Happiness 1st Institute approaches diversity from the perspective that diversity adds value and is something to be appreciated. We begin by helping participants in our programs see that negative judgments about others—regardless of the reason for the judgment—harms the person who is judging. This is based on science that demonstrates the negative effects of chronic stress on our bodies, minds, and behavior. When we appreciate someone our level of stress is low. When we do not like something about someone, it creates negative emotion in our body, which is an indicator of stress.
We do not lead with diversity appreciation because directly addressing diversity can lead to resistance from preconceived ideas and beliefs that would make participants reject the idea if it were presented first. Instead we help participants understand filters that work below the level of their conscious mind to determine what information is passed to the conscious mind. Numerous practical examples anyone can relate to are used to gain buy-in and highlight how our conscious minds show us a filtered reality. We build a strong case for the fact that the way the filters are programmed has a significant impact on whether our life goes well or not.
At that point we introduce tools participants can use to change the programming of their unconscious filters. Just a little experimentation with the tools demonstrates their power to improve life experiences without requiring the experiences to change. Improvement in emotional state creates intrinsic motivation to continue using the tools because using them comes with inherent positive feedback.
A back-door to the subject of diversity opens because the audience understands a number of things that make them less defensive of views they may have held for decades. The goal is to value growth and learning above having been right in the past so that new ideas can be nurtured. They will have enough information to know that the best way to approach individual and group differences is with appreciation of the value those differences add because any other approach lessens their personal happiness and increases their stress. They will understand their ability to consciously choose aspects of another they focus on and will be motivated to choose the aspects that feel best.
Tolerance is essentially a willingness to tolerate something one finds distasteful. In many instances, individuals feel forced to tolerate things they believe go against their value system or to interact with individuals or groups with whom they are not comfortable. Tolerance cannot escape its negative connotation. Diversity appreciation has a positive focus. Although there are differences, our program could be described as Appreciative Inquiry on the personal level.
The benefits of positivity are clear and universally desired outcomes. Helping individuals see that the price they have to pay for those desirable outcomes is finding perspectives that feel good makes the case for diversity appreciation very strong.
Our approach is multi-pronged and includes:
- Developing increased motivation to attain and sustain positive emotions.
- Understanding that the only approach to diversity that supports maintaining a positive emotional state is appreciation.
- Lowering resistance to being wrong in the past by heightened appreciation of being right now and in the future, personal growth, and continuous learning.
- Significant reduction of chronic stress, which is linked to numerous health problems disproportionately experienced by minorities including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, suicide, and pre-term birth (Disparate outcomes) as well as crime, addictions, and teen pregnancy.
- Techniques that help individuals increase self-esteem/self-worth by creating a worldview where everyone is of significant value and tools that lead to less inner criticism—something that holds people back from their potential.
- Encouraging a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.
- Near the end, when the environment is ready, a conversation about the prevalence of discrimination created in the mind of the perceiver who has been primed to expect discrimination and how harmful this is to individuals and to the social conversation surrounding discrimination and what to do about it.
Some outcomes of our program that are inherent outcomes of the processes:
- Emotional Intelligence (EQ) automatically increases with use of the tools.
- Resilience increases.
- Increased sense of personal empowerment.
- Increased internal locus of control (less victim mentality).
- Increased intrinsic motivation to fulfill potential.
- Increased hopefulness about the future.
For fifty years we have been being told to think positively and reduce stress to improve health and relationships, but the “how” has been largely lacking and when it has been provided, it’s been a weak, dose dependent method. The reason our techniques are so powerful is they go to the root cause of stress—habits of thought. The way situations are perceived makes the difference between whether they are perceived as a threat or an opportunity. Changing habits of thought (participants decide for themselves which supportive habits to develop) enables individuals to attain and easily sustain more positive mindsets, regardless of past patterns and experiences.
It is time to raise the bar to diversity appreciation.
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