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Flashcards in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor Deck (204):
1

Thanks to this cutting-edge science, we now know that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result. 79

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John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, “The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” 105

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In 2004, for instance, a Harvard Crimson poll found that as many as 4 in 5 Harvard students suffer from depression at least once during the school year, and nearly half of all students suffer from depression so debilitating they can’t function.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

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Medical School Syndrome? In the first year of medical school, as students listen to all the diseases and symptoms that can befall a person, many aspiring doctors become suddenly convinced that they have come down with ALL of them.

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Harvard undergraduates, the average number of romantic relationships over four years is less than one. The average number of sexual partners, if you’re curious, is 0.5 per student. 217

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the greatest predictor of success and happiness: their social support network. Countless studies have found that social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance. 228

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doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive. 235

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The Happiness Advantage—Because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, 263

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happiness leads to success in nearly every domain, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity, and energy. 326

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the average academic journal article is read by only seven people. 348

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The belief that we are just our genes is one of the most pernicious myths in modern culture—the 401

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it was a commonly held notion in the most esteemed research circles that after adolescence our brains were fixed and unyielding. Neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain is malleable and can therefore change throughout our lives, 421

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our brains change in response to our actions and circumstances. 446

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sleep researcher who had data to show that the more you sleep, the more gracefully you age. 483

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When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it. 513

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happiness is relative to the person experiencing it. 542

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how do the scientists define happiness? Essentially, as the experience of positive emotions—pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future. Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive psychology, has broken it down into three, measurable components: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. 547

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happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential. 555

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Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina and perhaps the world’s leading expert on the subject, describes the ten most common positive emotions: “joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.” 557

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Another study found that how happy individuals were as college freshmen predicted how high their income was nineteen years later, regardless of their initial level of wealth. 586

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unhappy employees take more sick days, staying home an average of 1.25 more days per month, or 15 extra sick days a year. 599

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researchers gave subjects a survey designed to measure levels of happiness—then injected them with a strain of the cold virus.13 A week later, the individuals who were happier before the start of the study had fought off the virus much better than the less happy individuals. They didn’t just feel better, either; they actually had fewer objective symptoms of illness 601

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Barbara Fredrickson has termed the “Broaden and Build Theory.” Instead of narrowing our actions down to fight or flight as negative emotions do, positive ones broaden the amount of possibilities we process, making us more thoughtful, creative, and open to new ideas. For instance, individuals who are “primed”—meaning scientists help evoke a certain mindset or emotion before doing an experiment—to feel either amusement or contentment can think of a larger and wider array of thoughts and ideas than individuals who have been primed to feel either anxiety or anger. And when positive emotions broaden our scope of cognition and behavior in this way, they not only make us more creative, they help us build more intellectual, social, and physical resources we can rely upon in the future. 615

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Positive emotions actually expand our peripheral line of vision. 631

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The children who were primed to be happy significantly outperformed the others, completing the task both more quickly and with fewer errors. 651

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students who were told to think about the happiest day of their lives right before taking a standardized math test outperformed their peers. 653

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diagnostic errors often result from an inflexibility in thinking, or a phenomenon called “anchoring.” Anchoring occurs when a doctor has trouble letting go of an initial diagnosis (the anchor point), even in the face of new information that contradicts the initial theory. 661

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the happy doctors made the right diagnosis much faster and exhibited much more creativity. On average, they came to a correct diagnosis only 20 percent of the way through the manuscript—nearly twice as fast as the control group—and showed about two and half times less anchoring. 670

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Even the smallest shots of positivity can give someone a serious competitive edge. 676

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a quick burst of positive emotions doesn’t just broaden our cognitive capacity; it also provides a quick and powerful antidote to stress and anxiety, which in turn improves our focus and our ability to function at our best level. 697

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Researchers have found that “person-activity fit” is often just as important as the activity itself, so if one of the tips below doesn’t resonate with you, don’t force it. 731

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> Meditate. Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. 735

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Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.27 739

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> Find Something to Look Forward To. One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.28 Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. 742

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> Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness. A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.29 Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, has found that individuals told to complete five acts of kindness over the course of a day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the exercise is over. 747

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> Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings. As we’ll read more about in the next chapter, our physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of well-being. 757

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spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory.31 761

