Hang A Different Fly Strip, Yo!

“When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.”
Shawn Achor

As we’ve talked about on this blog several times, our brains are wired to focus on the negative. This is quite beneficial in terms of survival but extremely detrimental in our relationships.


Research indicates that we are bombarded with millions of bits of information every second yet we are only capable of processing about 40 bits of that information. If you are really interested in how this process works, you should read the book Before Happiness by Shawn Achor.

We need to train our brains to focus on the 40 bits of positive information as opposed to its natural inclination to look for the danger or bad bits of information. How do we do this? We hang a different fly strip! Do you remember those nasty old fly strips that would hang in attics or old homes covered in flies? If you don’t, trust me, they are nasty. The purpose of these strips was to attract flies and they would stick to the paper as opposed to buzzing around the house.

“Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals.”
Shawn Achor

Our brains default is essentially a negative story fly strip. This then attracts the 40 bits of information that support that negative story. But, we can hang a positive story fly strip by making it a point to focus on and notice all the positive things about our lives, our partners, our jobs, our children, and so on. We know the magic ratio is 5 positives to 1 negative (Gottman and other researchers). What this means, is that for every ONE negative you must highlight FIVE positives in order to feel good about your life (and relationship and job)

In our relationships this means we need to highlight the five positives about the person to any negatives (because nobody is perfect). In healthy relationships, partners say how much they appreciate the little things as often as they can so that when they have a problem the other partner knows the person is coming from a place of love as opposed to “another complaint” or “I’ll never be enough.”

This is much more possible than most people think. There is so much more good in your life than you probably believe.

So go! Hang a different fly strip! Go out and seek evidence to support that your life is great and your partner is awesome and over time you will notice that those bits of information will more naturally “stick” to you and come your way. Say thank you, I love you, I appreciate you, out loud as often as you can. Take a moment right now and think about all the good things in your life. Start looking for the good flies! They are right there in that warm cup of coffee and that roof over your head.

This approach is solidly rooted in science. You have the ability to change your life right now by changing what you focus on in the life you are already living.

“We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”
Shawn Achor




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