Can We Manufacture Our Own Happiness? This Book Says Yes.

…and confidence, and love, and….everything? 

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It’s been oft-noted that successful people live a fruitful reality in their minds before it truly takes shape in the real world.

“In my head, I was always this guy,” says a new mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor, in the latest issue of UFC magazine. “I was always the coolest fucker ever floatin’ around, taking pictures with people in my own head, even when nobody wanted them.”

We’ve heard this type of mentality over and over. “Think and grow rich,” as the great inspirational motivator Napoleon Hill wrote. The Secret is a best seller because it found a way to uniquely market positive thinking. An entire ‘self-help’ industry is built on the premise.

However, there’s a new wave of personal motivation wandering it’s way through the psychology circles, and the book The As-If Principle breaks down exactly how we can take this mentality to literally create happiness, and any other emotion and state-of-being.

The concept as a whole, is nothing new — you’ll find hints of the principle in media/inspirational quotes, and embedded in advice from all types of leaders. I can feel it growing as the zeitgeist-y personal improvement mantra of the 2010’s. Ben Affleck has a speech about it in the movie Boiler Room: 

The author of The As-If Principle, Richard Wiseman scientifically breaks down how we can apply this newly rebranded and remarketed way of actually acting, and not just thinking about how we want to feel in the present moment to improve our daily lives through practices like:

-Smiling to becoming measurably happier, regardless of your current emotions

-Washing your hands to drive away guilt

-Clenching your fist to increase willpower

-Eating with your non-dominant hand to lose weight

-Nod while speaking to become more persuasive

-Acting like a newlywed to rekindle a marriage

imageHe writes towards the beginning of his new book, “The As-If Principle is not just about forcing your face into a smile. It applies to almost every aspect of your everyday behavior, including the way that you walk and the words that you say.”

He structures his argument by noting,

“In the past, causation has pointed towards the following cadence:

You feel happy – you smile
You feel afraid – you run away

The As-If theory suggests that the opposite is also true:
You smile – you feel happy
You run away – you feel afraid.” (11)

Williams reveals how to shake hands in a way that will positively effect the mood of the receiver, and the way that you’re probably shaking people’s hands that can instantly turn them off. He then ventures into extremely risky territory: love.  Butttttt, I’ll let you read the book to find out how he talks about manufacturing a better relationship. No thanks for me on that slippery slope.

And, this isn’t some one-off psychology nut proving a biased point.  Just this month, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert.”

One psychology professor in the article, William Fleeson, simply notes in the piece, “If you’re introverted and act extroverted, you will be happier. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all about what you do.”

A book and a WSJ article, that’s grounds for declaring a movement, right?

As I’ve read the book, I’ve been trying out a lot the subtle techniques to gauge reactions.  It’s gotten me thinking a lot more about psychological feedback and human behavior and the small engagements we make that help to build our overall sense of self in the perspective of our peers.

Like a pro athlete builds his body and subtle movements with years and years of practice, our habits, and the different ways we manipulate and adapt those habits with our friends, parents, and lovers can help us to potentially navigate more methodically towards our goals. Is this a thought process and tool-set that I’ll be employing long-term? It can’t hurt to smile more.

Buy the book here: The As-If Principle 

If you like this, then you must also read this: This Terrifying Psychology Experiment Made Me Realize Why I’ve Made All of My Career Decisions. 

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