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people who watch less TV are actually more accurate judges of life’s risks and rewards than those who subject themselves to the tales of crime, tragedy, and death that appear night after night on the ten o’clock news.32 That’s because these people are less likely to see sensationalized or one-sided sources of information, and thus see reality more clearly. 767

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> Exercise. You have probably heard that exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins, but that’s not its only benefit. Physical activity can boost mood and enhance our work performance in a number of other ways as well, by improving motivation and feelings of mastery, reducing stress and anxiety, and helping us get into flow—that 770

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> Spend Money (but Not on Stuff). Contrary to the popular saying, money can buy happiness, but only if used to do things as opposed to simply have things. 782

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money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches.35 Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness. In one experiment, 46 students were given $20 to spend. 786

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> Exercise a Signature Strength. 795

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Each time we use a skill, whatever it is, we experience a burst of positivity. 797

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Even more fulfilling than using a skill, though, is exercising a strength of character, a trait that is deeply embedded in who we are. 798

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Few executives encourage their employees to take time out from their work days for exercise or meditation, or allow them to leave 30 minutes early one night a week to do some local volunteering—even though, as the research proves, the return on investment for each of these activities is huge. 822

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Coors Brewing Company, for example, reported a $6.15 return in profitability for every $1 spent on its corporate fitness program. 834

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project teams with encouraging managers performed 31 percent better than teams whose managers were less positive and less open with praise. In fact, when recognition is specific and deliberately delivered, it is even more motivating than money.42 841

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Marcial Losada shows just how important it is. Based on Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful. This means that it takes about three positive comments, experiences, or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative. Dip below this tipping point, now known as the Losada Line, and workplace performance quickly suffers. Rise above it—ideally, the research shows, to a ratio of 6 to 1—and teams produce their very best work. 883

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Every second of our own experience has to be measured through a relative and subjective brain. In other words, “reality” is merely our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on where and how we are observing it. 961

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My instructions were simple: “Close your eyes and start singing the song in your head. When you get to the end, start again. Keep going until I say ‘Stop.’ ” They did as they were told, though occasionally, the more cynical executives would peek to make sure I wasn’t fooling with them or clandestinely wiring up electric shocks. In fact, I was fastidiously watching the clock. Finally, I told everyone to stop, open their eyes, and write down how long they thought the experiment had lasted, in minutes and seconds. One man guessed it had been two minutes, while another was sure it had been four. A woman in the back of the room guessed 45 seconds. There were 70 people in the room, and I heard 70 different answers, ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. All of the executives were convinced that their estimate was right, but of course, there can only be one correct answer, which in this case was exactly 70 seconds. I have done this experiment in nearly 40 countries, and every time I conduct it, I hear a tremendous range in answers. (Shanghai wins for the largest split: from 20 seconds to 7 minutes!) The point, of course, is that what feels like the blink of an eye to some can feel like an eternity to others. Depending on their mindset, each person experiences the objective reality of time differently. Perhaps those who think the song (or the exercise, or both) is stupid and boring, and are impatient to get back to work, tend to make longer guesses, while those who are interested and engaged in the talk or simply enjoy the brief period of relaxation tend to guess the time as being shorter. And as we all know, time flies when you’re having fun. 996

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psychology has shown that mindset doesn’t just change how we feel about an experience—it actually changes the objective results of that experience. Anyone who has heard about the Placebo Effect already knows how powerfully this works. 1009

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“Placebos are about 55 percent to 60 percent as effective as most active medications like aspirin and codeine for controlling pain.” 1014

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Japanese researchers blindfolded a group of students and told them their right arms were being rubbed with a poison ivy plant. Afterward, all 13 of the students’ arms reacted with the classic symptoms of poison ivy: itching, boils, and redness. Not surprising … until you find out that the plant used for the study wasn’t poison ivy at all, just a harmless shrub. The students’ beliefs were actually strong enough to create the biological effects of poison ivy, even though no such plant had touched them. Then, on the students’ other arm, the researchers rubbed actual poison ivy, but told them it was a harmless plant. Even though all 13 students were highly allergic, only 2 of them broke out into the poison ivy rash! 1018

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the brain is organized to act on what we predict will happen next, something psychologists call “Expectancy Theory.” 1027

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The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality. 1040

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One study of 112 entry-level accountants found that those who believed they could accomplish what they set out to do were the ones who ten months later scored the best job performance ratings from their supervisors.6 Amazingly, their belief in their own ability was an even stronger predictor of job performance than the actual level of skill or training they had. 1089

