I'm here at the Executive Performance Summit sponsored by TD Wealth, and we're going to talk a bit about happiness. Shawn Achor is one of the world's leading experts on happiness and success. He has one of the TED Talks, one of the most popular in the world-- over 13 million views. He's written two books, both New York Times bestsellers, one called The Happiness Advantage. The other one is called Before Happiness, and he posits that happiness is an advantage. In Money Talk Exclusive, here's that conversation. OK. So let's talk a bit about what you're going to be talking about today, the happiness advantage. What is the happiness advantage? So what we found is when the human brain is positive, every single business and educational outcome improves dramatically, and many of our health outcomes, as well. So it seems as if the brain is designed to work best at positive. But we mostly work it out at negative, neutral, or stressed when we're at work. So if we can find some way in the middle of challenges, in the middle of high workloads and high levels of stress, of shifting the brain just even slightly positive, all of our success rates rise dramatically. So what we found out is that the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is actually a positive and engaged brain. I want to talk a bit about how we do that, because you have some tips on that. But I want to go back to-- your TED Talk has been seen by millions and millions of people. And you talk about the unicorn. Can you tell me the unicorn story? [CHUCKLES] In brief, I have a sister who's two years younger than me, and we were playing on top of a bunk bed. And at one point, she fell off the bunk bed. Neither of us remember how it happened. But she was about to scream and cry. And I was about to get in a lot of trouble. My parents were napping. And so I panicked and said, Amy, no human falls like you did. You must be a unicorn. And she stopped crying, and a smile spread across her face. And she bounded right back up onto the bunk bed to keep playing. And what it taught me from just such a young age-- you know, my dad's a neuroscientist. So I grew up with studying the brain in the household and research. And so when I paired that story together with what I do now in positive psychology, what I realized was, our brains are limited. We only have a limited amount of resources to experience the world. So if our brain looks at the negative, it's scanning for the pain and the suffering, that's all your brain sees. But if you change the way that somebody thinks about themself, you can actually change the response that they have to the world. So if we can get people to feel more positive or feel like they have strengths or that their behavior matters, you can get people to create these inflection points in their life and change how they invest money, change the way that they invest in their kids, change the way that they teach kids in a school. So that's-- I got very excited about it ever since. Yeah. Everyone just needs to be a unicorn. You've spoken-- I've lost count of the number of countries you've been to, speaking to different people. And it's people in some very dire circumstances that were happening. So tell me a bit about some of the more memorable trips you've made in terms of, like, you'd almost question, well, why are you happy, given what's going on here right now? I was surprised. Because-- well, I got into this research studying at Harvard. And I thought growing up in a small town in Texas, you get to go to Harvard, you must be happy for the rest of your life, and then discovered that 80% of the students were going through depression. And what I started to realize was that the external world wasn't a good predictor of people's happiness levels. After that I've traveled to more than 50 countries, and I go to places like Zimbabwe where we can talk about economic and political problems here in the US or in Canada or in the world. In Zimbabwe, I talked to farmers who lost their lands. They were pushing around their currency in wheelbarrows because the currency collapsed. These are the trillionaires, right? Yes. They asked me if I had talked to any billionaires. The trillionaires-- they were all trillionaires. Many of them were, but it wasn't worth anything, their money. And what we found was that they could still have high levels of happiness if they still had social connection. And so what we started to realize was-- I'd go to these schools in South Africa. They'd have dirt floors and no books, and the kids would be smiling and happy and engaged. And if they had a book, they would all get around and read it together. And then I'd go to the States, and I would go travel in the West and in Europe. And people would have so much, but they felt entitled to it. Or they didn't realize what they had. And so what we started doing as we researched them-- and there's some fantastic researchers who have studied this-- that only 10% of our long-term happiness was predicted based upon the external world. So we brought all that external information together-- how much money you have, where in the world you live, what your position is. It only predicted 10% of long-term happiness. 90% of our long-term happiness was about how the brain was processing the world you found yourself in. How do you process that one book you have? How do you process the million toys you have? And if we could change somebody's lens, we could get them to actually be able to choose happiness and find that wherever they are in the world. So what's great is, we're learning from so many different types of people that define happiness in such different ways. But together, I think we're being able to discover ways that we can move people forward. The idea that 90% of your happiness is generated internally, if you will, figuring that it is fascinating. And, what's equally interesting, I think, is a lot of what you're talking about is if you're happy, you therefore are more productive. I think happy in itself was probably the good end goal to begin with. But anyway, how do you do it? I mean, I understand what you're saying, that the external stuff really doesn't matter at the end of the day, or it doesn't matter much. How do I actually become more happy? Yeah. Well, first of all, I agree with you. I think happiness is both the means and the end. I think it is the fuel that causes us to change and pursue our potential. But it's also where we want people to get to. It's the state of happiness that's not just pleasure. It's the joy we feel moving towards our potential. And I think the way we get there is twofold. I think we need to have a mindset change, and then a behavior change. The mindset change is we need to realize that happiness is actually important now. We oftentimes think, if I work harder, I'll be more successful. Then I'll be happier. So once we solve all these problems, then I'll feel happier. Once I change all these things the world, then I can feel happier. But if we do so, every time we are successful, we just change what success looks like. So happiness keeps getting pushed out further and further. And we're missing out on the value of happiness now. What we can do in the present is we can