My wife is a former clinical psychotherapist in private practice. Although I've been interested in the individual response to events and how those responses affects our worldviews, I'd never given the subject the deep thinking it deserves. When we were dating, I asked my future wife to dinner and a movie. When she found out the movie was "Terminator," she demurred. I asked why. She said that the emotions you experience while watching a movie about (pick a subject) are the same emotions you would experience in reality; in your everyday living. The same neurotransmitters circulate throughout your body.


Think, the shower scene in "Psycho." Alfred Hitcock was once asked why he didn't portray the frightening scenes in his movies with more graphic images. He replied (paraphrased), "The images the audience creates in their heads are far more frightening than those I could produce on the screen." Hitchcock knew that our imagination, our response to situations, real or artistic representations of reality, are powerful. Orson Welles used this technique in his noir productions. He employed novel camera angles, unexpected lighting, and dramatic presentation to move us emotionally...and we bought tickets to the experience of it.

More to the point, our reaction to any given stimulus is our decision. We own it. We have complete control over it.

Enter Dan Gilbert and his explanation of "Why We Make Bad Decisions." Watch the TED Talk video later if you wish. The condensed version of his concept is "Favorable events actually, measurably do not affect us as well as we imagine they will; negative events do not affect us in a negative way to the extent that we imagine they might." People who win big in the lottery, people who suffer the tragic loss of a loved one, experience life much differently than their minds predict.

Shawn Achor has developed similar concept with the emphasis on happiness. As John Cleese (Monty Python) once said, "If you want your people to be creative, you must allow them to play." Google, with their 20% time policy has incorporated this concept to great effect. Atlassian, with their off-the-chart sense of humor, has Ozified it.

Achor actually codified the concept. His TED Talk, "The Happy Secret to Better Work," is worth viewing, right now. I dare you to watch it without smiling.