Hey, I’m Joanna. What’s your name? Whatever it is, the chances are that you will be able to hear your name even across a crowded and noisy room. What was mentioned to you recently which then seemed to crop up everywhere? These are both examples of selective attention. Attention is a limited resource and our amazing brains act as highly-efficient filters.
We can use selective attention to our advantage by intentionally directing our focus towards the things which give us satisfaction. The great news from positive psychology is that doing what we enjoy is a strategy for creating success. Many people get this the wrong way round and think “I’ll be happy when I get promoted, beat my sales target, launch my new product.”
In a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener found strong evidence of directional causality between life satisfaction and successful business outcomes. This fits in with the brain’s natural tendency to perform better under the influence of dopamine and worse under the influence of cortisol. Dopamine is known as the “happiness hormone” or “motivation molecule” and it the boss of our pleasure-reward system. Its release is triggered by positive emotions.
Armed with the knowledge that enjoyment is a precursor to success, jot down a list of your favourite things. This isn’t cast in stone – it can be amended and added to as many times as you like. Keep it in a prominent position, say as your screensaver or in your wallet, and your attention will naturally flow towards this list. Opportunities to do more of what you love are bound to emerge and given your heightened awareness, you will be well-positioned to identify them and seize them. In the spirit of integration, I suggest that you include social and professional items.
Enjoy doing more of what you love. Feel free to keep me posted.
Here’s my list:
- Spending quality time with family
- Convivial conversation accompanied by great food, wine and laughter
- Knowing I have been wholehearted
- Knowing that I have surpassed expectations
- Rave reviews from clients
- Feeling respected by those whom I admire
- Mixing across age groups
- Mentoring and helping others and feeling that I am making a positive difference in the world
- Being inspired by ordinary people doing extraordinary things
- Learning about new ideas and being able to link them
- Successfully overcoming or completing a challenge
- Reading the Saturday papers in a leisurely fashion
- Feeding my curiosity through watching TED talks and listening to podcasts
- Visiting different cultures and “people watching”
- Spending time in natural beauty
- Birdsong, especially from the nondescript blackbird
- Sun on my back
- Sitting in front of a crackling fire with a cup of tea or, better still, a glass of red wine
- The pop of champagne corks
- Luxuriating in a hot bath perfumed with beautiful oil