Week 5: Module 6: The 5th sin, habit and exercise & Module 7: The 6th sin, habit, and exercise
Week 5: Module 6: The 5th sin, habit and exercise & Module 7: The 6th sin, habit, and exercise
“Distrusting Others and Why Trust is Important…Instinctive distrust and proactive trust…The (hidden) Benefits of Proactive Trust…Perceived vs Actual Trust…Trust Scale…Three Strategies of Smart Trust…The 6th Deadly Happiness Sin–Distrusting Life…Process (vs. Outcome) as a Source of Happiness…Pre-Occurrence Preference and Post-Occurrence Non-Judgmentalism…Three Strategies for Instilling the Dispassionate Pursuit of Passion…Going Spiritual…The 6th Happiness Exercise-Three Good Things with a Twist…Summary of Week 5…”
Pre-Occurrence Preference and Post-Occurrence Non-Judgmentalism
Three Strategies for Instilling the Dispassionate Pursuit of Passion
The 6th Happiness Exercise-Three Good Things with a Twist
Summary of Week 5
Distrusting Others and Why Trust is Important
Let me briefly mention that the habit that corresponds to the sin, which is exercising smart trust.
Exercising smart trust, as the name suggests, means trusting others in a way that maximizes the chances that you derive the benefits from trusting others.
What he finds, he and his co-authors including Robert Putnam who’s written a wonderful book on trust called, Bowling Alone, what they have found is very interesting.
They have found that perhaps the single biggest determinant of happiness of countries is how the citizens of the country respond to a question like; In general, do you think people can be trusted? It turns out that the more strongly the people of a country agree that the other people around them can be trusted, the happier the county.
In Denmark and Norway, two of the happiest countries in the world, close to 65% of the citizens believe that most people in the country can be trusted.
Whereas in Greece and Russia, two relatively unhappy countries, the proportion is less than 30%. As you can see from this table, there’s almost a perfect correlation between trust levels and happiness.
One of the reasons why interpersonal trust matters so much is because the economy functions better in societies in which there’s a lot of trust, as this other graph shows.
The cost of doing business would also be higher as this book by Covey and Link called Smart Trust, argues.
Things would be even worse if you couldn’t trust your neighbors and friends.
Steven Pinker, in his book How the Mind Works, makes the case that a big reason why trust is so important to us is because it mattered for our survival in our evolutionary past.
If our neighbors and friends weren’t fair, say for example, you couldn’t trust them to return the meat or the vegetables that they borrowed from you.
By contrast, if you could trust the people around you, you could chill out like this frog here.
The question is what can you do to build trust, and to be in trusting relationships? That’s the question to which I will turn in the next lecture.
Instinctive distrust and proactive trust
In the last lecture, I provided you with some evidence that trusting people can provide a big boost to your happiness levels.
Now, if you are like most people, you’re probably telling yourself, I would, of course, love to be able to trust others.
So let me share with you some findings on what happens if you do stick your neck out and trust others.
You must decide whether to send the money over to your partner or not.
If you choose not to send the money, the game is over; both you and your partner walk out with $10 each.
If you choose to send the money over to your partner the experimenter will quadruple the amount for your partner.
You have to decide whether to send the money over to your partner or not.
What would you do? Your decision would, of course, depend on how much you trust your partner.
If you send him the money, and he doesn’t reciprocate, you would go home empty handed.
By sending him the money, both you and your partner now stand to make $15 more than you otherwise would.
Is this kind of thinking and logic valid? Do people who receive money from their partners in experiments like these, walk away without sharing the money? As it turns out, a vast majority, 95% of participants, believe it or not, don’t walk away.
Rather, when you trust them, they end up sharing the money.
In other words, people who are trusted, it turns out; tend to behave in a trustworthy fashion.
When you trust others a hormone called oxytocin is released.
Some researchers call this hormone the trust molecule.
Because this hormone gets released when you trust others, they generally tend to repay your trust with trustworthy behavior.
This suggests that if we could somehow proactively trust others, in other words, if we could somehow trust them without really knowing whether they are trustworthy or not, we would build a culture of mutual trust.
In other words, given how trustworthy people seem to be based on this Swiss experiment, it seems like a good idea to trust others proactively.
The problem most of us run into with this idea is that we are hardwired to be more distrusting than trusting of others, particularly strangers.
It is more dangerous to be trusting than it is to be distrusting.
So even though people are actually trustworthy, particularly if you have just trusted them, as we saw in the trust game that I just described, many of us can’t bring ourselves to trust others proactively because we are hardwired to be distrustful.
We get lucky, and we meet someone who is proactively trusting, and these experiences provide us with an opportunity to personally experience what would happen if we could all somehow overcome our instinctive distrust of others.
Guess what I did? Like the participants in this first study, I repaid his trust by cycling back home as fast as I could and bringing over my own stamp collection to his house to make a reciprocal offer.
The lesson that I derived from this experience is that I needed to be a little more proactively trusting than I had been up to that point.
So I started doing that, being more proactively trusting.
