3 reminders about how your perception of the world impacts your personal reality
What's the secret to happiness? Is it different depending on whether you're at work or at home? What about happiness in a relationship?
It's not rocket science--it's social science. What if we let you in on the secret? Turns out the secret to happiness isn't money, it isn't success, it isn't sheer luck. It's how you interpret what you see, and a lot of that comes down to how you hone in on kindness and generosity in the world.
Kindness and Generosity Promotes Happier, Functional Relationships
Are the majority of your relationships happy? Think about the relationship you have with your job, with your coworkers, and/or with your spouse. Overall, would you say it's a satisfying relationship? This article about long-term marriages reminded us that kindness and generosity are necessary traits in any long term relationship--even the one you have with your job itself. Here are a 3 reminders about how your perception of the world impacts your personal reality.
1. You'll Find What You're Looking For
You know when you can't find something and someone inevitably says "It'll be in the last place you look" and it kind of makes you want to go "Well, duh"? There's a not-so-secret phenomenon called the Observer Bias, or the Observer-Expectancy Effect that basically means you'll actually observe what you expect to see. In short, you'll always find what you're looking for. Our expectations and assumptions, for worse or for better, determine how we perceive a person or situation. This is one of the reasons we say not to assume motive or intent, because 9 times out of 10, we get it wrong. Since we're more inclined to notice things that will prove us right, make a conscious decision to start the day planning to look for the best in people. Chances are that you'll be more likely to observe positive behavior and outcomes. On the other hand, look for the negative behavior or outcomes, and that's exactly what you'll see.
So instead of looking for mistakes, or things that drive you nuts about what you do or the people you interact with regularly, look for things that you "can appreciate or say thank you for."
2. Practice Makes It Easier
We aren't all born with a Pollyanna, glass-half-full mentality. But even die-hard pessimists can go out of their way to look for kindness and generosity in the world--they might even find that it gets easier the more they try. Think of it like an Optimism Muscle--the more you use it, the stronger it grows. Like any skill, you can learn to get better, even if you don't have a natural affinity for it--you just might have to work a little harder at it.
3. This Doesn't Mean Everything Has To Be Warm and Fuzzy 24/7
"So basically you're saying I have to pretend everything is sunshine and rainbows all the time."
Not at all! We're made to feel an entire spectrum of emotions, and all those emotions are important. The key is to not get stuck in a rut on one end of the spectrum.
"'Kindness doesn't mean that we don't express our anger...but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you're hurt and angry, and that's the kinder path,'" says Julie Gottman.
Make a goal next week to write down one kind or generous thing you notice each day next week--it doesn't have to be huge. Maybe it's a favor a coworker does for you, or maybe a driver lets you merge in front of them on the highway. Bonus points if you share it with us on social media!