Sunday, February 13, 2011

Positive Outliers

When researchers begin their studies, they often rely on a scatter-plot diagram to plot all the variables within the study. When all the dots follow closely along the same axis this shows that the results are the “average” of what can be expected. However, there can be (and almost always is) one or more outlier that doesn’t fit with the rest. This dot (or dots) is referred to as the “outlier” and is cleaned out of the data. But what if you want to study what is NOT average, such as why some people are happier than others? Then this is the exact data you want to study.

In Shawn Achor’s research he used these very outliers to understand the Happiness Advantage and offers up the 7 principles to help us attain happiness in our own lives. As I begin week 6 of practicing these principles, I find two areas that seem to affect me more than others; the tetris effect and the undoing effect. The tetris effect trains out brains to see the possibilities. When playing the game of tetris we are constantly scanning the screen for possible areas to drop our next block to optimize our point advantage. This is what positive outliers do; they scan their world and see the possibilities all around them. These are the people mother would say could fall in a bucket of manure and come up smelling like roses. A positive outlier could for example be handed this same bucket and rejoice at the free fertilizer for the garden.

A good example of the positive outlier is the character Raj on the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory. While his friends all sit and grumble at the cafeteria table about this and that, in addition to being summoned to a event where they will have to schmooze with blue haired rich widows to fund their projects, Raj exclaims “tater tot day in the cafeteria AND a party invitation!” Raj is the perfect example of how we should scan our world to see the positives and the possibilities.

I’m having some success at scanning my world for possibilities. Last week it resulted in a free car wash for example. Then there is last week’s blog where I daydreamed about visiting Kentucky in the upcoming riding season. This resulted in two very specific feedback comments from riders, one who lives in Kentucky, and one who lives not far and has recently taken a motorcycle trip there herself. Both of these have me scanning the horizon for opportunities. I am not ruling out meeting either Chessie or Tom this coming summer as a result.

Then there is the undoing effect by which we doom ourselves to failure. In Bruce Lipton’s book , The Biology of Belief, we learn that 90% of our brain is operating subconsciously in the background and running our lives. At any given moment we are only 10% consciously moving through our day. So what is this 90% doing in the background? A lot of it I’ve discovered is not talking very nicely to me. Here’s an example. “What a dope, how could you say that in the last meeting. People are going to think you’re a dork.” Or how about stepping on the scale and this loops through the mind. “No matter what I do, it’s useless!”

If I am to be successful at attaining more happiness in my life, I will have to start listing to the looped audios in my head that undo any progress I make. I have heard myself making negative observations out loud, which is the bad news. The good news is that I caught myself doing so. It’s the first level of awareness that hopefully will lead to better habits and more desirable results. I’ll be listing more to that 90% running in the background to see just how this hidden Pat is doing damage to herself, and work at changing the recording.

So what is today’s blog mostly about? It’s to remind each one of us not to say “this is useless” or “I’ll never be successful” but to believe that if we continue our efforts the neuro-pathways will indeed develop. Then thinking and being positive, finding and seeing opportunities, and attaining a sense of satisfaction with one’s life will become easier with time. This six week mark is a perfect spot to stop and reflect. Becoming a positive outlier is possible! We just need to believe!

1 comment:


I just read this. I had Googled, Motorcycle Outliers for a story I'm writing. Really enjoyed reading this post! Wish you lived in Texas as I'm working on a regional motorcycle magazine....