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study performed by Margaret Shih and her colleagues at Harvard, a group of Asian women were given similar math tests on two separate occasions.7 The first time around, they were primed to think about the fact that they were women, stereotypically worse at math than men. The second time around, they were told to focus on their identity as Asians, generally thought to be math whizzes compared to other ethnic groups. The result: The women performed far better in the second situation than they did in the first. Their math IQs hadn’t changed and neither had the difficulty of the questions. 1093

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A team of researchers wondered if the ascendance of an African American to the country’s highest office could lessen this phenomenon, so they administered a 20-question standardized test to more than 400 Americans, before the election and again right afterward.8 On the first test, blacks did indeed score worse than whites overall, but on the second their scores improved so dramatically that the performance gap was erased entirely. 1102

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“What identity are you wearing today?” 1108

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More important still than believing in your own abilities is believing that you can improve these abilities. Few people have proven this theory more convincingly than Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, 1121

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Dweck found that people can be split into two categories: Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that their capabilities are already set, while those with a “growth mindset” believe that they can enhance their basic qualities through effort. 1123

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Dweck and her colleagues tested 373 students at the start of seventh grade to find out whether they had a fixed or a growth mindset.10 The researchers then tracked their academic achievement over the next two years. They found that a student’s mindset began to have an increasingly large effect on the math achievement scores as he or she progressed through seventh and eighth grade. The grade point average of students with a fixed theory of intelligence remained flat, while students with a growth mindset experienced an upward trajectory in their GPA—simply, those who believed they could improve, did. The researchers suggest a number of reasons a growth mindset propels students to further success, but it basically comes down to motivation. When we believe there will be a positive payoff for our effort, we work harder instead of succumbing to helplessness. Beliefs are so powerful because they dictate our efforts and actions. 1130

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our external circumstances predict only about 10 percent of our total happiness. 1147

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Yale psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski has made a living out of studying how the mental conceptions we have of our jobs affect performance. After many years and hundreds of interviews with workers in every conceivable profession, she has found that employees have one of three “work orientations,” or mindsets about our work. We view our work as a Job, a Career, or a Calling.14 People with a “job” see work as a chore and their paycheck as the reward. They work because they have to and constantly look forward to the time they can spend away from their job. By contrast, people who view their work as a career work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed. They are invested in their work and want to do well. Finally, people with a calling view work as an end in itself; their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose. Unsurprisingly, people with a calling orientation not only find their work more rewarding, but work harder and longer because of it. And as a result, these are the people who are generally more likely to get ahead. 1153

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Imagine two janitors at the local elementary school. One focuses only on the mess he must clean up each night, while the other believes that he is contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for the students. They both undertake the same tasks every day, but their different mindsets dictate their work satisfaction, their sense of fulfillment, and ultimately how well they do their job. 1173

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I encourage employees to rewrite their “job description” into what Tal Ben-Shahar calls a “calling description.” 1176

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“Forget about your current job title. What would our customers call your job title if they described it by the impact you have on their lives?”17 1188

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The fastest way to disengage an employee is to tell him his work is meaningful only because of the paycheck. 1202

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when researchers remind elderly people that cognition typically declines with age, they perform worse on memory tests than those who had no such reminder. 1215

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the “Wall Street Game” or the “Community Game,” a task designed to measure people’s willingness to cooperate under different conditions.19 1220

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Pygmalion Effect: when our belief in another person’s potential brings that potential to life. Whether we are trying to uncover the talent in a class of second graders or in the workers sitting around at the morning meeting, the Pygmalion Effect can happen anywhere. The expectations we have about our children, co-workers, and spouses—whether or not they are ever voiced—can make that expectation a reality. 1245

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employees typically become the kind of worker their manager expects them to be. Here is the Pygmalion Effect in action. 1255

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a leader’s expectations about what he thinks will motivate his employees often end up coming true. 1257

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whether of 3 people or 300, remember that the power to affect results rests not just in who’s on your team, but how you leverage your team. Every Monday, ask yourself these three questions: (1) Do I believe that the intelligence and skills of my employees are not fixed, but can be improved with effort?; (2) Do I believe that my employees want to make that effort, just as they want to find meaning and fulfillment in their jobs?; and (3) How am I conveying these beliefs in my daily words and actions? 1261

