Get Happy

When you are looking for new ideas, get happy.

When you are in a better mood you are more open to new ideas, lateral thinking, and discovering alternate creative solutions to your problems. Don Norman spoke at TED about this several years ago. When we are happy we are more inclined to breadth-first processing where we look at lots of possible solutions first before thinking more critically about any one idea. This “out of the box” thinking is what allows us to stumble upon new ideas.

The opposite of this is depth-first processing, where you take a deep-dive in one direction without a second thought to alternate ideas. This is great for getting things done, because you are solely focused on the execution of the work, but not so great if you need to find alternate ways of getting things done. You are essentially working with horse blinders on, only looking down the path you are focused on.


When it comes to taking care of business (TCB as Elvis would say), you need a mix of both processing types. For the initial ideation phase of idea generation you want to be happy, open to new ideas, breadth-first processing, and explore a variety of paths.

Then you need to transition between gears and move from breadth-first to depth-first processing. You need to narrow your focus to the one solution you have chosen and make it happen. It is worth mentioning that there are a variety of ways to focus. Stuff You Should Know has a good podcast episode on anger and how, when channeled appropriately, can be used for good and depth-first processing. People who are angry can have better analytical skills and greater focus, both of which lend themselves to completing the work in front of you and not getting distracted.

With that said it would seem then that the advice would be to get happy to generate new ideas but then lose your cool to execute the chosen idea. This can’t be right. When we look at the key to depth-first processing we it’s the concept of focus. It is the removal of distractions and the devotion of your attention to a singular thing. Anger can do this too but it has other obvious side effects.

So the best path is to get happy to generate new ideas but once a chosen path has been decided, temporarily remove the things around you that will divert your attention from the matter at hand and work until the job is done.

Take care of business by getting happy, find out how with a data visualization expert:


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