What Happens When You Turn a Hospital Into a 5-Star Hotel?
Last week I heard a woman in a movie theater whisper loudly to her husband, "It is way too cold in here." I couldn't help but think, either get up and ask the management to turn down the air-conditioning or stop complaining! I don't mean that in a callous way; I'm saying it for her own good. Given what we've learned from positive psychology, we know that by commenting on the cold she's making her brain more conscious of the cold, which makes her fee l colder (again, what we focus on becomes our reality!). So, out of kindness to yourself, if you find yourself in a similar situation, go ask the manager to change the temperature, get your sweater out of the car, or focus your attention elsewhere, like on enjoying the movie.
Similarly, if you say, "I'm not getting paid enough," but you aren't going to request a raise, highlight your positive behavior in a novel way to your boss, find another job, or take some other action to change the situation (remember the first criterion of noise from the last chapter—if the information is not going to spur positive change, it is noise and should be canceled), then that comment is a complaint and has wasted cognitive energy.
You might try implementing the no-venting rule in your office or household—or at least exile complainers to a cordoned-off "venting area." This is a small, simple change, and that is exactly the point. The smaller the change, the easier it is to spread it to others. Try it. For the next twenty -four hours, smile at everyone who comes within ten fee t, and abstain from venting. You'll be amazed to see how quickly and powerfully this can change the tenor of all the interactions you have. And don't be surprised if pretty soon the people around you have picked up these same habits without even being aware of it. Such is the power of positive inception.
Finally, don't forget that positive realities can be contagious in your personal relationships as well. One of my freshmen at Harvard once confided in me that she had been fighting a lot with her parents, who she felt didn't trust her to make good decisions now that she had left the nest. Instead of telling her to write them off as obnoxious parents, which would probably result in the kind of behavior that would only confirm their worst expectations (again, what we focus on becomes our reality ), I had her watch for patterns. She came back with an unusual observation. Every time she called them after 9:00 p.m., she and they would fight, but this almost never happened when she called before 9:00. This was usually because she worked really hard on her pre-med studies, and by the time 9:00 p.m. rolled around, she was cognitively depleted and no longer had the mental reserves to be patient, to explain her thoughts clearly, or to let things go. A simple solution: she decided she would "call family before 9:00 p.m. and never after unless there was an emergency." But also observe how this tiny change created positive inception. Her parents soon noticed how much more positive their interactions with their daughter were because of her newfound patience and openness (though they probably didn't know the reason for it). In turn, they became more open and patient on the phone and soon, to her excitement, began to trust more in her decisions. As a result, she found herself wanting to share more about college with them, which created even more trust and goodwill. So you see how positive genius is a continual feedback loop if franchised correctly.
Reprinted from the book Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change by Shawn Achor. Copyright 2013 by Shawn Achor. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.