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In some states, the Superman capes you can buy for Halloween are required to carry a warning that the capes won’t actually help you fly. Sounds hilarious, but it’s a useful reminder of the one caveat to the fulcrum and lever principle. While it’s important to shift our fulcrum to a more positive mindset, we don’t want to shift it too far—in other words, we have to be careful not to have unrealistic expectations about our potential. 1266

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the Tetris Effect—someone who is unable to break a pattern of thinking or behaving. Often, this pattern can be negative. 1334

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These people usually aren’t trying to be difficult or grumpy. Their brains are just really outstanding at scanning their environment for negatives— 1338

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Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals. 1351

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Lawyers are just as susceptible, if not more so—which is one reason studies have found that they are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from major depressive disorder than the rest of the employed population. 1366

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“Law schools teach students to look for flaws in arguments, and they train them to be critical rather than accepting.”5 1372

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The problem comes when individuals cannot “compartmentalize” their abilities. And when that happens, not only do they miss out on the Happiness Advantage, but their pessimistic, fault-finding mindset makes them far more susceptible to depression, stress, poor physical health, and even substance abuse. 1387

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Negative Tetris Effect: a cognitive pattern that decreases our overall success rates. 1389

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Scientists estimate that we remember only one of every 100 pieces of information we receive; the rest effectively gets filtered out, dumped into the brain’s spam file.6 1401

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psychologists call “inattentional blindness,” our frequent inability to see what is often right in front of us if we’re not focusing directly on it. 1418

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This selective perception is also why when we are looking for something, we see it everywhere. 1425

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Repeated studies have shown that two people can view the same situation and actually see different things, depending on what they are expecting to see. It’s not just that they come away with different interpretations of the same event, but that they have actually seen different things in their visual field. 1433

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When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism. 1448

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Robert Emmons, who has spent nearly his entire career studying gratitude, has found that few things in life are as integral to our well-being.11 1451

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expecting positive outcomes actually makes them more likely to arise. Few people have proven this more cleverly than researcher Richard Wiseman, who set out to discover why some of us seem to be consistently lucky, while others can’t buy a break.13 As you might have guessed, it turns out that there is no such thing—in a scientific sense, at least—as luck. The only difference (and it is a big one) is whether or not people think that they are lucky—in essence, whether they expect good or bad things to happen to them. 1463

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69 percent of high school and college students report that their career decisions depended on chance encounters.14 The difference between people who capitalize on these chances and those who watch them pass by (or miss them entirely) is all a matter of focus. 1477

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the brain stays open to possibility. Psychologists call this “predictive encoding”: Priming yourself to expect a favorable outcome actually encodes your brain to recognize the outcome when it does in fact arise.15 1480

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When you write down a list of “three good things” that happened that day, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives—things 1499

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study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month, and six-month follow-ups.16 1504

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the best way to ensure follow-through on a desired activity is to make it a habit (more about this in Principle 6), the key here is to ritualize the task. 1522

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rose-tinted glasses let the really major problems into our field of vision, while still keeping our focus largely on the positive. 1542

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can positivity be overdone? Absolutely. 1545

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The ideal mindset isn’t heedless of risk, but it does give priority to the good. 1553

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Study after study shows that if we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience that growth. 1619

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Richard Tedeschi and his colleagues have made the empirical study of Post-Traumatic Growth their mission. While Tedeschi admits that the idea itself is ancient—surely you’ve heard the maxim “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”—he explains that “it has only been in the last 25 years or so that this phenomenon, the possibility of something good emerging from the struggle with something very difficult, 1638

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Tal Ben-Shahar likes to say, “things do not necessarily happen for the best, but some people are able to make the best out of things that happen.” 1662

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A spotless résumé is not nearly as promising as one that showcases defeat and growth. 1670

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psychologists actually recommend that we fail early and often. In his book The Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Shahar writes that “we can only learn to deal with failure by actually experiencing failure, by living through it. The earlier we face difficulties and drawbacks, the better prepared we are to deal with the inevitable obstacles along our path.”11 1683

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1960s, Martin Seligman was not yet the founding father of positive psychology. He was only a lowly graduate student, studying the opposite of happiness in his university’s laboratory. 1718

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When people feel helpless in one area of life, they not only give up in that one area; they often “overlearn” the lesson and apply it to other situations. 1759

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When people don’t believe there is a way up, they have virtually no choice but to stay as down as they are. 1765