practice gratitude. We can deepen our social connection. We can change the way we view stress. How? And it causes all those. So one of the best ways-- so let me tell you two of them that I love. One of them is, two researchers, Emmons and McCullough, looked at the impact of gratitude. So for 21 days in a row they had people, every day in the morning, think of three new things that they were grateful for. So everyone knows gratitude is good for you, but we don't practice it the right way. This is the happiness hygiene you were talking about. Yes. Exactly. Right. So we brush our teeth every day. So while you're brushing your teeth, think of three new things that have occurred over the past 24 hours that you're grateful for. And not just the what, it's the why of why you're grateful for it. So I'm not just grateful for my son, I'm grateful for my son because he gave me a hug yesterday. It means I'm loved regardless. Do this for 21 days in a row, you get 63 unique things you're grateful for. But the real value is as you go through the rest of your day, your brain devotes a few resources, like a background app, scanning the world for the things you're grateful for, even in the midst of looking for the threats. What happens is you're able to see all these things that are positive. But the real value is 21 days later, people who were testing as low-level pessimists are now testing as low-level optimists as a default. So their default has actually changed towards optimism. Six months later, the pattern actually continues if you do it. So what we discovered is gratitude is good because it actually turns your brain into a rational optimistic machine. The other way we did this was we got people every morning to do an outward activity. So gratitude is inward. Outward is we had them write a two-minute positive email each morning to a different person for 21 days in a row. And if you do this-- you just praise them or thank them for one thing you've done, text message or email-- you get great emails back, which is really fun. But 21 days later, if you do this, your social connection score-- the breadth, depth, and meaning in your social relationship-- is in the top quartile, which matters because social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness we have. And it's as predictive of how long we live as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking. So get somebody to be able to create social connection by doing a positive email outward, turns a soul-draining task like email into something that's life-giving, but in doing so raises the greatest predictor of long-term happiness. So these show that two minutes a day could actually transform the way that we experience the world. Because we think of optimism as genetic, right? But it turns out, we do these simple two-minute habits, we can actually break the tyranny of our genes and environment over our happiness. I was, I think, watching a piece that you did when you were talking to some folks at Google, I think, recently. Yes. And talking about kind of understanding how the external doesn't satisfy you kind of thing. And you talked about how this woman said, you should just be in constant ecstasy. You've been working at Google. And then she complained about the long line at the sushi line. Right. So it's just so fascinating that even when you're presented with all these perfect things-- Yes. --you just don't feel it. It's true. It's not just about the external world because we get used to it, right? So at Google, they do get tired of the free sushi after a little while because that's your expectation. Or why is this toilet seat not heated? Right? How can I work here? Right? [LAUGHING] And I worked with some of the leaders at Google. And they said that that's not what gets people engaged there. It's the social connection you feel during the long hours. It's the feeling that your behavior matters on projects. It's getting to see your potential emerge. And that's why it's so crucial that we redefine what happiness is. It's not pleasure. It's the joy we feel moving towards our potential. And joy you can feel even when life is not pleasurable. Even the ups and downs of a market cycle, even with the stress you might feel within your own life, or overflowing in-boxes with email, you are going to feel high levels of stress. You're going to sometimes feel displeasure. But you can feel joy as you watch your potential emerge, your strengths rise. You help the world become a better place. And the other side of it, which I love, is that happiness is actually fuel for your potential. It's the greatest advantage you could give your brain. So when we choose happiness, and when we choose it at the individual level, it turns out our success rates actually rise as we deal with the world. So it doesn't make us complacent. It actually helps us to solve the problems we need to fix in this world. Last question for you. Again, I was going through some of the stuff that you've written before. And you had this great, very tactical thing about success accelerants. And I think it was, like, create a list of things you want to get done. But then put two things on there you've already done so you can cross them off right away and go, woohoo! This sounds so simple, but we found that two things accelerate the brain towards a goal. And that's either perceiving progress or feeling like the finish line is close, what we call proximity. And so what we do is we pump up the brain to realize that there's been progress by-- if you're writing a checklist of things you need to do over the course of the day, you write down five things, 10 things you need to do, but actually write down two or three things you've already done. I've already eaten breakfast. I already saw my kids. I already brushed my teeth. And you check the-- I already wrote a checklist. [CHUCKLING] You write those down, and you check them off. What your brain sees is I'm not starting at 0%. I'm actually starting at 30% or 20% of what I needed to do over the course of the day. I've had progress. And your brain actually speeds towards that goal. Same thing with New Year's resolutions. The very first thing I do now is if I'm setting a goal-- and this is not just personal. I mean, this is at companies, as well. If you're setting goals for a team or a sales goal, you don't start at 0%. What you try to do is you first highlight the successes you've already had. So if I'm going to write down New Year's resolutions, the very first thing I do is write down three things I was able to accomplish over the previous year that I was surprised at. Like, I read this number of books. I actually got to this minute mile. I worked a soup kitchen this many times. So then when I write down things I want to do in the future, I'm not starting at zero. I'm not starting with a deficit. I'm starting with so much strength. Look what-- my behavior matters. I can do things. And it speeds your brain towards the goal completion. Shawn, I could keep going, but I can't. I think you've got to get on stage. Well, I'd love to. Thanks very much. It was so nice talking to you. You too. And a reminder, please talk to your advisor, lawyer, or accountant to figure out what works best for you.