Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Entrepreneur's Most Important Tool: Self-Delusion

Click here to read this article by A.J. Jacobs. He is an Editor at Large at Esquire magazine. The article is at "Linked in" so you may have to be a member.

The idea that an entrepreneur would have to tell themselves a story (or myth) to get things done is interesting. I wonder how much of our economic activity results from or requires us to tell ourselves stories.

"As an author, I rely on self-delusion as much as I rely on my laptop, Wi-Fi access and excessive caffeine. For authors nowadays, each book is the equivalent of a startup company. You have to figure out your consumer, your unique approach, your budget, your marketing strategy.

And as with every startup founder, I spent some mornings during my last project battling pessimism and despair. Well, actually, most mornings. I was writing about my quest to be as healthy as possible. I’d wake up feeling the project was too big, too unwieldy. I had too many squats to do, too many diets to test. I’d never finish the manuscript.

My solution? Deception. I tricked my brain. I’d force myself to act in an optimistic way."

"This is not pseudo-scientific blather spouted bunkum-filled books like The Secret. The idea that your actions alter your thoughts is one of the foundations of cognitive-behavioral psychology and has been studied since the 19th century (both William James and Charles Darwin wrote about it).

Force your face into a smile, you will be happier. Sounds creepy, but it works.

A raft of studies have backed this up, including a recent one in the Journal of Psychological Science that showed fake smiles (or even holding a chopstick in your mouth to mimic the shape of a smile) lowered your heart rate in stressful situations. The book The As If Principle by psychologist Richard Wiseman cites plenty of other research, including how your posture affects confidence and risk-taking (a powerful, chest-out stance boosts esteem)."

"For instance, during the year, I had a friend in the hospital, and I really didn’t want to visit him. I hate hospitals. But I said, what would a good person do? And then I acted AS IF I were a good person. And when I was at the hospital, some part of my mind said, ‘I’m at the hospital. I must be compassionate.” And I became a little more compassionate. I tricked my own mind."

So if you tell yourself a myth (that you are a good person), then it affects your behavior.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can Following Your Bliss Have A Positive Effect On Your Genes?

See Positive Psychology Influences Gene Expression in Humans, Scientists Say from Science News. Having "a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life" sounds like following your bliss.
Looking to Genes for the Secret to Happiness By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS, in the NY Times magazine.
"According to a team of scientists from the University of North Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles, different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome.

People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.

However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.

In the new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists asked how the human genome might respond to positive psychology. They examined the biological implications of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being through the lens of the human genome, a system of some 21,000 genes that has evolved fundamentally to help humans survive and be well."

"The scientists drew blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounding negative psychological and behavioral factors. They used the CTRA gene-expression profile to map the potentially distinct biological effects of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being.

“And while those with eudaimonic well-being showed favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells and those with hedonic well-being showed an adverse gene-expression profile, people with high levels of hedonic well-being didn’t feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being,” Prof Cole said."