How You Look at the World Is What It Becomes

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Every week readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.

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This week's newsletter is based on "The Happy Secret to Better Work" from Shawn Achor's TED Talk.

How you choose to look at the world is what it becomes.

A small story for context:

  • Two siblings were playing on top of their bunk bed; a little boy and a little girl.
  • The boy accidentally pushed his sister onto the floor. On her hands and knees, he noticed she was about to erupt in tears.
  • He did the only thing his 7-year-old brain could think of. He said, "Amy, wait, don't cry! No human lands on all fours like that. I think this means you're a unicorn."
  • Her brain then had the option to look at life through one of two lenses:
  • Falling off a bunk bed
  • Becoming a unicorn
  • Obviously, being a 5-year old girl, her brain chose the unicorn response.
  • Instead of crying from pain, she climbed back up the bunk bed with a smile on her face.
"It's not our reality that shapes us. It's the lense that our brains view the world with that shapes our reality." – Shawn Achor

Amy’s world was pain from her fall. The lens she chose to see the world with was that she just became a unicorn. Thus, instead of crying, she was happy.

A clear example is the news industry today. It places an extreme emphasis on everything negative in the world. If you choose to look at life through that lens you may feel hopeless, anxious, and scared.

In contrast, people who keep a gratitude journal will consistently see all that's good in their life and have a positive opinion of the world.

You can focus on the job you don't have, or you can focus on the opportunities your current job brings you. You can focus on your peer's grades, or you can be proud of your own. In both scenarios, your happiness can change for better or worse by simply looking at the situation differently.

This is why Shawn Achor says, "10% of your long-term happiness is contributed to your external world. 90% is contributed to how you process it.”

Our happiness being this fluid is one of the reasons why some are never satisfied.

They live their life by comparing it to others or they're in a blind quest for "more".

In either scenario, their happiness gets pushed away because the goals set to achieve it are always changing.

If their goal was to get a specific job, get into a certain school, or make a certain amount of money, they change that goal once they achieve it. Then it becomes get a promotion, get better grades than your peers, or make more money.

If it’s how we see the world that shapes us, and not the world itself, then we have to change the way we look at things to be happy about them.

This weeks quote

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened"

- Mark Twain

The true source of this quote is debated.

Mark Twain is saying that most of the problems in his life weren't real. They were worries, fears, and anxieties that never realized. They started in his mind and stayed there.

This is the case for a lot of us, including me.

Thomas Jefferson said there are hypochondriac minds who always expect the worst to happen. He asks these people how much pain has the evils that never happened cost us.

This weeks question

Do you assess things in your life at relative value or absolute value?


  • If someone gave you and your friend two envelopes with $50 in them, you would probably be happy.
  • What if your friends had $150 in theirs? Would your happiness drop after finding out?
  • What if yours had $150 in it? Would your happiness increase since you got more than them?

My answer:

I'm sure most people experience this, but as I get older and become my own person, my decisions and view of things have been based more and more on value. There's definitely external influence and vanity considerations at times, but for the most part, I think purely in value.