Over the past couple of weeks I have been asked a lot of questions about how to improve outcomes for children at school and staff at work.

Both are very interesting and complex situations. There is an answer that has been tested and proved by research to increase our capacity and success at school and at work. The approach is ageless, making success and improved outcomes accessible to everyone, everywhere.

In a nutshell, it is all about your perspective and how saturated it is with optimism.

Shawn Achor, a researcher and psychologist from Harvard University puts it like this,

“…If we can get somebody to raise their levels of optimism or deepen their social connection or raise happiness, turns out every single business and educational outcome we know how to test for improves dramatically. You can increase your success rates for the rest of your life and your happiness levels will flat line, but if you raise your level of happiness and deepen optimism it turns out every single one of your success rates rises dramatically compared to what it would have been at negative, neutral, or stressed.”

Achor goes in to identify that perspective is the biggest predictor of success. It beats IQ hands down.

“…if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25 percent of job (or school) successes are predicted by I.Q. 75 percent of job (or school) successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”

In the light of this research parents, teachers, employees and employers have huge potential to influence success in themselves, their children and their colleagues.

Do you want to improve your child’s success at school? Then it is time to get them happy by constructing opportunities to build their optimism. Remember, one of the best ways children learn is to have a skill modeled. So start this process by ensuring you value an optimistic outlook above all things.

Do you want to build the success of your team? It is time to get them happy by providing opportunities for them to connect, be thanked and get involved in random acts of kindness. Remember: demonstrate your optimism every day to embed this value.

At the functional end of this research Achor suggests four ways to begin building our optimistic capacity:

  1. Place the concept firmly in the forefront of your thinking: Success doesn’t bring happiness. Happiness brings success. We will then, first and foremost chase happiness rather than the illusive notion of success.
  2. When problems come your way try to see them as challenges and not as threats. This will help you stay connected to your sense of self and capacity to make a difference. It will keep your optimism functioning.
  3. If you are someone who works long hours and works hard then you need more social support. It is also great to remember that giving support is better than receiving. So build this into your schedule. This goes the same for children. Hard work at school needs lots of quality social time to build that inner sense of connectedness. Remember this connectedness breeds success when learning is back on the agenda. It is an important cycle to embed into your child’s thinking.
  4. Send a 2-minute “thank you” email every morning. This approach will have an incredible impact on the folk you spend your days with. At home, the equivalent is making sure the first real conversation you have your children each morning is one that builds confidence and thanks them for their contribution to the family. Life can be so busy that we forget to do this and as a consequence the first thing we say to our family is often a negative comment, phrased in a nagging way with a matching tone. At school, it is about thanking friends and teachers for their input, wisdom and connections. This will cement great relationships, and we know these always provide great outcomes.

Right, let’s get to it. I’ve just sent my ‘thank you email’. What are you going to do today and how are you going to keep the road to success open and accessible?

Your optimistic perspective is where the power to succeed lies!

P.S. Watch this video to gain some more insight into this very important change in perspective. It is also very good fun, so it shouldn’t be missed:

More reading on this topic can be found here