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two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in the early 1900s to assess opportunities. They wired separate telegrams back to their boss. One read: “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.” The other read: “Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet.” 1767

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successful among us—know that it’s not the adversity itself, but what we do with it that determines our fate. Some will sit helpless, while others gather their wits, capitalize on their strengths, and forge ahead. 1771

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The best leaders are the ones who show their true colors not during the banner years, but during such times of struggle. 1796

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“crises can be catalysts for creativity.”19 1798

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Imagine for a moment that you walk into a bank. There are 50 other people in the bank. A robber walks in and fires his weapon once. You are shot in the right arm. Now if you were honestly describing this event to your friends and coworkers the next day, do you describe it as lucky or unlucky? 1809

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how we choose to explain the nature of past events—has a crucial impact on our happiness and future success.23 1851

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testing revealed that the agents with more optimistic styles sold 37 percent more insurance than those with pessimistic ones, and that the most optimistic agents actually sold fully 88 percent more than the most pessimistic ones. 1863

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One way to help ourselves see the path from adversity to opportunity is to practice the ABCD model of interpretation: Adversity, Belief, Consequence, and Disputation. 1876

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Adversity is the event we can’t change; it is what it is. Belief is our reaction to the event; why we thought it happened and what we think it means for the future. Is it a problem that is only temporary and local in nature or do we think it is permanent and pervasive? Are there ready solutions, or do we think it is unsolvable? If we believe the former—that is, if we see the adversity as short-term or as an opportunity for growth or appropriately confined to only part of our life—then we maximize the chance of a positive Consequence. But if the Belief has led us down a more pessimistic path, helplessness and inaction can bring negative Consequences. That’s when it’s time to put the D to work. Disputation involves first telling ourselves that our belief is just that—a belief, not fact—and then challenging (or disputing) it. Psychologists recommend that we externalize this voice (i.e., pretend it’s coming from someone else), so it’s like we’re actually arguing with another person. 1876

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And finally, if the adversity truly is bad, is it as bad as we first thought? This particular method is called decatastrophizing: taking time to show ourselves that while the adversity is real, it is perhaps not as catastrophic as we may have made it out to be. 1887

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the human psyche is so much more resilient than we even realize. Which is why, when faced with a terrible prospect—for example, the end of a love affair or of a job—we overestimate how unhappy it will make us and for how long. We fall victim to “immune neglect,” which means we consistently forget how good our psychological immune system is at helping us get over adversity. 1895

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Adversities, no matter what they are, simply don’t hit us as hard as we think they will. Just knowing this quirk of human psychology—that our fear of consequences is always worse than the consequences themselves—can help us move toward a more optimistic interpretation of the downs we will inevitably face. 1901

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Success is about more than simple resilience. It’s about using that downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction. It’s about capitalizing on setbacks and adversity to become even happier, even more motivated, and even more successful. It’s not falling down, it’s falling up. 1906

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Among students, greater feelings of control lead not only to higher levels of happiness, but also to higher grades and more motivation to pursue the careers they really want. 1939

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psychologists have found that these kinds of gains in productivity, happiness, and health have less to do with how much control we actually have and more with how much control we think we have. Remember that how we experience the world is shaped largely by our mindset. Well, the most successful people, in work and in life, are those who have what psychologists call an “internal locus of control,” the belief that their actions have a direct effect on their outcomes. People with an external locus, on the other hand, are more likely to see daily events as dictated by external forces. 1945

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study of 7,400 employees found that those who felt they had little control over deadlines imposed by other people had a 50 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than their counterparts.4 In fact, this effect was so staggering, researchers concluded that feeling a lack of control over pressure at work is as great a risk factor for heart disease as even high blood pressure. 1969

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researchers found that when they gave a group of nursing home residents more control over simple tasks in their daily lives—like putting them in charge of their own house plants—not only did their levels of happiness improve, but their mortality rate actually dropped in half.5 1974

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When we’re under pressure, the body starts to build up too much cortisol, the toxic chemical associated with stress. Once the stress has reached a critical point, even the smallest setback can trigger an amygdala response, essentially hitting the brain’s panic button. 1994

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scientists call “emotional hijacking.” 1998

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researchers found that managers who felt the most swamped by job pressure ran teams with the worst performance and the lowest net profits.8 2015

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Neuroscientists have found that financial losses are actually processed in the same areas of the brain that respond to mortal danger.9 In other words, we react to withering profits and a sinking retirement account the same way our ancestors did to a saber-toothed tiger. 2017

