Amy Blankson is Marc’s guest in this episode. Amy has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a point of light by two presidents, President George Bush, Sr., and President Bill Clinton, for creating a movement to activate positive cultural change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, The U.S. Army, and the XPRIZE Foundation, to help foster a sense of well-being in the digital era. Amy received her BA from Harvard, and MBA from Yale School of Management. Most recently she was a featured professor at Oprah’s Happiness course. Amy is the co-author, with Shawn Achor, of award-winning children’s book, Ripple’s Effect, and the mother of three girls who remind her on a daily basis why it’s so important to create a happier future for all.
Marc and Amy discuss Amy’s family background in psychology, positive psychology, and happiness, and focus on her new book, The Future of Happiness, 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era. They cover several questions about the effects of technology today, near future, and the three personas related to technology.
Listen in for tips on making technology a positive tool for good in your life.
[3:09] Amy recalls a childhood scuffle, in which her brother, Shawn Achor, to forestall her imminent outraged outburst, convinced her she was a unicorn. By diverting her attention from his injustice, he turned her anger into awe. Amy was raised in a family of psychologists, and is anxious to share what she has learned about happiness.
[4:43] Amy starts her book with three questions: Where are we heading? Would we be better off without tech? What will happiness look like? Amy explains why she chose those questions. Her book came out of her experiences with her company, Goodthink, a positive psychology consulting firm.
[6:43] When Pandora’s box was opened, evil and pestilence were released, and the one thing left in the bottom of the box was hope. We have some really powerful tools that have been unleashed. Things can be used for bad or for good. As a society, we need to think about how can we use technology to its best and highest purposes.
[7:55] Technology helps us live longer; it can supply 3D printed organs to replace failing ones. Children born without a hand can have a 3D printed one within a week for under $30.00. Technology helps us manage our finances, and frees us up for more quality family time.
[8:19] We also have technology that is so distracting that the human attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish, to under 8 seconds. What do we do about that now, to change the trajectory for the future, so our technology is not distracting but propels us forward?
[10:02] Research shows that happiness and technology can be balanced. Technology is only a means to the end. We have to train the operators to use things better. Amy refers to the when, where, why, and how of using technology. It depends on intentionality.
[11:05] Are you using technology to connect, or to journal, or are you using it to check out, so you don’t have to talk to your spouse? Start your day by writing down your tech intention. You are 42% more likely to achieve your written goals. Be accountable to your intentions. The technology will not do that for you.
[13:04] What about solitaire on your iPad! Check your time. Don’t fall off the “happiness cliff.” Games can turn from a diversion into a fixation. Some games and puzzles, like Sudoku, can help prevent dementia.
[15:49] Who are the embracers, the accepters, and the resisters? Amy says that people define themselves by their attitude toward technology. When you embrace your persona, you can set your course how you will make technology work for you. You may like some technology, such as medical equipment, but not smart phones.
[18:34] Amy is doing some original research around the connection between your tech persona, and some of the stressors that you feel. What does she find about resisters and stress? To reduce stress, try to see technology more as a challenge than a threat.
[19:47] Tunnel vision and confirmation bias can lead you astray, when you are first introduced to a new technology. Amy says a positive and engaged brain activates dopamine in your system, and activates the learning centers in your brain, which enables you to see new possibilities. Keep an open mind, and it will be easier to use.
[21:30] Tech is not a toxin, it is a tool we need to learn to wield effectively. Research shows that a tech detox does not bring happiness. If you keep setting happiness at the end of an event, you eventually push it over the cognitive horizon. Approach technology with happiness and a growth mindset, and that will mold how you use the technology.
[24:11] Amy discusses the positive use of Fitbit and other wellness tools, and relates them to her father’s medical concerns. Technology can be used as tools for happiness for years to come. They will become more user-friendly in years to come.
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