My new book, Pre-Suasion, explains what a communicator can do first to increase the chance an audience will move in a desired direction. A useful aspect of the power of pre-suasion is that we can use it on ourselves, to achieve our personal goals. And, if there’s one personal goal we likely all share, it’s to be happier. So, let’s take a look at how we can take certain steps in a pre-suasive fashion—at the start of our day—to give ourselves a gladness upgrade for 2017.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky has made especially noteworthy contributions to the study of happiness by choosing to investigate a key question more systematically than anyone else: Which specific activities can we perform to increase our happiness? At the top of her list is a simple step that involves counting our blessings/gratitudes at the beginning of every day and writing them down. Although it’s a relatively easy action to take, many people report that, after a while, they stop performing it.
As one of those people, I think I know why. It gets old. Within this practice, we typically rely on the big reasons to feel blessed/grateful—such as the presence of family, friends, and health. Although it’s emotionally fortifying to review these reasons each morning, it’s not intellectually engaging to do so. After a while, it’s easy to become bored with the process and to give little concentrated attention to those (same) items on our list.
Fortunately, a pair of solutions to the problem can come to the rescue. I heard of the first from Dean Graziosi, a fellow speaker at a conference: Lower the bar for acceptable gratitudes. Give yourself permission to identify all sorts of little blessings first thing in the morning—a good night’s sleep, the comfortable pillow that allowed it, the hot shower or fresh cup of coffee waiting, the lunch appointment later in the day at a favorite restaurant or with an always-funny coworker, and so on. This kind of search for and recognition of the many small joys in our lives—that will differ from day to day—makes the process more interesting (and fun, actually), which makes us more likely to stick with it.
The second solution requires us to overcome a standard human bias—the tendency to pay greater attention to the presence of consequential things in our lives than to the absence of such things. In many situations, this is a mistake, as the lack of something can be tellingly important. Consider, for instance, how this truth is conveyed in a line from a Jimmy Buffett song in which he pointedly informs a former lover, “If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.” What’s the implication of all this for how we structure our morning gratitudes? If we read or see news accounts of people rendered homeless by a house fire or jobless by a factory closing or penniless by a financial fraud—along with feeling sympathy for the victims—we should be sure to say, gratefully, “It didn’t happen to me.”
If we all take these daily steps in 2017, I’ll get to add another gratitude to my morning list: The ability to wish everyone more than a Happy New Year but a most likely happier one.
A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
The author of the legendary bestseller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.