In in the process of being proactively trusting, I’ve learned some really important insights about some of the hidden benefits of being proactively trusting.
The (hidden) Benefits of Proactive Trust
In the previous video, I discussed how people tend to behave in a trustworthy fashion if you trust them.
I also discussed how, despite the fact that trusting others is generally reciprocated with trustworthy behavior, most of us tend to be distrustful of others because of our genetic hard writing.
I ended the video by describing an event from my own childhood in which someone proactively trusted me, and how that led to a virtual cycle of mutual trust.
What would you do in this situation? Would you give the beer vendor the 100 rupees, and trust him to return with the change? Or, would you tell him to go get the change first before you’re willing to buy the beer from him.
As DeSteno argues in his book, The Truth about Trust, trusting others always involves a risk reward tradeoff.
In the beer vendor scenario, trusting the vendor with 100 rupees would lead to an important reward, a nice little beer buzzes.
On the flip side, trusting him carries two risks, the risk that he may never return with your change, in which case you would lose 20 rupees.
One way to reduce these risks, of course, is to not trust the vendor.
So how do you resolve such a tradeoff? One way to do it is by considering not just the set of risks and benefits that I’ve just mentioned to you but also consider some other hidden benefits from trusting others.
You would get to quench your thirst, and you would get a psychological boost from having your trust reciprocated.
You give yourself a better chance of inhabiting such a world by being proactively trusting.
Most of us typically don’t recognize there’s a somewhat hidden benefit of exhibiting proactive trust.
Another hidden benefit of exhibiting proactive trust is that we get to play a critical role in building a culture of trust around us.
As we saw earlier from the Swiss Studies, when you proactively trust others, others tend to reciprocate your trust.
This reciprocity of trust in turn is likely to lead to increasing levels of mutual trust in society.
Thus by proactively trusting others, you would be doing your part in helping build a culture of trust.
So if you would add up all the hidden benefits, to be known benefits of being proactively trusting, something that most of us normally don’t do, then the case for being proactively trusting would become much stronger.
Now, of course, I realize that even after considering all these hidden benefits of being proactively trusting, you may still choose not to trust others because the negative feeling of being distrusted can far outweigh the positive feelings of being trusted.
Given how important trust is, not just for our own personal happiness, but for the happiness of everyone at large.
In other words, it’s my belief, and I sincerely hope that you’re on board with me on this, that it’s at least worth exploring the issue of how to be more proactively trusting, without of course jeopardizing ourselves in any major way.
Perceived vs Actual Trust
In the previous video, I discussed some hidden benefits of proactive trust, including that by being proactively trusting, we increase the chances of surrounding ourselves with trustworthy people.
As I also discussed, although proactively trusting others has these benefits, most of us find it difficult to trust others proactively because, we are hardwired to be distrusting.
So what are we to do? Should we just ignore our hardwired tendency to distrust and trust others proactively? Or should we obey our cynical instincts, because after all there is an evolutionarily sound reason why we are instinctively distrusting.
Say, if for example, people are actually more trustworthy than you think they are.
It would of course make sense to ease up a little bit on your instinctive distrust and trust beer vendors a little bit more.
How trustworthy are people in real life? In a previous video, I shared some findings with you that showed that people are actually very trustworthy.
As you may remember, 95% of participants in the Swiss study behaved in a trustworthy fashion when they were trusted.
So you may ask, and it will be a legitimate question to ask, whether people would behave in an equally trustworthy fashion in the real world.
I’m going to invite one of the most eminent scholars and trust.
The wallets would either be returned or not returned.
So now, for the first time ever in the world, we were able to compare, the actual levels of trustworthiness, in a community with people’s perceptions of the trustworthiness, of their neighbors.
That’s really important, of course, because suppose the public policy issue is, how do you create trust? Now, the trust that’s important, as we’ve discussed, is the trust that you have.
You can’t fool yourself into thinking people are trustworthy and they’re not.
What if the alternative is true? That what we read in the papers, gives us, or see on television is such a distorted view of reality, that we do not accept that the people among whom we live in our community are as good as they are.
It’s in that trust and well being paper that your students have had access to.
So what that’s saying is that people have a very mistaken view.
This is after all in a country where trust is known to be high, people have high trust levels.
What I want to bring your attention to is that it’s not just the proportion of wallets that got returned, but also the people’s predictions of how many wallets would be returned.
People on average, predicted, that only 23% of the wallets would be returned.
So the difference between how trustworthy people actually are, and how trustworthy they were expected to be, Is a whopping 57%. And if perceived trustworthiness can be so much lower than actual trustworthiness in a country in which people are known to be trustworthy, I think that it’s highly likely that the same pattern will hold true in other countries as well.
Which would mean that the difference between the actual and the expected trust would be 40 or 50%? Likewise, the difference between actual and expected trust may be 35% in Athens, with people expecting only 5% of the wallets to be returned, when in fact, 40% are.
The point I’m trying to make, is that people on average seem to be far more cynical and distrusting of others than they ought to be.
Clearly, we don’t want to be delusional, and we don’t want to trust others when we shouldn’t.
