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Take a Piece of Candy and Figure It Out

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: sukiweb

Happiness depends upon ourselves.

— Aristotle

I wrote previously about my habit of taking a piece of chocolate and putting it in the freezer.  Once it was in the freezer, I felt “safe” that, if worse came to worse, I had a piece of chocolate that I could eat in an emergency.  Don’t ask me what the emergency would be, I haven’t a clue.  But, there it was, my chocolate backstop.

As a matter of fact, last week, on my way to a meeting that was scheduled for a couple of hours and that had 10-15 minutes of relevance for me, I grabbed a piece of chocolate and put it into my pocket.  This made me feel better.  I don’t know why.  It just did.

The meeting did drag on for the scheduled amount of time.  After the meeting, I headed back to my desk and on the way put my hand in my pocket to get my badge to enter the floor and there it was – my backup piece of chocolate, now chocolate soup.  (No, it didn’t ooze out of the wrapper.)  I had never eaten it.  It was just in my pocket.  I had totally forgotten it until I “found” it in my pocket.

Research Shows…

What amazes me is that there is now research that backs up what I’m doing.  In a study done on doctors who were trying to diagnose various conditions, the control group received no candy and the subjects were given a piece of candy, but not allowed to eat it.  The researchers didn’t want the sugar high to affect the study.

What the study found was that the little lift received from having the candy resulted in a higher level of creativity and flexibility when diagnosing patients.  One of the biggest problems in diagnosis is that doctors make an initial decision and then don’t consider alternatives.  The doctors who received the candy were more apt to consider and accept alternative diagnosis than the control group.  Overall, they were more effective.

People are more creative, flexible and productive when they feel better.  It seems obvious, doesn’t it?  The problem is that until this study, it was all touchy feely, and you know how companies are about touchy feely.  It just doesn’t fly.

Now, there are multiple studies that show that our moods strongly affect our performance throughout the day.  People who feel happier have been shown to:

  • See more of what’s in front of them
  • Listen and hear more of what’s being said
  • Consider more creative and flexible options

In other words, when today you realize that the way to fix that problem you’ve been facing was right in front of you all along, it may be that today you’re feeling more cheerful.

Try It, You’ll Like It

I see it all the time in my investing.  Usually articles and commentary focus on the negative.  Paying attention to these, leaves me feeling concerned about the future and sometimes actually depresses me.  Then, when I have to make investing decisions, my vision narrows and I forget to look at issues from all sides.  I miss trades and/or I take trades to the downside because my mood is negative.  When the stock actually goes up, I feel badly because I believed it would go down, which was more a reflection of my mood than of reality.

How can this help you?  Figure out what makes you feel better.  Consider:

  • Going outdoors for a few minutes in good weather
  • Finding something funny on YouTube
  • Reading an entertaining article on the internet
  • Taking a quick walk to perk you up
  • Meditating for five minutes
  • Getting a piece of candy

All of these have been shown to improve mood.  Do an experiment on yourself.  Try one of the above, or something else you like, and see if it helps your productivity, creativity and flexibility.  The worst that happens is that it has no affect.  The best is that you find a new way to improve your day.

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