We live in a world where pointing out flaws has become the very crux of reward. Going into the cinema to watch a movie, the ending was a little drab; headed out to a restaurant to try some sushi; you didn’t like the taste of the maki rolls that put you off of the whole experience; being approached by a salesman on the latest credit card deals; the interests are too high.
It even disseminates into our careers where all we ever do is point out flaws. It’s no wonder that lawyers earn exorbitantly- they go through years of training to point out flaws which is exactly what they get paid to do!
What exactly are we benchmarking these remarks against?
Turns out that we’re always on the lookout of ‘the average’. It is a contagion that has pulled its way into every bit and corner of our lives- giving us the gall and audacity to challenge every single element of life on how far away it lies from the average.
I’d like to illustrate the same with the image below (an exercise I learned from reading this book called The Happiness Advantage)
Look at this graph:
It could mean absolutely anything but in this case it is not pinned to meaning anything in particular- so let it pertain to whatever you’d like it to illustrate.
As one does, we plot the data on the line that falls between the x-axis and y-axis. We see that all the correct data collects around the line.
The red dot right there is an error. We know it’s a problem because it’s on the line and is screwing up our data.
But what if it could mean more than just an error?
What if that red dot defines a new average for the denizens of modern times? Even science has brought about a way to change the way we question:
Q: What is the time it takes a class to learn math?
Science Q: What is the average time it takes a class to learn math?
We’ve now structured a whole class full of children with completely different levels of learning ability to only fall on the average- and not on their own capacity to learn!
“If we keep seeking average, we will only get average.”- original
Remember that our lives are how we intend them to be. We are the masters of our fate and while it’s not our fault if we’re born the way we are- we cannot hold anyone or anything else responsible for how we turn out by the time we’re ready to leave this life.
It’s about time we took control of the trajectory in which we move, and move with purpose.
How do we do this?
Answer: Schedule your happiness.
In July 2010 Burt’s Bees, a personal-care products company, was undergoing enormous change as it began a global expansion into 19 new countries. In this kind of high-pressure situation, many leaders pester their deputies with frequent meetings or flood their in-boxes with urgent demands. In doing so, managers jack up everyone’s anxiety level, which activates the portion of the brain that processes threats—the amygdala—and steals resources from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for effective problem solving.
Burt’s Bees’s then-CEO, John Replogle, took a different tack. Each day, he’d send out an e-mail praising a team member for work related to the global rollout. He’d interrupt his own presentations on the launch to remind his managers to talk with their teams about the company’s values. He asked me to facilitate a three-hour session with employees on happiness in the midst of the expansion effort. As one member of the senior team told me a year later, Replogle’s emphasis on fostering positive leadership kept his managers engaged and cohesive as they successfully made the transition to a global company.
Happiness makes a difference.
In fact, people who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge. I call this the “happiness advantage”—every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.
Develop new habits
Train your brain to functioning positively in the face of trying times. Keep a little notepad and a pen with you (moleskin for you fancy folk). Every twelve hours, jot down at least three good things that have happened to you on that day; they don’t have to be work related, but can be; they don’t have to be anything significant.
Stress is an inevitable part of work. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try this exercise: Make a list of the stresses you’re under. Place them into two groups—the ones you can control (like a project or your in-box) and those you can’t (the stock market, housing prices). Choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it. In this way you can nudge your brain back to a positive—and productive—mind-set. It’s clear that increasing your happiness improves your chances of success.
Thanks for checking in! I’ll see you on the next post!