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Inspired Blog3 Things: Rewiring Our Brains For Positivity

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How is it possible to find happiness and positivity during one of the most uncertain, and devastating, years in recent history? Today’s guest, Neil Pasricha, is a New York Times bestselling author and a positive psychology expert whose work focuses on just that.

Neil’s “positivity model” puts happiness first, rather than expecting it to follow success.

Neil’s work is more important now than ever. In the midst of the pandemic, something is happening inside our brains, called “cognitive entrenchment.” We are susceptible fall into a pattern, which leads to complacency – which increases mental fragility.

In this episode, Neil outlines techniques we all can use to “rewire our brains for positivity” – which includes cultivating more awe, gratitude, and resilience in our everyday lives.

Listen here:

In this episode:

Theory: why we must train our brains to be happy first, and believe that success will follow. (0:00-3:10)

One technique to train your mind = two-minute mornings. (3:10-9:40)

  • First, place your phone far away from you while you sleep. Notifications on your phone may elicit a “fight or flight” reflex in your brain, so don’t let it distract you from rest.
  • Practice “two-minute mornings” every day. Neil outlines the science behind why asking yourself what you’ll let go of, what you’re grateful for, and what you’re focusing on each morning primes yourself for positivity the rest of the day.

Navigating uncertainty and loss. (9:40-15:30)

  • Find the small wins in every day life – like Neil’s blog “1000 Awesome Things.”
  • Bust out of repetition and complacency by having a weird hobby. Our learning curves are steepest when we know the least – so find something new to practice incongruent thinking, and keep your creative thinking skills strong.

How to “bend, not break.” (15:30-17:30)

  • Neil defines resiliency as “the ability to see the little sliver of light beneath the door and the frame, after you hear the lock latch.”
  • Add “…yet” to any self-talk that starts with “I can’t” or “I won’t.” (For example, I’m not creative… yet. I’m not a leader… yet.)
  • The idea is just. keep. going.

How to cultivate awe and motivate action. (17:30-21:20)

  • Think of the 3-year-olds in your life, and emulate how they are seeing things in the world for the first time.
  • Embrace gratitude by pausing, taking a deep breath, and feel gratitude for little moments of connection (with nature, people, etc.)
  • To achieve goals or tasks that feel overwhelming, start with the “minimum viable dose.” Write one sentence. Walk to the stop sign. When you start small and compound every win, motivation will follow action.

The “end of history” illusion. (21:20-24:00)

  • What we’re all going through is not permanent.  It’s a step toward the future – one we’re terrible at predicting.   Focus on what you can control now, on what you can ‘win’ today, so you can earn a chance to find another win tomorrow.

Time is a flywheel. (24:00-27:00)

  • We think because we have a finite amount of time, we must divide it between work and home life. However, we shouldn’t think of it as a “balance” – but instead a “flywheel.”
  • The more energy you get from work, the better you show up when you’re home. When you show up in positive spirits for your family, that fulfilling night with your family gives you energy to keep you going for work. Think of it as a flywheel, and it will be one.

3 Things I Learned:

1) The power of routines. It is our routines that are the building blocks of better habits, so let’s focus on that.

2) We should all make an effort to see the world we saw it as kids. The ability to be in awe more often is something we all can and should cultivate. The bottom line is there are things all around us worthy of our awe.

3) Don’t fall for the end of history illusion. We as humans are constantly looking for certainty, and we tend to project what we feel today indefinitely into the future. Instead, we should remind ourselves that this too shall pass.

About 3 Things

Ric Elias learned 3 things from surviving the Miracle on the Hudson. Now he’s sharing conversations with remarkable people, and 3 things we all can take away from each.


Hear more from Ric by following him on Twitter and on Instagram.

About the Author:
Ric Elias | Co-Founder & CEO
Ric Elias

Ric Elias is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a portfolio of digital companies headquartered in Charlotte, NC. In 2009, Elias survived Flight 1549, the "Miracle on the Hudson,” which led to his viral TED Talk, "3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed." In 2011, Ric was named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Ric has founded several social impact initiatives including Road to Hire, a 501(c)(3) that connects young adults with on-ramps to professional development and high-earning careers. A native of Puerto Rico, Ric attended Boston College and Harvard Business School.

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