This means that the smart thing to do is to trust others more than the average person does.
Which means that if your trust in others is at the average level, which is what it’s likely to be, particularly if you have never thought about this issue in depth, then you should try experimenting with trusting people more?
Which is to trust others in a way that maximizes the chances that our trust is reciprocated with trustworthiness?
In the coming videos, I will walk you through a self-assessment of your current levels of trust first.
I will discuss some strategies for exercising smart trust.
Why can’t you trust kleptomaniacs to get puns? Because, you see, they take everything literally.
Then you would be better off in terms of your happiness if you trusted others more.
So if the idea that you should experiment with being a little more proactively trusting of others makes you feel a little uneasy, I’m totally with you.
Because, remember, when you trust others, you release oxytocin in them which makes them feel good.
What I’m going to do first is to give you an opportunity to assess where you stand in terms of your tendency to trust others.
Then in the next video, I’m going to discuss three rules for exercising something that I’ve called Smart Trust.
We’re going to use something called the interpersonal trust scale, which was developed by a researcher named Julian Rotter, and was first published in 1967.
Now, there’s a high chance that you will be able to guess how your trust goal is going to turn out as you read each item and respond to it.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of whether you’re too distrusting of others, and therefore whether you’re committing the 5th Deadly Happiness Sin.
You may be really interested in learning about the 5th Habit of the Highly Happy: Exercising Smart Trust.
If turned out that you’re quite trusting of others, good for you.
Not only does this mean that you’re likely to be happier as a result of your trust in others, it also means that you’re doing your bit for the upliftment of society.
I’ll see you in the next video where I’ll talk about Smart Trust.
Three Strategies of Smart Trust
In this video we assessed what’s called your interpersonal trust levels.
Hopefully, filling out the scale gave you some idea of where you stand with regard to how trusting you are of others.
In this video I want to discuss how you can go about exercising something that I call smart trust, which is the sixth habit of the highly happy.
Smart trust, as I mentioned in the first video this week, has to do with trusting others in a way that maximizes your benefits while minimizing the chance that you get hurt.
If you’re like most people, you’ve discovered that your trust of others, little less than is good for you, from the perspective of maximizing your happiness.
So smart trust in your case would involve trusting others a bit more than you currently do.
Of course, you don’t want to trust others so much that you’re delusional or that you put yourself in harm’s way.
Smart trust in your case, if you’re like the average person, would involve letting the pendulum of trust swing out a little bit more in the direction of being more proactively trusting of others but not be overly trusting.
How can you achieve that? Let me talk about a couple of strategies that you can use to enhance your level of proactive trust in others.
I will talk about one strategy for minimizing the amount of pain or hurt you feel in the instances in which your trust is violated.
The first strategy for becoming more proactively trusting is to remember that people are actually more trustworthy than most of us give them credit.
Just remembering this, that your instincts on how trustworthy others are are biased in the direction of being too cynical, can help you overcome this distrust and become more proactively trusting.
Remember also that when you behave in a proactively trusting fashion, people are likely to repay you with trustworthy behavior because of the release of oxytocin, as we saw from the Swiss experiments.
Reminding yourself of these two findings whenever you have an opportunity to trust someone will likely steer you in the direction of being more trusting than you might otherwise be.
The second strategy, which is also a strategy aimed at increasing proactive trust, is to explicitly bring to mind the hidden benefits of proactive trust.
As I mentioned in an earlier video in this week, we often don’t recognize two very important hidden benefits of being proactively trusting.
Second by proactively trusting other, we help enhance mutual trust in society, and recognizing that we’re making this contribution will enhance our happiness levels.
The third strategy of smart trust involves lowering the chances of being cheated or being hurt.
When you become more proactively trusting of others, you naturally increase the chances of being cheated.
How can you lower the psychological damage from having your trust violated? I’ve discovered that entertaining the following three perspectives helps me.
If you and I, who are so much better off than most other people in the world, don’t do our bit to enhance the trust levels in society, we can’t really expect those who are much worse off than us to take up that, too.
The second thing that also helps me is to make a resolution to hold those who violate my trust accountable.
You would want to hold them responsible for endangering what we now know is a precious commodity, interpersonal trust.
If you do choose to do this, you will discover to your surprise sometimes, that what you thought was a violation of your trust was actually just a communication mistake.
So eventually when we reached our destination, the driver charged me 40 CD’s. I gave him the money, but only after giving him a good talking to in which I gave him a big lecture on what the scientific findings on trust show and on his untrustworthy actions were lowering a societal trust level.
We’ve had people play games, to see who’s more or less likely to cheat.
As you just saw from the video clip, it turns out that poorer people are more likely to not just be more generous, but also cheat less than the rich.
Other findings similarly show that forgiveness restores trust that we have in others.
The question of course is how can you forgive someone who has violated your trust? Personally, and a lot of research backs this up, it’s useful to think along these lines, if someone has cheated me, I try and empathize with why they felt compelled to cheat.
It must also mean that their ignorant of the importance of trust for happiness.
