This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!
Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect (this post)
Training Your Brain to Capitalize on Possibility
This is a slightly shorter chapter in the book, but no less important in terms of helping us improve our lives. As a student of habits, addiction and how to improve our lives by stopping things that no longer serve us I enjoyed this chapter.
I’m hoping you know what the game Tetris is and how addictive it can be for some gamers. My dad fell into this category playing hours of Tetris each day. He got pretty good at it!
In this chapter Achor talks about a few studies that show the effects of training or conditioning our minds. In one study people played hours of Tetris each day and they reported seeing Tetris-like patterns outside in the world like the cereal boxes on shelves at the store that they wanted to reorganize just like in the game.
The only thing I could think of that this could be helpful with is if you were a librarian or had messy kids and playing this helped them be better at straightening up their rooms.
The Positive Tetris Effect
As you may know, our minds are energy efficiency-seeking mechanisms. The mind is constantly editing or deleting information from the outside environment to filter our experience. There is so much information coming at us that if we had to take it all in we would be easily overwhelmed with data. Our minds have adapted over millions of years to filter – or edit out – what we have identified as being non-important to our survival.
Just like in the Tetris study, our minds can become conditioned to view the world in patterns. The brain is trying to conserve energy so it looks for signals from one thing that tells it what that thing is – often related to something else we’ve already experienced before it can relate to and categorize as harmful or helpful.
Here’s the good news about having a mind that sees things in patterns; we can train the mind to see what we want it to see. If I were to ask you to look around the room you’re in right now and look for everything that’s brown, brown, brown. Take a minute look around you – above, below, in front, behind. Everything that’s brown.
Now close your eyes and answer this….
Tell me everything in the room that’s red.
You’d have a harder time remembering things that were red because you had just sent your mind on a mission to find the brown in the room. It was filtering out the red and anything else that wasn’t brown.
Once you know this you can put this into practice to serve you! Instead of helping you see the brown or red, condition your mind to see opportunities and positive things in your environment. Our minds can become opportunity seeking mechanisms for us! Your mind can be conditioned to filter out the negative and help us be alert and see things that we choose to see.
Where attention goes, energy flows and results show. If you can condition your mind to focus on the things you want to see grow or improve in your life, that is what the mind can help you do.
Training Your Brain to See Positive
I don’t know that I need to tell you that focusing on the positive in the world could be a good thing, but scientists have actually studied this and found that we gain access to three resources when we focus on the positive:
The more you pick up on the positive around you, the better you’ll feel. In Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage – we learned that when you’re happier your performance at work goes up. In fact being happy trickles out and improves every area of your life. Being happy is a very good thing.
There are studies that have found that nothing improves your overall well being better than gratitude. As a student of Abraham Hicks I’m going to turn gratitude into appreciation (Abraham says gratitude is laced with some negative but appreciation is pure positive so let’s go with that, ok?).
Results show people who are consistently thankful are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving and have less depression, anxiety and loneliness.
Amen to that! Or should I say…thank you for that!
Building Momentum by Focusing On Positive
I’m pleased to report from my own experience and from the studies Achor shares that we can start to build momentum when we focus on the positive. It takes practice, but it’s so worth it.
Actor talks about one method to begin practicing focusing on the positive by keeping a “Three Good Things” journal. He explains it as a way to write down at the end of each day three good things that happened that day. This forces your brain to pick up on the good things in your experience and filter out the rest. It teaches the brain to look for brown or red, in my earlier exercise.
Many people now keep a gratitude journal where they write down their blessings each morning or night before bed. I think this is a wonderful start. I’ve moved past this in my personal practice. In the work I teach I encourage people to start with a gratitude journal, but move on into being a person who IS thankful and appreciates things throughout the day. Start with a journal to get the habit and when you’re ready start off each day with the question “what’s awesome about today?” or “what can I appreciate or be thankful for?” You get the idea. Set the course for your mind to look for good things and it will see them more and more often.
Just a reminder here; if you want to become a more thankful or appreciative person it takes focus and practice. You’re creating a new habit and habits rely on consistency and repetition to allow the mind to engrain them. Do these rituals every day for at least 30 days. Some of my coaching clients do them as rituals, fall off the wagon without reminders and then find their negative vibrations creep back in. I’ve found it’s helpful to have reminders either on your calendar, phone alerts or the journal each night is a great fall back.
I hope you’ll play with this mind conditioning and see the benefits for yourself. People I coach are sometimes amazed when they first try it how good it feels.
Quick Recap for Principle #3:
- Negative Tetris Effect – when we focus on solving problems and finding things to fix (in our work, in others, or at home) we fall into a pattern of seeing negative or problems all around us.
- Positive Tetris Effect – we can train our brain to focus on the positive. “…we see what we look for.”
With love and light,
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