Keys to happiness may lie in TED Talks


Many students, at some point or another, have stumbled upon world recognized speakers brought in by the nonprofit conferences, TED Talks. TED Talks, standing for Technology, Entertainment, Design, brings forth some of the worlds most creative, intelligent and ahead-of-their-time thinkers on several varieties of topic areas.

Speakers like Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Bill Gates have enlightened the world on subjects that have defined our generation. One which can be made applicable to society, as a whole, is the idea of happiness.

It is widely understood that the mentality of hard work will equal success and happiness. One of the main reasons for attending college, along with getting a good education, is to be able to secure a well-paying job shortly after graduation.

Such an idea has driven students to pulling all-nighters and test cramming. However, this notion has come to the attention of former positive psychologist and Harvard professor Shawn Achor in, “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” Achor explains how happiness is achieved through a different perspective lens.

“If happiness is at the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there,” Achor said in his TEDTalk.

Achor contrasts with the popular belief that the harder we work, the more successful we will be, equaling a happier life, which according to Achor, is fundamentally the opposite way happiness is achieved in life.

The main point Achor emphasizes is the “Happiness Advantage.” The “Happiness Advantage” is the point in which a person has raised levels of positivity in a present sense of being, which causes higher brain function.

“Your brain at positive levels performs significantly better then it does at a negative, neutral stress,” Achor said. “Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy level rises. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than at negative, neutral stress.”

Along with Achor, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk lecture,”The Surprising Science of Happiness,” suggests the perception of what we believe will make us happy is often misguided by our brains. Gilbert centers on the point of the human “psychological immune system” that allows us to be happy when life doesn’t go as planned.

Gilbert differentiates between synthetic happiness, or the unplanned happiness, as what people get when they don’t get what they want versus the natural happiness when people do get what they want.

“Synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you’re aiming for,” Gilbert said.

In the case of both Achor and Gilbert, happiness isn’t often what we perceive it as. It may not come in the way we personally intend it to or when we intend it to be there. However, it is something that is most powerful when living through it in the present and understanding it may not come in planned stages.

“[There are different] lenses through which your brain views the world that also shapes your reality,” Achor said. “And if we can change that lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single education and business outcome at the same time.”