Let me just say that forgiveness can be such a powerful practice for enhancing both happiness and the trust that you have in others that I have chosen it as the fifth exercise, fifth happiness exercise for this course, and you can find the instructions for this exercise in the readings section for this module.
In summary, there are three strategies for smart trust.
One is to remember that people are more trustworthy, particularly when we trust them first.
Two, to remember that by proactively trusting others, we are making an investment to enhance not just our own happiness levels, but the happiness levels of everybody around us.
One way to do this is by recognizing that if we were smart and successful and have so much going for us, can bring ourselves to up the average levels of trust in society.
Then who else will? Another way to do it is by making a resolution, to hold those who violate our trust accountable for it.
Not in a revengeful way of course, but in a way that conveys to them the importance of trust for everyone’s happiness.
The final way is to practice forgiveness of those who violate our trust.
Hopefully by employing these strategies, you’ll find it easier to exhibit, corrective trust, and therefore come to see for yourself what all these findings on trust have shown, that it increases your happiness levels.
Here’s to corrective trust and with that we’re done with the 5th Deadly Happiness Sin.
The 6th Deadly Happiness Sin–Distrusting Life
Earlier today a man knocked on my door, and he asked me for a small donation towards the local swimming pool.
In the past few videos, we have focused on how not trusting others enough can lower our happiness levels.
If trusting others can be so important for happiness, then it follows that trusting that good things are going to happen to you in your life is also going to be very important for your happiness.
That’s why distrusting life is a deadly happiness sin, the 6th deadly happiness sin.
Let me get into the topic of why distrusting life is a deadly happiness sin by recalling a tragic event that happened on the 18th of December of 2014.
We shouldn’t rely on outcomes for our happiness.
Sonja Lyubomirski in her book, The Myths of Happiness, makes this very point.
When we consider the single best thing that happened to us during past years and the single worst thing, we may be surprised to learn that they’re often one and the same.
Professor Lyubomirsky goes on to argue that is because we tether our happiness to outcomes that we make the mistake of thinking that external circumstances, earning a certain amount of money, being married to a certain person, living in a certain house, etc.
In reality she argues, external circumstances account for only 10% of our happiness.
Now you might ask if we can’t depend on outcomes for our happiness, then how life would look like. How would life look like for somebody who does not do this, does not tether his/her happiness to outcomes.
Professor Rao, could you please tell us the story of the man and his son who lived in this beautiful valley? You know the good thing, bad thing, who knows that story.
A man and his son and they lived in a beautiful valley and they were very happy but they were also dirt poor.
The man got tired of being dirt poor and he wanted to be rich so he decided he was going to become rich by breeding horses, so he bought a stallion.
The very night he bought a stallion, it kicked the top bar loose from the paddock where he had housed it and ran away and all the neighbors came around and there was some shrapnel thrown in there in there and they said you were going to become rich and your horse ran away and it is terrible and the old man shrugged his shoulder and said good thing, bad thing, who knows.
The man looked at them and shrugged his shoulders and said, good thing, bad thing, who knows? The man and his son, they started to try breaking the horses, so they could sell them at the market, and one of the horses threw the man’s son and stomped on his leg.
It broke, and it healed crooked, and all the neighbors came around once again, and said, he was such a fine young lad, now he will never be able to find a girl to marry him, how unfortunate, and the man shrugged his shoulder and said good thing, bad thing, who knows? And that summer, the king of the country declared war on a neighboring country, and press gangs moved throughout all the villages, rounding up the able-bodied young men to serve in the army.
The old man shrugged his shoulder and said good thing, bad thing, who knows and it goes on like that forever.
It’s actually trying to make a point and the point it’s trying to make is that when something happens to you, you do not necessarily know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.
The man in the story you just heard, was clearly not wedded to outcomes for his happiness.
So that’s how you would be, like that man in that story, if you did not tether your happiness to outcomes.
Does being like that man in the story sound appealing to you? If you’re like most of my students, you’re not so sure.
Here are two big concerns that many of my students have about being like that old man in the, let’s call it the, GTBTWK = Good thing bad thing, who knows story.
As one of my students put it, if I didn’t feel happy upon getting a good job or for getting married to my sweetheart, why would I feel happy about anything at all? Another concern with de-linking happiness from outcomes is that you may not find any goals worthy of pursuit.
Whenever you thought of completing the goals, you told yourself good thing, bad thing, who knows.
The question is, are these objections to the idea of de-linking happiness from outcomes really valid? And that’s a question to which I will get to in the next video.
Process (vs. Outcome) as a Source of Happiness
Which route would you prefer? From a purely economic perspective, that is in terms of time and effort involved, route A is clearly better than route B. However, from a psychological perspective, it’s not clear which route is better.
When I pose this type of question to my students, generally speaking, most of them prefer route B to route A. One time I found out that 78% of the students preferred route B to route A. Chris Hsee, who is a professor at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues referred to people’s aversion for doing nothing as the need to be busy.
In one study, they asked participants to fill out a survey, and then they told participants to drop the survey off at another location.
Participants were given the option of dropping it off either at a nearby location which would involve a 2 to 3 minute round trip, or at a faraway location which would involve a 12 to 15 minute round trip.
