Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tip #17: Change your perception

This week, in my quest for the impact of positive thinking, I came across (by chance) a couple of interesting things. First, I heard a report on NPR called "Can you think your way to that hole-in-one?" in which they talk about how some researchers from Purdue University have discovered that you can improve your game of golf if you believe that the hole is larger that it really is. How can this be? They first asked golfers to estimate the size of the hole after they had played, and it turned out that the better they played, the larger they thought the hole was. So, the researcher decided to test it from another point of view. What if the players thought the hole was larger or smaller than it really was before the game? It turned out that when players thought the hole was larger (and thus, the task looked easier) they performed better as well. Isn't this amazing? When we perceive something to be easy, we just do it, and that's why we probably do better then, but if we believe the opposite, then, not only the task is harder to complete, but we feel like we have to struggle to complete it. But if we realize it could be as simple as just changing our perception, what would happen? I'm willing to try next time I feel a bit down.

Younger people's goals and aspirations
A bit connected with this, I also saw another TED talk called "Older people are happier," by Laura Carstensen, who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. In the talk, she mentions that, as humans, we are able to monitor time and create goals, set in temporal contexts, which change as we age and move closer to death. Thus, for young people, their goals are what we have on the left. But all those goals create anxiety, which comes often with unhappiness.

Older people's goals and aspirations
Older people, on the other hand, have very different goals, as we see on the right. Because their time span is different, they do not need to take chances, for example, as often and they understand that there is value in the present moment, because, after all, that's what is important, as they may not have much left. Many studies show that, as a results, people tend to be happier as they age and that happiness tends to peak at around age 80, and then it goes down a little, but never to the levels of young 20 somethings.

I think the connection between the two reports is that our perception of life in general really changes our happiness level, but we do not need to be old to achieve happiness. When confronted with something difficult, let us try to look at it from a different point of view, trying to remember that it may only look difficult to us at that moment in particular. Or, let's just start thinking like old folks now. :)

What do you think? Let me know!