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When our brain hits the panic button, reason goes out the window and our wallets, our careers, and our bottom lines all suffer. 2039

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when people are primed to feel high levels of distress, the quickest to recover are those who can identify how they are feeling and put those feelings into words. Brain scans show verbal information almost immediately diminishes the power of these negative emotions, improving well-being and enhancing decision-making skills.13 2043

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verbalizing the stress and helplessness you are feeling is the first step toward regaining control. 2047

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Small successes can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand. 2166

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As Aristotle put it, to be excellent we cannot simply think or feel excellent, we must act excellently. 2188

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even though doctors know better than anyone the importance of exercise and diet, 44 percent of them are overweight.1 2189

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Humans, James said, are biologically prone to habit, and it is because we are “mere bundles of habits” that we are able to automatically perform many of our daily tasks—from 2210

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“A tendency to act,” he wrote, “only becomes effectively ingrained in us in proportion to the uninterrupted frequency with which the actions actually occur, and the brain ‘grows’ to their use.”5 In other words, habits form because our brain actually changes in response to frequent practice. 2230

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The more we perform a particular action, the more connections form between the corresponding neurons. 2238

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relying on willpower to completely avoid unhealthy food nearly guarantees relapse; 2274

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willpower weakens the more we use it. 2305

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Inactivity is simply the easiest option. Unfortunately, we don’t enjoy it nearly as much as we think we do. In general, Americans actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work.11 2319

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American teenagers are two and half times more likely to experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby than when watching TV, and three times more likely when playing a sport. And yet here’s the paradox: These same teenagers spend four times as many hours watching TV as they do engaging in sports or hobbies. 2331

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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put it more eloquently, “Why would we spend four times more time doing something that has less than half the chance of making us feel good?”12 The answer is that we are drawn—powerfully, magnetically—to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia. Active leisure is more enjoyable, but it almost always requires more initial effort—getting 2334

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Csikszentmihalyi calls this “activation energy.” 2338

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analyze people’s brains during exposure to the sound, he found a nearly universal negative emotional response. And yet amazingly, 80 million Nokia users have it as their ringtone. 2356

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At the grocery store, we buy more food off shelves that directly meet our eye and less off those that require us to look up or kneel down.14 2360

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The American Management Association reports that employees spend an average of 107 minutes on e-mail a day.16 2391

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Research shows that the average employee gets interrupted from their work every 11 minutes, and on each occasion experiences a loss of concentration and flow that takes almost as many minutes to recover from.17 2396

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It’s not the sheer number and volume of distractions that gets us into trouble; it’s the ease of access to them. 2402

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Technology may make it easier for us to save time, but it also makes it a whole lot easier for us to waste it. In short, distraction, always just one click away, has become the path of least resistance. 2407

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What I had done here, essentially, was put the desired behavior on the path of least resistance, so it actually took less energy and effort to pick up and practice the guitar than to avoid it. I like to refer to this as the 20-Second Rule, because lowering the barrier to change by just 20 seconds was all it took to help me form a new life habit. In truth, it often takes more than 20 seconds to make a difference—and sometimes it can take much less—but the strategy itself is universally applicable: Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change. 2419

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Researchers have found that they can cut cafeteria ice cream consumption in half by simply closing the lid of an ice cream cooler.19 2449

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every additional choice people are asked to make, their physical stamina, ability to perform numerical calculations, persistence in the face of failure, and overall focus drop dramatically.23 2493

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Eliminating the choices and reducing the activation energy made getting up and going to the gym the default mode. 2512

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The less energy it takes to kick-start a positive habit, the more likely that habit will stick. 2519

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The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains how setting rules in advance can free us from the constant barrage of willpower-depleting choices that make a real difference in our lives.24 2524

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Rules are especially helpful during the first few days of a behavior-changing venture, when it’s easier to stray off course. 2530

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The key to their use—to permanent, positive change—is to create habits that automatically pay dividends, without continued concerted effort or extensive reserves of willpower. The key to creating these habits is ritual, repeated practice, until the actions become ingrained in your brain’s neural chemistry. And the key to daily practice is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as humanly possible. Identify the activation energy—the time, the choices, the mental and physical effort they require—and then reduce it. 2553