Participants were told that after dropping the survey, they would have to return back to the experimental room and wait out the remainder of the time.
That is, participants understood that if they chose the nearby location, they would spend more time doing nothing after they returned.
If they chose the far away location, they would spend less time doing nothing but they would have to spend more energy walking to and from the drop-off location.
For reasons that will become clear shortly, participants were also told that as a token of appreciation for completing the survey, they would be given a piece of candy at the drop-off location.
In addition to telling participants that they could drop this survey off at the nearby location or the far away location, the experimenters also told one set of participants that they would get the same candy, dark chocolate let’s say, regardless of which drop-off location they chose.
Another set of participants, by contrast, were told, that they would get one type of candy, let’s say dark chocolate, if they chose the nearby location, and another type of candy, say white chocolate, if they chose the far away location.
So in other words, participants in this different candy condition had some justification for choosing the following location.
The participants’ preference depended on whether they had justification for walking to the far-away location.
Among participants who were told that they would get the same candy regardless of where they dropped off the survey, only 32% chose the far-away location.
In the other condition, the condition where the participants were told they could choose a totally different candy if they dropped the survey at that location, that far away location almost double that proportion, 59% chose the faraway location.
In a formal study, conducted by the same researchers, participants were forced, this time, to drop the survey off that they had just completed at either the nearby location or the far away location, and then they had to come back to the experimental room and wait out the rest of the duration.
The finding showed the participants who had been forced to be busy, these were the participants who had asked to drop the survey off at the faraway location, were happier than the participants who were not busy.
In one study, what Dan and his colleagues did was ask a bunch of participants to assemble pieces of a Lego set that eventually took the shape of a bionicle.
Each time, the participants assembled a bionicle, they were paid some money for it, but the amount that they were paid got progressively lower over time.
Some of the participants were told that the bionicles that they had assembled would be given away as toys to children.
These participants were thus made to feel that assembling the bionicle was a meaningful activity.
Other participants, by contrast, were told that the bionicles that they assembled would be disassembled so that other future participants could assemble them.
These participants felt that assembling the bionicles was really a meaningless activity.
Dan and his colleagues were interested in whether being meaningfully busy would make a difference to the number of bionicles that the participants assembled, and it did.
Pre-Occurrence Preference and Post-Occurrence Non-Judgmentalism
In the previous video, we saw how the first concern that many of us have with delinking happiness from outcomes.
This is because outcomes aren’t the only source of happiness.
What about the second concern with delinking happiness from outcomes? The concern that doing so will make all outcomes equally attractive, or unattractive, and therefore we wouldn’t know which outcome to pursue.
If you were someone who had successfully delinked happiness from outcomes, wouldn’t you be indifferent to whether you said yes or no to this lassie? Since Getting married to her wouldn’t make you any happier than not getting married to her.
Wouldn’t you be indifferent to all the other outcomes in your life? If so, delinking happiness from outcomes would lead you to become passive and indifferent to life, right? Wrong.
The reason why delinking happiness from outcomes doesn’t mean that you’ll become indifferent to life and not know which goal to pursue, has to do with a seemingly subtle but actually very important difference.
De-linking happiness from outcomes refers to not judging outcomes after they have occurred.
Rather than not having a certain preference for certain outcomes over others before they’ve occurred.
That is, before an outcome has occurred you would have a preference for some outcomes over other outcomes.
Once an outcome unfolds or occurs, you wouldn’t judge it as good or bad. So, in other words, you will have what may be called pre-occurrence preference but you wouldn’t have what might be called post-occurrence judgmentalism.
In the example where a lassie has just proposed to you, de-linking happiness from outcomes would mean that you would have a preference for whether you wanted to marry her or not.
Once the outcome has occurred, imagine that you’ve said yes to her and you’re now married, right? You wouldn’t take this outcome for granted.
First thing you would do is work towards avoiding those undesirable outcomes to the best of your ability.
By relying on the processes for your happiness, rather than on the fact that you’re already married, you will avoid a trap that many, many married people fall into.
This approach involves having a strong preference for certain outcomes over other outcomes.
This approach involves being indifferent to outcomes both before and after they occur.
This is the approach that you would take if you misunderstood what de-linking happiness from outcomes really means, and concluded that it means not having a preference for outcomes even before they’ve occurred.
I see many people falling into this trap and have to confess that I myself fell into it when I was in my early 20s. I was desperately in search of happiness then, and believed that the way to happiness is to welcome any and all outcomes that were in front of me that could occur to me.
The idea of being welcoming or accepting of outcomes is an important one.
This welcoming attitude should happen after an outcome has unfolded and not before.
There are a couple of problems with being welcoming of any and all outcomes even before they have occurred.
You always have a preference for certain outcomes over other outcomes.
If you’re trying not to have a preference for certain outcomes over other outcomes before they’ve occurred.
You might think that you’re being cool and easy going by being this way, but in reality, as studies show, indifference to outcomes is often a sign of helplessness and depression.
