Tetris Anyone?

By: Pierre Morrisseau, CEO, OneGroup

We are entering an exciting time of the year with emphasis on family, holidays and camaraderie with friends and coworkers. At the same time, it can be a very stressful time as we approach year-end results and forward planning. Additionally, most of us are feeling bombarded with a steady stream of negative news and social discourse that at times make the world feel upside-down. The perfect time to change our thinking about how we define and achieve happiness.

Last quarter, I shared some valuable insight I had gained from several sources, particularly from Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, about the effects of happiness on one’s self as well as on an entire enterprise. I also shared some startling statistics about how few employees feel happy and fulfilled at their jobs. The solution, it turns out, is changing our view of “the chicken or the egg.” By that I mean most business leaders and productivity pundits advise us that if we just work harder, we will achieve happiness. That is, thinking of happiness as a goal. In fact, the science of positive psychology has proven that it’s the other way around: Happiness is actually the catalyst that allows our brains to achieve goals—often incredible goals. This was eye-opening. Consider the various results of scientific studies of achieving a “positive brain”:

• Students do better on tests
• Employees do better at work
• Improves brain health
• Increases energy by up to 31%
• Decreases heart disease by up to 30%
• Decreases fatigue-related symptoms by up to 23%
• Reduces the chance of depression by up to 31%

This isn’t about irrational optimism. It turns out that we are not born with a predetermined positive or negative mindset. Neuroscience has shown us that our brain can change at any age. This was underscored by reading about Tetris. For those unfamiliar with Tetris, it is a game where four kinds of shapes fall from the top of the screen and the player works to arrange the shapes in a way to create an unbroken horizon line. And it’s addictive.

In a Harvard Medical School study, Tetris players played for multiple hours a day for three days in a row. Even after they stopped, their minds continued to see shapes everywhere—in the supermarket, sidewalks, skylines—that they could not stop trying to assemble to fill in the “gaps.” This was dubbed the “Tetris Effect.”

What I learned was that the brain can be rewired in just a few days to achieve a positive mindset. Where we typically operate with a two-option view: Maintain the status quo (safety), or fail and lose (vulnerability), there is a third option: Embrace failing knowing it will help catapult us to success (positivity). The latter is what Achor calls “falling up.” He defines it this way: “In the midst of defeat, stress and crisis, our brains map different paths to help us cope and succeed. If our Tetris Effect is to view all that has or could go wrong, then that is all we see. If, on the other hand, our Tetris Effect is to see the opportunity in it, then suddenly we see many other options to fall upward. Our mindset can create blind spots, or it can expand our vision.

This led to my epiphany that if I and others could train our brains to continually see things through a positive lens and continually share our positivity and enthusiasm with others, we could create our own version of the Tetris Effect leading to better success, better employee engagement and better mental health. The great news is this is contagious, and you can leverage one of the most important elements; creating a strong social support network in your workplace.

We are just at the beginning of this journey but excited about how well people are attracted to this approach. We are clearly better together. As we build more champions of positivity, we individually and collectively become better—and happier—every day. That’s the goal.

As always, I am most interested in learning about what others are doing to solve business challenges.
I would love to hear your thoughts!