1. Which is more likely to make you happier for longer? A) Listening to music B) Playing the same music yourself?
B) Playing the same music yourself. Listening is too passive to have a lasting effect.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers reported a clear link between challenging activities and elevated mood, but they also revealed something odd. When asked, most people understood perfectly well that focusing on a challenging activity would be more effective, but they spent more time on passive things like listening to music and watching TV.
For the happiness effect to last we need to find that sweet spot between our abilities and the demands of the challenge. That’s what gets us in the zone – known in the psychology business as ‘flow’.
2. Is it true that our personalities don’t change throughout our lives?
No. The latest evidence suggests that our personalities do change significantly, but it takes a long time. Scottish researchers found personality measures of adolescents in the 1950s and compared them with their scores at age 77. The researchers concluded that 63 years later there was ‘hardly any relationship at all’ between the personalities of the same people as adolescents and in old age.
3. You want your teenager to persevere in science. Stories can help. Which stories would be more effective? A) Scientists who made great contributions to the world B) Scientists who struggled, made mistakes and overcame them
B) Scientists who struggled, made mistakes and overcame them A) might be inspiring, but your teenager (or colleague) is more likely to persevere if she sees setbacks and struggles as a normal part of succeeding - at anything.
4. Can you identify this person? He was slow to learn to talk, dropped out of school aged 15 and failed his entry exam when he tried to get into his local polytechnic. He eventually went to university, but only just graduated. His first job was in the Swiss patent office.
Albert Einstein. Some people are late bloomers. Let’s not give up on them.
There's something else we should mention. Einstein dropped out of school because he hated the rote learning in Austrian schools at that time. Rote learning is sometimes necessary, but it doesn’t encourage eagles to soar.
5. Would most people feel more confident or less after taking a selfie?
Less. One very recent study suggests that that selfies make most of us more aware of our imperfections. The cure? Put your selfie on Facebook or Snapchat. Oddly enough, sharing our selfies boosts our self-confidence and takes us back to where we were.
6. You want to check out your colleagues’ self-esteem, but don’t want to ask them about it. What else might reveal how they are feeling?
Ask them to sign their names. Researchers have established that the size of signatures is a reliable measure of self-esteem. (Yes, big means more self-esteem.)
7. Is it true that cynical people make more money?
No. The cliché that the people who make millions distrust the motives of others doesn’t stack up. A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology notes that cynical people are less likely to cooperate with others. That’s inefficient. They also waste energy controlling and monitoring others to ensure they are not being ripped off.
Maybe the colleagues you have in mind don’t think money is the measure of success. Ask them to consider the other benefits of choosing a more positive view of human nature. Those of us who believe that humans are basically good are more satisfied with our jobs, have less stress, less depression, better relationships and enjoy happier, longer lives.