It involves having a preference for certain outcomes over other outcomes before they’ve occurred, but being non-judgemental about the goodness and badness of outcomes after they’ve occurred.
So holding one view of an outcome before they have occurred, and changing that view to be another view after they have occurred is a tough thing to pull off.
Three Strategies for Instilling the Dispassionate Pursuit of Passion
This approach involves having a preference for certain outcomes over other outcomes before these outcomes occur, which is obviously important if you want to set goals and pursue them, but not judging outcomes after they’ve occurred, which mitigates the negativity from categorizing certain outcomes as bad outcomes.
You may also be wondering whether it’s a weird and even delusional thing to do, to change one’s mind about outcomes before versus after they’ve occurred.
The first strategy involves reflecting on past negative outcomes.
In this exercise I ask my students to first think of something negative that has just happened to them like, failing to get a good grade, or falling sick, etc.
I then asked them to think of a similar negative event from the past, something that happened to them way back when they were, say, teenagers.
I then asked these students to reflect on how they viewed those same negative elements from the past.
Now, what typically happens is that the students discover that they’ve changed their mind about those past negative events.
At the time that they happened, they may have been very painful, but now in retrospect the students don’t see those events the same way.
With the passage of time, it seems like these negative events lose their sting.
In other words, what seemed like a negative event when it happened, gently turns out to be less negative, or even positive in retrospect, because we get to see the reason which they have paved the way for positive outcomes?
The student who failed to get into his dream school, for example, may realize that that’s the outcome that led him to work really hard, and that’s why he’s now in the current school right now.
A lot of studies, particularly in an area of research called affective miss-forecasting, show that we routinely change our minds about past negative events.
These findings show that we tend to overestimate both the intensity and the duration for which we will negative after a bad outcome occurs.
There are many reasons why we misforecast the negativity from these bad outcomes.
If you do the exercise that I just described, that is you recall an event from your past that at that time that it happened seemed intensely negative.
I’m quite confident that you too will see that you have changed your mind about that event.
What’s really interesting about this is that as Professor Lubomski noted in the quote that I read out in the previous video, the events that we later come to cherish are often the ones that we found to be the most negative when they happened.
The first strategy for instilling the dispassionate pursuit of passion involves reminiscing about past negative events, and realizing that if you could change your mind about those events, then there really is no reason why the same thing won’t happen with the current negative events.
If you’re going to change your mind about the current negative events later, than why not change them and adopt a more positive attitude towards them right away? One advantage of doing so is that it will obviously improve your happiness levels right away.
Another advantage is that it’s going to make you more open to the doors opportunity that seemingly negative event has triggered.
This leads me to the second strategy for practicing the dispassionate pursuit of passion which has to do with actively looking for reason which a seemingly negative outcome has triggered positive outcomes.
As David Steindeldrass, the famous Catholic Benedictine monk noted in his very popular Ted Talk, we could actually be grateful even when negative things happen.
You’ll first hear Steindeldrass say that we cannot be grateful for negative things like violence or unfaithfulness or bereavement.
You hear him say that although we can’t be grateful for these negative things, we can be grateful in every moment.
So as you just heard, we could be grateful even when negative things have happened.
Not for those negative things that happened, but for the opportunities that arose because of those negative things.
When you actively look or opportunities that a negative event triggers, you’re naturally going to be less judgemental about the negatively of that outcome because you recognize that these positive opportunities would not have arisen if the negative event hadn’t happened.
In short, the exercise has to do with keeping a journal in which you note three bad things, apparently bad things that happened during the day that later turned out to be good.
The idea is to practice the ability to connect the dots for small, everyday negative energy in our life so that it becomes second nature to you, to be nonjudgmental about negative outcomes.
It’s really good to see you.
This attitude involves having an implicit trust in life that you’re taken care of.
That even if you’re currently experiencing a seemingly negative outcome, you’ll eventually grow out of it and learn and as a result lead a happier, more meaningful, more fulfilling life.
I’m sure that you can instinctively see how such an implicit faith or trust in life is going to be very helpful in instilling the dispassionate pursuit of passion.
When outcomes that appear negative happen, you’ll spend far less time ruminating about them or wallowing in self-pity, you’ll quickly bounce back and grab life by its horns again.
They’re all aimed at instilling an implicit trust in life.
By putting those strategies into practice, you will discover that the hypothesis that life can be trusted and that everything happens for the best can’t be completely ruled out.
Just as the competing hypothesis, that life is totally indifferent to you or that life is maligned and can’t be trusted, can’t be ruled out either.
It’s precisely because none of these three hypotheses can be completely ruled out that I seldom get into a discussion or an argument with someone who holds an entirely different perspective on whether life is good, bad, ugly or indifferent.
Now too, I’m honestly not going to try and convince you to adopt an attitude that life can be trusted and that everything happens for the best, if you’re strongly opposed to that idea.
As a rational and scientifically-minded person I think you’d be interested in knowing why holding this view, that life can be trusted, is really no less scientific and no more delusional than is holding the view that life is indifferent or that life is malign.
As you can see from the graph, this set of patients experienced the least amount of pain.
