Shared Stories - Shawn Achor - clip 3 video transcript

Shawn stands on a stage in front of a black background.

SHAWN: For almost all of human history, we've been trying to default to whatever our genes gave us in terms of optimism and happiness. But if you insert a small, positive habit change into your life, akin to brushing your teeth, humanity changes dramatically. So, at American Express, I got them to think of three new things they were grateful for, as Laysha was talking about earlier. I got them to think of three new thing-- or I tasked them to think of three new things you were grateful for every day in the middle of the banking crisis. 21 days later, no impact upon them. We thought gratitude works, but this is why we test it. I went back into the data. By day three, everyone repeats. Everyone's grateful for their work, their family, and their health. And then with a very nuanced lens, let's scan the world for all the fires they need to put out. We're great at doing that part. So it turns out, two researchers named Emmons and McCollin found--Emmons and McCullough-- they found that if you-- it doesn't matter what you're grateful for. What matters is the scanning. And if you scan each day for three new things you're grateful for-- at any time of the day, three new things you're grateful for, and not just what you're grateful for, but why-- turns out you're thinking of three new things each day, but you're scanning differently. And over a 21-day period of time, if you were testing as a low-level pessimist, on average, 20--day 22, you're testing on average as a low-level optimist. That shouldn't be happening; that's one of the genetic ones. You're born with pessimism, you die with pessimism. That's the end of the story. That's the story we told for eight decades, and it's false. Those are your genes. The genes set the initial baseline for individuals. But we found if you insert a small, 45-second disrupter where you think of three new things you're grateful for, your brain actually creates a background app passively scanning your entire environment for good things you can think of the next day. So you start to see these pinpricks of positivity over the course of the next 24 hours, which you mention again, in this activity. Turns out you do this for six weeks in a row, you moved to a low to moderate level of optimism. They found 84-year-old men who were practicing pessimism their whole life-- same pattern. Four-year-old children around a dinner table, predisposed towards pessimism-- you have them think of three new things you're grateful for, scanning for it, turns out six months later, before and after school, they're testing as low-level optimists. Life-changing. So much better than, "That's my optimistic kid. That's my pessimistic kid." No, those were--that's their genes. But it turns out this small disruptor has massive consequences. So then we go out into organizations, and they're like, "This sounds really cute. "I might do this with my five-year-old, "but we're a very serious company. "We work with hundreds of millions of dollars, "life-or-death decisions. "It's not part of our culture to sit around holding hands "and sharing gratitudes with one another. We're not like Zappos." So... I said, okay. So we went out to a level-one trauma hospital in Orlando, to Orlando Health, and we had them, in their staff meetings, start every staff meeting at the hospital where every person in the room would say one thing they're grateful for. These are grizzled veterans doing this for ten to twenty years, right, doing resource allocation-- who lives and dies at the hospital based upon the resources. And we got them to do what my son was doing in his pre-K class. It took a ton of social capital. They did it for three weeks, and they were like, "Why are we still doing this? That happiness guy is gone." And they said, "No, this is part of our culture now." So they kept doing it. They did it for two years, and we kept testing them. Two years almost to the day that we started this, the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred three blocks down from them, the second-largest shooting in U.S. history. And all the victims came to the teams that we had been working with for two years to practice gratitude. It's not what you hear happening in the news. But in the midst of this tragedy, the next morning, they started all their staff meetings with gratitudes again, and what they said they were universally grateful for is that as an organization, they hadn't wasted the past two years just working with the people that they worked with. They were also hearing these points of human connection that we all have, and the positive ones which deepened their social knowledge, which deepened their social bonds, which we now know is the greatest predictor of your resilience. So what we're finding is, gratitude is the glue that keeps the social connection, which is the greatest predictor of our long-term levels of success-- that's Google; the long-term levels of happiness- - that's the work I was doing at Harvard; and the resilience, which we now find when those hospitals go out to organizations, they actually start with gratitude for how you prepare for the worst in the world.