Connecting the Dots on Our Happiness Potential: What’s Mindset Got To Do With It?


If you would like to be happier and healthier by doing only one small thing differently, this information is for you. Before talking about how your mindset affects your life, and what you can do about it, here’s a definition of the term according to Merriam Webster- “a particular way of thinking: a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something”.

According to happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, 50% of our happiness is set genetically, 10% is situational and 40% is under our control.  What does “under our control” mean? This 40% is directly related to our perspective/ our mindset.

In addition, research by Dr. John Gottman and others such as Dr. Barbara Fredrickson shows that in order to feel more positive vs negative, there are things we can do. We need to have many more positive feelings and experiences than negative ones.

Dr. Gottman says we need 5 positives to every negative in our relationships and Dr. Fredrickson says at least 3 positives to one negative. So, taking the average, to be in the range, I’m going with at least 4 positives to one negative, a 4:1 or 80/20 ratio.

When I think about the nature of a positive feeling or experience, it’s usually something I enjoy thinking about or want to go “toward” (vs away from). Like looking forward to seeing a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, or being satisfied with a how a project went. Others have spoken about the idea of toward and away over the years, and I’m building on their ideas here.

When I think about the nature of a negative feeling or experience, it is usually something that is in some way a difficult problem, an obstacle, or something I want to move “away” from. This is also what I hear from my clients and read in the research. We don’t enjoy thinking about problems, but of course we need to think about them to a certain extent in order to resolve them.

Both positives and negatives are part of life. There are things we want to go towards in our thinking and our life, as well as things we want to go away from in our thinking and our life.

How To Get Happier:

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— Jonathan L.

One way to achieve the 4:1 or 80/20 positive ratio (in our thinking first, then our actions) is to use the below diagram, fill in the 4 “toward” areas with what you want, look forward to, are grateful for or simply feel good about, and the “away” area with one thing you don’t want and therefore are going “away” from.

After you fill it out, look at your Mindset “pie” every day to help you feel positive and to encourage you to take steps in the direction of what you want. Positive thoughts about what you want, are going towards, are grateful for or feel good about will create positive emotions. This will give you energy and naturally leads to positively oriented action.

Spend as much action time as possible (80% of your time is a goal) on the 80% of things you are going towards. Use the Mindset pie to decide on your action steps. You will need to manage the 20%. Sometimes, but not always, the 20% becomes irrelevant or it changes in unexpected positive ways as you shift.

It’s helpful in resolving the 20%, to flip it around to what you want from what you don’t want. That gives you something to go toward, rather than away from. For example, if you have a problem to solve, think about the best case solution and how you could create that. Having support to make this 80/20 adjustment is also very helpful. As a coach, I can help you with this process.

As you shift your mindset little by little to spending at least 80% of your thoughts on what is going well and what you look forward to, you will notice positive shifts in your daily experience. I’d like to hear from you about it!!