In the context of learning and intelligence, findings of Carol Dweck and her co-authors have shown that those who believe that intelligence levels can be enhanced are more likely to get smarter over time and more successful than those who believe that intelligence levels are fixed at whatever levels they are born with.
With that kind of minimal background on placebo effects and its implications for what it means to be a scientific person or rational person, let me get to the question of what the most rational belief to have is about whether life can be trusted or not trusted.
Is life benign, malign, or is neither? One’s belief about life, it turns out, falls very firmly in the domain of placebo effects.
That is, to a person who believes that life is benign and can be trusted, it turns out that life is benign and can be trusted.
To a person who believes the opposite, that person to see evidence, ample evidence, ample support for the idea that life is malign and that if you aren’t constantly watchful and vigilant, you’ll get run over and screwed.
The person who’s in the middle and sees life as indifferent, he or she too will find convincing support for his or her belief.
There’s no way to scientifically prove that one hypothesis, that life is benign or malign or indifferent, is more accurate or true than the other.
However what is true, from a rational perspective, is that it is better to believe that life is benign and that it can be trusted, if your objective is to lead a life in which your happiness levels are enhanced.
There are a lot of research findings that show that those who hold a positive, life is benign kind of attitude, those with a spiritual attitude towards life, are far happier than those who don’t.
Findings also show that those who consider themselves lucky generally experience more positive outcomes than those who think that they’re unlucky.
Generally, apart from my formal definition of spirituality, my more metaphorical definition of spirituality is that it’s a way of seeing.
It’s a way of seeing or perceiving the world, being able to see or perceive the world in a deeper way, to see that there’s more to reality than what meets the eye, there’s a deeper dimension.
People who have that capacity to see more deeply, it seems to have a lot of benefits.
That relationships, there’s something more to them to just people meeting each other’s biological and psychological needs.
That people are more than what we see as the eye, they have souls, and they have spirits.
That the world is more than just a place that you live and die in, but that it’s something that we need to perfect and improve.
So this capacity to see more deeply, I think has lots of implication for happiness, and health, and well-being.
I think there’s a lot of evidence that at least that capacity to see more deeply is an important part of happiness, and maybe a necessary part of happiness.
So as you just heard, Professor Pargament argues that being spiritual just means having the ability to see that there’s more to the picture than meets the eye.
What’s interesting to me that even a hardcore atheist like Sam Harris, who came out with a very great book called Waking Up recently, would agree with both of these statements, that being spiritual means having the ability to see beyond superficial reality and also that this ability to see beyond superficial reality has a lot to do with happiness.
The 6th Happiness Exercise-Three Good Things with a Twist
This exercise has to do with recognizing that for even every day, small events, that’s thought out seemingly negative, they trigger positive outcome that would not have occurred unless the negative outcome had occurred.
So what started out as a negative outcome, my credit cards not working or not being accepted, turned out to be a positive outcome?
Even now, Katherine is trying to push me out and it seems like a negative event, but I’m sure that it’s going to trigger something positive.
I’m really not sure what the positive thing is going to be I’m going to keep my eyes open for whatever positivity happens.
There’s a very powerful happiness boosting exercise called three good things that Prof. Seligman of U Penn, who’s often called the father of positive psychology, is credited with inventing.
They can be something simple like, I received a positive comment on the Aloha discussion forum.
So what initially seemed like a negative event may have ended up saving you a lot of time.
As Steve Jobs might have said, “From mundane, everyday events, so that you recognize that few events are unambiguously negative.
Of course it’s important that you don’t pick extremely negative events for this exercise.
For example don’t pick getting fired from work or your kid falling violently ill, although as Professor Raj discussed, even intensely negative events could, in the long run, lead to positive outcomes.
It will be difficult for you to get past the negativity of these events, to see the positive outcomes they trigger.
Plus, positive outcomes from big negative events usually take some time to unfold, which means you won’t be able to think of any positive consequences from them, so focus only on mildly negative events for this exercise.
Events like failing to find your favorite brand of cereal, or having to fill in gas when you are already a little late for work.
I should mention that, even from mildly negative events, you may find it difficult to find any positive consequences.
The reason is because when we think of something negative, our mind immediately thinks of other negative things, something that Professor Raj will touch upon next week.
These negative thoughts will blind you from seeing the positive consequences triggered by negative events, but if you persevere, you will see that almost every negative event triggers at least one positive consequence.
That is, use the power of your mind to stop thinking negative thoughts.
Instead, take your mind back to the original negative event and retrace everything that happened as a consequence of it.
You can close your eyes as you’re doing the retracing of the events, if that helps.
When you do this, you are bound to identify at least one positive consequence that came out of it.
These types of positive consequences may not fully compensate for the original negative event, but that’s okay.
So long as you are able to think of at least positive consequence for each negative event, you are all set as for this exercise.
Step one, is to think of three mildly negative events that happened, and write about them in sentence or two in this space.
I’m going to write I didn’t get enough sleep last night, got into a mild argument with my dad. And my computer took ages to start up as my three mildly negative events.
As you can see, the three negative events that I came up with earlier are listed here.