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The most successful people take the exact opposite approach. Instead of turning inward, they actually hold tighter to their social support. Instead of divesting, they invest. Not only are these people happier, but they are more productive, engaged, energetic, and resilient. They know that their social relationships are the single greatest investment they can make in the Happiness Advantage. 2624

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One of the longest-running psychological studies of all time—the Harvard Men study—followed 268 men from their entrance into college in the late 1930s all the way through the present day.1 2628

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“70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.”2 2634

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“like food and air, we seem to need social relationships to thrive.”3 That’s because when we have a community of people we can count on—spouse, 2638

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there was one—and only one—characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships. 2647

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the correlation between social support and happiness was 0.7. This may not sound like a big number, but for researchers it’s huge—most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3. The point is, the more social support you have, the happier you are. And as we know, the happier you are, the more advantages you accrue in nearly every domain of life. 2650

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Evolutionary psychologists explain that the innate need to affiliate and form social bonds has been literally wired into our biology.5 2654

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When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus. 2656

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We have such a biological need for social support, our bodies can literally malfunction without it.6 For instance, lack of social contact can add 30 points to an adult’s blood pressure reading.7 In his seminal book Loneliness, University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo compiled more than thirty years’ worth of research to convincingly show that a dearth of social connections is actually just as deadly as certain diseases.8 Naturally, it causes psychological harm as well; it shouldn’t surprise you that a national survey of 24,000 workers found that men and women with few social ties were two to three times more likely to suffer from major depression than people with strong social bonds.9 2658

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people who received emotional support during the six months after a heart attack were three times more likely to survive.10 2667

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social support has as much effect on life expectancy as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and regular physical activity.12 2670

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So in essence, investing in social connections means that you’ll find it easier to interpret adversity as a path to growth and opportunity; and when you do have to experience the stress, you’ll bounce back from it faster and better protected against its long-term negative effects. 2682

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Researchers have found that the “physiological resourcefulness” that employees gain from positive social interactions provides a foundation for workplace engagement—employees can work for longer hours, with increased focus, and under more difficult conditions.16 2686

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Even though most of us live far removed from the football field, we each have our own version of an offensive line: our spouses, our families, and our friends. Surrounded by these people, big challenges feel more manageable and small challenges don’t even register on the radar. Just as the offensive line protects a quarterback from a particularly brutal sack, our social support prevents stress from knocking us down and getting in the way of our achieving our goals. 2712

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Researchers found that social bonds weren’t just predictive of overall happiness, but also of eventual career achievement, occupational success, and income.20 2758

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when he invented the light bulb, he did so with the help of 30 assistants. Edison was actually a social creative, not a lone wolf! 2768

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one study of 212 employees found that social connections at work predicted more individual learning behavior, which means that the more socially connected employees felt, the more they took the time to figure out ways to improve their own efficiency, or their own skill set.22 2773

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In Good to Great, Jim Collins illuminated a similar truth: “The people we interviewed from good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did largely because they loved who they did it with.”24 The better we feel about these workplace relationships, the more effective we will be. 2778

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a study of over 350 employees in 60 business units at a financial services company found that the greatest predictor of a team’s achievement was how the members felt about one another.25 2781

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In short, the more the team members invest in their social cohesion, the better the results of their work. 2786

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even brief encounters can form “high-quality connections,” which fuel openness, energy, and authenticity among coworkers, and in turn lead to a whole host of measurable, tangible gains in performance. 2789

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the more socially connected the IBM employees were, the better they performed.28 They could even quantify the difference: On average, every e-mail contact was worth an added $948 in revenue. 2797

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And IBM wisely decided to capitalize on it by starting a program at its Cambridge, Massachusetts, office to facilitate the introductions of employees who didn’t yet know one another. 2799

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a bad relationship with your boss can be as bad for you as a steady diet of fried foods— 2844

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Of all the social ties we have at work, the boss/employee relationship, what Daniel Goleman has cleverly termed a “vertical couple,” is the single most important social bond you can cultivate at work. Studies have found that the strength of the bond between manager and employee is the prime predictor of both daily productivity and the length of time people stay at their jobs. 2845

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Gallup asked ten million employees around the world if they could agree or disagree with the following statement: “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person,” those who agreed were found to be more productive, contributed more to profits, and were significantly more likely to stay with their company long-term.36 The best leaders already know this, and they go out of their way to make employees feel cared for. 2855

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neuroscience has revealed that when we make eye contact with someone, it actually sends a signal to the brain that triggers empathy and rapport. 2879

