What is the Tetris Effect?

I love this story…

It’s the early 1900’s and two shoe salesmen are sent to an undeveloped country to assess the opportunity. One sends a telegraph back home: “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.”

The other wires: “Glorious Opportunity. They don’t wear shoes!”

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor labels these patterns of thinking “The Tetris Effect” after the 1980s video game. The research shows (yes, someone studied this…), that if we play Tetris for multiple hours a day, we will notice geometric shapes wherever we go.  

And what exactly does this have to do with you and me?  

Everything.

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, tells us, “The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”

Essentially, if we become accustomed to scanning the environment for the negative, we will see negative things, a cognitive pattern that decreases our success rate, undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation.

Versus… 

When we scan for the positive, we benefit from three of important tools: happiness, gratitude, and optimism. The better we become at scanning the world for good things, the more good things we will see.  

One specific strategy we can use to help train our brain is keeping a gratitude journal. Once a day, write down three things you are grateful for and why. I’ve done this for more than nine years and I can tell you there are many benefits. Not only do I get to re-live the very best moments from yesterday (that’s cool!) but in time I began to scan the environment for things to be grateful for (hello, Tetris effect), and in the moment, I sometimes think – how cool is this?  I can’t wait to write about it tomorrow.  

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Reflection: Am I scanning the world for the negative or the positive?

Action:  Write down three things I am grateful for and why for 21 consecutive days.

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