My task now is to think of at least one and as many as three positive consequences triggered by each negative event.
I’m going to write one positive thing that came out of not getting a good night sleep is that, as I lay awake on my bed, I heard my neighbor humming a really nice tune.
Another positive thing that came out of it is that, I feel kind of a little woozy today.
I can only think of these two positive things, so I’m going to move to the next negative event.
For this one, getting into an argument with my dad, I can’t think of anything positive, so I’m going to skip this.
Now as you can see here, if you weren’t able to come up with even one positive consequence for a negative event, you have the option of replacing that negative event with a positive one.
Since I’m not able to think of anything positive that came out of the mild tiff I had with my dad, I’m going to hit the previous button and replace that event with this.
This will take you to the next screen where you can see everything that you typed so far, the negative events that led to positive consequences and or the purely positive events.
So each day for the next seven days, you will need to think of three mainly negative events that happened, that triggered the positive consequences.
Of the list of negative things that led to positive consequences, don’t delete these emails because they will come in handy for step four which is the last step.
Overall, how easy or difficult was this exercise for you? Why? How much more or less confident do you now feel that no event or outcome is purely positive or negative?
Why or why not? Typically, those who do this exercise can more spontaneously see the positive consequences triggered by negative events.
By the way, I should let you know that something positive did come out of Katherine pushing me out.
Summary of Week 5
We began the week, as you might remember, with the fifth deadly happiness sin, which is distrusting others.
As we saw from the work of John Halliwell and others, trust is a huge determinant of happiness, when you trust others, you’re happier, and when you don’t trust others, you are less happy.
Others are more trustworthy than we particularly give them credit.
Second, when we trust others, they act in a trustworthy fashion because of the release of oxytocin.
What these three facts suggest is that if we are smart about being happy, we would trust others more than we currently do.
I say this on the basis of defining that the average person is less trusting of others than he, or she should be.
Now, if it turns out you are more activity calibrated than the average person is in how much you trust others, good for you, great.
If you found out from the trust scale that you filled out, that your less trusting than would be optimal, that is that your trust levels are at the average score or below, you could use the three strategies that I outlined in exercising Smart Trust, the 5th Habit of the Highly Happy, in order to steer yourself towards the direction of becoming more trusting.
Keeping this fact in mind should help you be a little more proactively trusting of others.
The second strategy involves bringing to mind two major hidden benefits of proactive trust.
One, increasing the odds of embedding yourself in a web of trustworthy relationships, which, for obvious reasons, is going to enhance your happiness levels.
Two, contributing to society by enhancing interpersonal trust, which is also going to enhance your happiness levels because, as we saw in week three, we all have a desire to contribute to others’ well-being.
When you trust others more, you’re bound to get cheated more often.
Because being cheated hurts there’s a good chance that trusting others can have a boomerang effect, whereby you go back to being just as distrusting as you were earlier or worse, become even more distrusting.
First, recognize, at least in the material realm, that you and I are much better off than most others in the world.
So you and I, in other words, can stomach being cheated much more than can, say, a poor farmer in Central African Republic, or a poor rickshaw driver in Cambodia.
I’m just pointing out that being cheated isn’t as significantly negative for us as it is for most others.
Holding others accountable, of course, doesn’t mean feeling morally superior to them, or wanting to take revenge on them.
Having a heartfelt conversation with the person who I think has violated my trust, I have found, helps me deal with the pain of being cheated mostly by helping me recognize that what I consider to be a violation of trust, sometimes, even sometimes often actually, turns out to be a simple case of miscommunication.
As I mentioned earlier, studies have shown that forgiveness improves both trust in others and also improves happiness levels, which is why forgiveness is the fifth happiness exercise.
In the latter half of the week, we moved on to the sixth deadly happiness sin, the sin of distrusting life.
Such a negative belief about life, as you can easily imagine, deflates happiness levels as a lot of studies on pessimism and helplessness have shown.
How can you avoid the sixth deadly happiness sin? By adopting the sixth habit of the highly happy, which is the dispassionate pursuit of passion?
Dispassionate pursuit of passion involves having preferences for certain outcomes over others before the outcomes occur so that you have goals in life and you know what it is that you want to pursue.
Dispassionate pursuit of passion enhances happiness levels for several reasons.
The second strategy involves actively looking for reasons to be grateful even when something negative happens, since doing so is likely to make one look for the opportunities that arise as a result of these negative outcomes.
The final strategy involves maintaining a daily record of these small negative events that later turned out to yield or trigger positive consequences, something that I call three good things with a twist, which was the happiness exercise first week.
As you will hear Dan say, the accident may not have made him a happier person in the way that some of us, some of the time, may think about happiness as a superficial kind of giggly ha-ha-kind of way, but it’s definitely enriched his life and made it more interesting and meaningful.
I think we had this discussion a while ago, you and I, about what is the nature of happiness, and how much is happiness about fulfillment, and duty, and feeling connected and understanding, and so on.
They’re not about the happiness that I think people usually think about, but they are about bigger sense of connection, gratitude, and obligation.