Smarter, Happier, and More Creative in Three Easy Steps

In May, our class was divided into groups and pitted against one another for a marketing pitch competition that was going to be evaluated by a panel of external judges. The task assigned to us was to present ourselves as a new marketing agency that would target Fortune 1000 SaaS companies.

I had the opportunity to kick off my teams’ presentation where I engaged the panel of judges and the audience in an interactive activity. Thankfully, the activity paid off and I managed to lock their attention to our presentation.

Long story short, our team won.

My teammates and I jubilantly collected our winnings of personal pride, $20 cash, and a signed copy of Guy Kawasaki’s book: Enhancement. After collecting our winnings, I ventured up to the judges to thank them for choosing us as the winners of the competition as well as taking time out of their busy schedules to actually be present. Upon thanking them, they made me aware of a nearly fatal error I made during my introduction that almost cost my team the win; I made public an internal team joke that was very ill received.

Even though I know how important constructive criticism is, I tend to grit my teeth a bit when I receive it because I feel like I’m being attacked. It’s probably because I’m a Leo; I enjoy being at the center of compliments, want people to love me, and strive for perfection in everything I do. But, being a Leo also means I can be pretty stubborn, (as my girlfriend will attest to), impatient, and tongue in cheek when receiving feedback. Therefore, my normal response to the judges’ feedback under our winning circumstances would have been:

“We just won and I’m getting the stick? Just let me have my moment, jeez! Why did you select us to win if you had something bad to say?”

Surprisingly, to my King of the Jungle self, my actual thoughts were:

“I’m so thankful that this was for school and not a real job. It was kind of them to tell me this in private. This is a really valuable public speaking lesson that I can remember for the future.”

The fact that my thoughts were grateful, positive, and appreciative served to validate an exercise I had been participating in for a few months.

The Science of Happiness

There’s a Ted Talk by Shawn Anchor titled: The Happy Secret to Better Work. Shawn is a positive psychologist and examines the strengths that enable people to thrive. During his talk, he made one statement that really stuck with me:

“Reality doesn’t shape us as human beings, but rather the lens through which we view that reality shapes us and if we can alter that lens, we can change our level of happiness.”

His core message was that if we can reprogram the way we see the world, we would stop seeing the negative, and instead, scan for the positives. Believe it or not, happiness plays a role in our intellect, creativity, and mood. The Happiness Advantage, as dubbed by Shawn in his talk, refers to the notion that our brains at positive perform better than they do at neutral or negative. Employees are 31% more productive and 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19% faster and more accurate in their diagnosis. People are generally more grateful, energetic, forgiving, and sleep better when their brains are in a positive state. The best part is, you can elicit the Happiness Advantage every day in less than five minutes!

The Exercise

The moment of truth. What is the amazing trick to unlocking your happier, smarter and more creative self? Every day, write down three things you are grateful for over the span of at least 21 days. It’s literally that easy. I’m confident that if it weren’t for this exercise, I would have been sour, annoyed, and downright pissed off with the judges from our marketing competition for spoiling my moment. Not only am I personally reaping the benefits of this activity, but those around me are taking note of the change in behavior which is bringing a smile to their faces!

Just for fun, here are some of my entries:

February 20th
1. Trees, they’re pretty and give us Oxygen
2. Paved roads to drive on…Imagine driving on dirty or bumpy roads.
3. Fantastic health

February 27th
1. Great parents who support me all the way
2. Tara! (She was our Graduate Coordinator at the Conrad Centre)
3. Variety when it comes to exercise

March 3rd
1. Being Canadian (I was in China at the time)
2. Watches; Super swag and give a sense of time
3. Pepto Bismol (Food in China didn’t sit well with me)

March 10th
1. Wallets
2. Coat Hangers
3. Noureen…Why did it take me so long to write this one down (It actually took me a month to realize I should be grateful for my girlfriend…Awkward)

Could This Get Me Published?

As I was working on this post, I noticed something interesting about my gratitudes list; not all of the items are deep and reflective. In fact, some of them, are really odd, common, and remedial in ways. Seriously, I can’t believe I have coat hangers on that list! Generally speaking, with the exception of my super awesome girlfriend whom I love so much, my gratitudes got less and less intense as time went on. There is a chance that this could be attributed to me getting lazy, but I’m more inclined to feel that it’s because the exercise legitimately helped reprogram my brain. The fundamental purpose of this activity is to train your brain to scan the world for the positive, which means I was unquestionably appreciative of coat hangers and wallets. Imagine life without them!

Bonus Activities

My Panda Planner takes organization and positivity to a whole new level. If you haven’t heard of this product, check it out here. *Disclaimer: I don’t work for the company or gain anything if you buy one, I’m just promoting a sweet product. But, if you do decide you want to get your hands on one, I have a discount code I’d be happy to share so just send me an email 🙂

Anyway, every day, in addition to my three gratitudes, it gets me to write down three things I’m excited about for the day, three of the day’s biggest wins, and three ways I can improve based on the day’s results. Basically, I kickstart my day with a double dose of gratitude and optimism and come full circle at night with positive reflection and growth opportunities.

I’m positive you’ll experience a happy change in behavior if you give the three gratitudes a try!

Key Takeaway: Be happy. Your brain at positive performs better than it does at neutral or negative and can be conditioned to be positive by using exercises like the Three Gratitudes list.

11 thoughts on “Smarter, Happier, and More Creative in Three Easy Steps

  1. I definitely noticed a significant shift in your attitude shortly after you took this on. This would definitely be very beneficial for a lot of people. Thanks for sharing, and as always, very well written.


  2. Salman! Can definitely relate to this one – I do this as well and also sometimes write the most random things down… e.g. Pizza, sharp pencils. Tara also appears on my list quite often!


    1. It’s such a great exercise right?! I’m surprised Pizza didn’t appear on my list…please tell Tara she showed up on mine 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s