Decades ago, Earl Nightingale talked about planting a seed of deadly nightshade or a kernel of corn in a field. He said that the soil (our brains) didn’t care what was planted but would make each grow equally.
Nightingale assumed that the soil was fertile. But as too many of us know, soil nowadays is full of poisons and has been drained of its healthy minerals. The same is true of many of our brains! Removing the poisons (negative self-fulfilling prophecies and negative emotions) is the first step – but the minerals and nutrients still have to be inserted back in.
The Harvard researcher who studied happiness and success, Shawn Achor, teaches several basics to till the soil of your brain and make it more fertile for creativity, focus, and behaviors that lead to flourishing. He has tested these simple practices in corporations and organizations around the world. For example, in 2009 Achor worked with employees of the auditing and tax accounting firm KPMG right before tax season, the most stressful time of the year. The employees in the experiment were evaluated three times: before the training in Achor’s practices, a week after the training, and four months later. Achor’s team used a battery of standard metrics including life satisfaction measures, perceived stress, social support, perceived effectiveness at work, and work optimism.
The trained employees improved significantly in every metric, including a 24% improvement in job and life satisfaction. Achor’s second book, Before Happiness, details more in-depth processes to enhance your mindset. But he also uses some practices. “We’ve found that there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two- minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We’ve done these things in research now in every single company that I’ve worked with.” Achor recommends spending just a few minutes per day for 21 days in a row to experience the shift in mindset. His simple processes include:
- Writing down three new things that you are grateful for everyday to encourage your brain to scan for positive things.
- Journaling about a positive experience you had that day to relive the positive feelings.
- Exercising for 10 minutes per day each day to tell your brain that behavior matters.
- Spending 2 minutes in meditation each day to get over our “cultural ADHD” and enhance focus.
- Thanking or praising someone each day as a random act of kindness.
By practising these processes, you will be tilling the field of your brain.