June 2014 | Nano Tools | Leadership
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Shawn Achor, expert on the connection between happiness and success; author of the best-selling The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, Wharton AMP presenter
Accelerate the achievement of your goals by reducing your exposure to negative noise.
According to Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia,1 the human brain receives 11 million bits of information per second from the environment, but can only process 40 bits per second. This means it has to choose what tiny percentage of this input to process and attend to, and what huge chunk to dismiss or ignore. Now research can help you train your brain to notice more of the positive signals around you — and this is key, because the better your brain is at using its energy to focus on the positive, the greater your chances of achieving your goals.
One of the best ways to increase positive focus is to consciously block out some of the negative noise in those 11 million pieces of information. It’s not easy — our brains are hard-wired to pay more attention to threats in our environment — but there are criteria you can use to distinguish between the “signal” (information that you should pay attention to) and the noise. Some noise is simply distracting: neutral or even positive signals that don’t relate directly to achieving your goals. But noise that is negative can be even more harmful by diminishing your positive focus. And keep in mind that some of that negative noise is generated by you: internal voices that express doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety are just as toxic as external negative noise
Pioneering research in positive psychology and neuroscience has found that by consciously decreasing noise — both negative internal thoughts and excess external information — by just five percent you can substantially improve your chances of finding that positive signal. And other multiple studies cited in The Happiness Advantage show that picking up on positive signals can help you make better decisions, be three times more creative, generate 37% more sales, improve your health, increase your productivity by 31%, be ten times more engaged and 40% more likely to get a promotion. By using any or all of three strategies or action steps, outlined below, you can begin to cancel negative or distracting noise and boost the signals that can bring you a major competitive advantage.
Reducing negative and excess noise allows you to focus on and create a positive reality, one in which you can imagine and attain positive results in work and life. Here are several ways you can help activate these three strategies:
1Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Belknap Press, 2004).
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, Director of Innovative Learning Solutions at Wharton Executive Education. It is jointly sponsored by Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton Professor of Management Michael Useem, Director. Nano Tools’ Academic Director is John Paul MacDuffie, Wharton Associate Professor of Management, and Director of the Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation (PVMI) at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management.
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