By Shawn Achor
What is more important than IQ and emotional intelligence combined?
Over the last two decades, Training departments have split their resources based upon whether they believed technical skills or emotional intelligence was more important. This debate led us away from the most important part: You cannot succeed long term if you have one but not the other.
Theorists now wonder if there is really a triangle of intelligence, combining IQ, emotional and social intelligence. But there is a hidden dimension to that triangle: the reality that the brain constructs. Before emotion, before engagement, before connection, the brain already has constructed a picture of reality in which success/change is possible or not. Human potential is a prism.
You’ve heard the optimist/pessimist test about whether a glass is half empty or full. But in truth, it doesn’t matter if the pitcher of water is still right next to the glass. The ability to see the good in a given set of facts is mere optimism. To shift and construct a more valuable mental reality based upon true facts makes one a positive genius.
In my new book, “Before Happiness,” I examine new research that I will be continuing in partnership with Training and releasing during my keynote at Training 2014. This research shows how a person can become a positive genius. Such individuals are able to follow a consistent five-step pattern to harness the full power of their cognitive, emotional, and social intelligences:
- They recognize that there are multiple realities and choose a valuable one.
- They mentally map a route to success.
- They use accelerants to speed their brain toward the goal.
- They cancel the noise coming into their brain.
- They create positive inception, transferring their positive reality to others. Unless a reality is shared, it will be short lived.
Awareness of Multiple Realities
Let me give two example concepts. The starting place of positive genius is the awareness of multiple realities. Take a mental object, such as your e-mail inbox. Most people usually describe it as “overflowing” or “overwhelming.” In one minute, list as many descriptors as possible of your inbox, giving yourself +1 for each negative one and +3 for each positive one (“source of leads,” “exciting opportunities,” “way to connect to people you care about,” “key to advancement”). The higher your score, the better your ability to have a flexible reality. Then notice that all of those descriptors are true, but we usually default to the negative in the way we think about the activity and describe it to others. Pick more valuable descriptors that are equally true to prime your brain for more engagement and positive performance at that same exact task. Positive mental attitude toward a task can increase productivity 31 percent and sales by 37 percent cross-industry.
Second, I love the research on success accelerants. Some 26.1 miles into a marathon, at the “x-spot,” runners speed up because their brain sees success as possible. You can connect your triangle of intelligence and speed toward your goal by highlighting how much progress you’ve made. Researchers found you buy coffee much faster if instead of getting a card with 10 stamps to get a free coffee, you get one with 12 but with the first two already done. You’re already one-sixth of the way to your goal instead of at 0 percent. If you make a daily checklist, write things you’ve already accomplished so you show your brain progress. Use the same strategy with fund-raising goals, sales targets, weight-loss programs, and promotions—highlight accomplishments or sales or funds or days exercised to date instead of starting goals at 0 percent. Your brain accelerates the closer it perceives success.
You will be just your genesand your environment unless you change your mindset and your habits, but this new research shows you can magnify your multiple intelligences if you start with a more valuable reality.
The author of bestseller, “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor spent 12 years teaching at Harvard before traveling to 50 countries, bringing his positive psychology research to more than a third of the Fortune 100. His research with collaborators at Yale University was featured on the cover of Harvard Business Review, and his TED talk has nearly 5 million views.
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