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Sharing upbeat news with someone is called “capitalization,” and it helps multiply the benefits of the positive event as well as strengthen the bond between the two people involved.40 The key to gaining these benefits is how you respond to someone’s good news. Shelly Gable, a leading psychologist at the University of California, has found that there are four different types of responses we can give to someone’s good news, and only one of them contributes positively to the relationship.41 The winning response is both active and constructive; it offers enthusiastic support, as well as specific comments and follow-up questions. (“That’s wonderful! I’m glad your boss noticed how hard you’ve been working. When does your promotion go into effect?”) Interestingly, her research shows passive responses to good news (“That’s nice.”) can be just as harmful to the relationship as blatantly negative ones (“You got the promotion? I’m surprised they didn’t give it to Sally, she seems more suited to the job.”) Ouch. Perhaps the most destructive, though, is ignoring the news entirely. (“Have you seen my keys?”) Gable’s studies have shown that active-constructive responding enhances relationship commitment and satisfaction, and fuels the degree to which people feel understood, validated, and cared for during a discussion—all 2889

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simply introducing two employees who don’t know each other is probably the easiest and fastest way to invest in social dividends. 2908

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building strong social capital does not require that all colleagues become best friends or even that everyone like one another all the time—this would be impossible. But what does matter is that there be mutual respect and authenticity. 2914

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The best leaders give their employees the space and time to let moments of social connection develop on their own.43 2918

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This idea of “managing by walking around” was popularized in the 1980s by leadership expert Tom Peters, 2936

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I often ask managers to write an e-mail of praise or thanks to a friend, family member, or colleague each morning before they start their day’s work—not just because it contributes to their own happiness, but because it very literally cements a relationship. 2946

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Washington Post reported a marked increase in carpooling and community bonding once the recession hit; people even started holding “yardwork parties” where neighbors could swap lawnmowers and landscaping advice.50 As one man noted, “People are helping each other and getting back together. 2956

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most people think this research is useful for them, but even more useful for all the people around them. The person we have the greatest power to change is ourselves. 2980

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much of our behavior is literally contagious; that our habits, attitudes, and actions spread through a complicated web of connections to infect those around us. In their groundbreaking book Connected, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler draw on years of research to show how our actions are constantly cascading and bouncing off each other in every which way and direction.1 3001

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This theory holds that our attitudes and behaviors don’t only infect the people we interact with directly—like our colleagues, friends, and families—but that each individual’s influence actually appears to extend to people within three degrees. 3006

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As James Fowler explains it, “I know that I’m not just having an impact on my son, I’m potentially having an impact on my son’s best friend’s mother.”2 This influence adds up; Fowler and Christakis estimate that there are nearly 1,000 people within three degrees of most of us. 3009

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I then ask each Person #2 to simply look their partner in the eyes and smile at them genuinely. I have done this experiment hundreds of times in corporate settings across the world, with everyone from nervous newbies to cantankerous lifers. The result is always the same. Virtually no one can refrain from returning their partner’s smile, and most break into laughter almost immediately. 3022

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mirror neurons: specialized brain cells that can actually sense and then mimic the feelings, actions, and physical sensations of another person.3 3044

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the amygdala can read and identify an emotion in another person’s face within 33 milliseconds, and then just as quickly prime us to feel the same.4 3061

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studies have shown that when three strangers meet in a room, the most emotionally expressive person transmits his or her mood to the others within just two minutes.5 3064

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Unfortunately, the power of emotional contagion means that overt negativity can infect a group of people almost instantly. 3066

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each workplace develops its own group emotion, or “group affective tone,” which over time creates shared “emotion norms” 3073

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Smiling, for instance, tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy, so it starts producing the neurochemicals that actually do make you happy. (Scientists call this the facial feedback hypothesis, 3080

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So just one positive team member—one person using the Happiness Advantage—can affect both the individual attitudes and performance of those around him, as well as the dynamic and accomplishments of the group as a whole. 3094

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the stronger your social connections, the more influence you wield. 3099

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One study of Dartmouth College students by economist Bruce Sacerdote illustrates how powerful this influence is.12 He found that when students with low grade-point averages simply began rooming with higher-scoring students, their grade-point averages increased. 3109

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The power to spark positive emotional contagion multiplies if you are in a leadership position. 3118

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Decks in Book Notes Class (70):