be gauged by pleasure. I'm happiest when I have no worries.

  23. Happiness comes when you have meaning in ypur life.
    Pleassure is not happiness. Pleassure can be addictive and is instant cratfication. Its not long term.

    Keep growing and your happiness will grow too

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