Book Summary: The Happiness Advantage

Put forth your best effort. Become prosperous. Then rejoice.

That's a formula you've undoubtedly heard and seen a million times before. It's a well-worn formula in our society.

You'll be thrilled if you shed 5 pounds. You'll be delighted after you have a new automobile. If you meet your sales goal this quarter, you'll be pleased.

The only difficulty is that this formula isn't correct.

If this were true, every student who receives an admission letter to their dream school, every employee who obtains a promotion, and everyone who achieves any objective should be joyful.

But there's always something else to do, which leads to a never-ending cycle of seeking happiness in all the wrong places.

Take a look at this Jim Carrey line:

"I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer."

Shawn Achor, fortunately, is here to tell us the secret of how happiness works and why we've got the formula completely reversed. Happiness and optimism feed performance, not the other way around.

The seven concepts you're going to discover are the result of Achor's life's work and study, including 1,600 Harvard students and dozens of Fortune 500 organizations worldwide.

So brace yourselves and prepare to discover how to be joyful to achieve more success.

The Happiness Advantage

A brain with lightbulbs on top of it, showing positive ideas which leads to a biological edge.

According to Achor, positive brains have a biological edge over neutral or negative brains. We become more driven, effective, adaptable, imaginative, and productive when we cultivate positive minds. You know, anything that will help you be more successful.

Dopamine and serotonin, molecules that stimulate the learning centers of our brains, are also released when we experience positive emotions. They also assist us in organizing new knowledge, storing it in the brain for extended periods, and retrieving it later.

Finally, it enables us to create more and stronger connections between our brain's neurons, allowing us to think more creatively and swiftly. Again, everything that helps us become successful.

So, your first approach should be self-evident: quit wishing to be happy and start being joyful right now.

Here are seven tried-and-true methods for doing so.

  1. Meditate. What for? You'll feel calmer, more pleased, and happier right away. And, with time, the left prefrontal cortex of your brain, which is involved in feelings of happiness, will really enlarge.
  2. Find something to anticipate. Why? The anticipation of the event is typically the most enjoyable aspect of it, as endorphins are released into your system. It's that simple.
  3. Make deliberate actions of compassion. Altruistic acts help to improve mental health and reduce stress.
  4. Instill your environment with positivism. The things you let into your head, as well as your physical environment, have a direct influence on your well-being. To begin, limit your exposure to bad television. Right now, turn off CNN.
  5. Exercise. You've probably heard it before, but it may improve your mood and work performance in a variety of ways. Your brain, as well as those clothes you haven't worn in 5 years, will thank you.
  6. Spend money, but not on material items. Spending money on experiences - specifically with other people - causes powerful good emotions that stay longer than buying stuff.
  7. Develop a "signature strength." When we use a skill or a talent, we feel a surge of happiness. Even better, demonstrate a strong personality. You'll be happier if you employ your signature strengths more often.

The Fulcrum and the Lever

A male promoting a mental awareness campaign, as our reality is defined more by it.

Archimedes is credited with saying:

"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."

According to Achor, our brains function in the same manner. Our ability to reach our full potential is founded on:

  • The length of our lever, which represents how much power and potential we imagine we have, and
  • The posture of our fulcrum, or the perspective that gives us the ability to change.

Most of us go about our daily lives believing that we are perceiving the world as it is. However, Achor points out that our reality is defined more by the mental construction of our everyday activities than by the acts themselves.

Here's an example from the real world.

Let's say you're at a workshop and realize two minutes in that the subject isn't for you. Assume that the presenter is likewise an excellent presenter.

You could either check out for those two hours, worried about all the other things you might be doing with your time, or you could opt to learn three things about successfully presenting in that time.

Here are a few examples of how you can put this into action.

Instead of focusing on the reasons you could fail when presented with a difficult task or project, concentrate on the reasons you might triumph.

Make the decision to see your employment as a vocation rather than a job or a career. You'll work harder and longer to attain your goals if the task is its own reward.

As a leader, you can modify the fulcrum and lever for everyone around you for additional bonus points. You'll get more out of them if you can help them recognize the positive aspects of their existence.

The Tetris Effect

A female holding an umbrella as new ideas lightbulb falls on top of her, perceiving new opportunity.

People who play Tetris for hours on end experience an unusual phenomenon: their brains physically perceive Tetris shapes everywhere they look.

As Achor argues, it's not only a visual issue; hours of Tetris literally rewire your brain, causing you to view real-life events differently.

Similarly, we set ourselves up for failure when our brains become trapped in the habit of tension and pessimism.

The bad news is this. The good news is that we can teach our brains to see patterns of opportunity, allowing us to perceive opportunity in unexpected places. The trick is that we only see what we're searching for and ignore everything else.

To demonstrate his argument, Achor has us close our eyes and imagine the color red, focusing on it for a few seconds before opening our eyes. You'll notice that red appears in unexpected places because you're seeking it.

When we focus on the positive aspects of a situation rather than the bad, we have access to three miraculous gifts: happiness, appreciation, and optimism.

And here's the secret: there are positives and drawbacks to be found in every scenario; it's up to you to choose what you'll notice.

Putting all of your attention on the negatives is, well, negative. Focusing on (and therefore discovering) the positives will assist you in achieving more of what you desire in life.

Make a daily note of the happy things in your life. Some people call this a gratitude diary - it is the greatest approach to kick this into high gear. You'll start to notice more of the positive in your life if you remind yourself of it, establishing a virtuous cycle of optimism.

Falling Up

A manager looking as the financial chart declines, then think ways to manage it.

Regardless of how hard you try to be optimistic, awful things will happen to you. When we face a stressful situation or a crisis, our brains create multiple pathways to assist us in managing it.

Have you heard the expression "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? That is only true if you see crisis periods as opportunities to learn and grow.

Soldiers are frequently informed by their medics that they would either return "normal" or suffer from PTSD if they are sent to fight. However, according to Achor, there is a third possibility known as Post-Traumatic Growth that is generally disregarded.

Essentially, how you react to hardship is determined by the story you tell yourself about it.

People with a positive explanatory style regard difficulty as local and transient. In contrast, those with a pessimistic explaining style see it as global and permanent.

Practice the ABCD paradigm of interpretation to help you perceive a path from adversity to opportunity: Adversity, Belief, Consequence, and Disputation.

We can't undo what happened because of adversity. Belief is a conscious choice that we make in response to an occurrence. Our conviction has an effect. And suppose our present perception of the circumstance takes us down a route that leads to a terrible outcome.

In that case, we may challenge our perception since that's all it is - a perception.

The Zorro Circle

A male flying high to the clouds with optimism, showing that we have power over our destiny.

According to Achor, one of the most important factors in our success is our perception that our actions count - that we have power over our destiny.

However, as work-related stress increases, our sense of control is one of the first things to disappear - especially when that stress causes us to take on too much at once.

Emotions effectively take over our brains. However, by taking a few easy measures, we can regain control.

We'll begin with self-awareness. When you're feeling out of control, the simplest approach to regain control is acknowledging and expressing your feelings. Please write it down in a notebook, discuss it with a coworker or friend, or do whatever you need to do to give it a name.

The strength of unpleasant emotions is quickly diminished, according to brain scientists.

Second, figure out which components of the circumstance you can influence and which you can't. The goal is to let go of the stressors beyond your control so that you may concentrate on the things you can do to better your circumstances.

Finally, start focusing on the aspects of your life that you have influence over one at a time. The ideal way to achieve this is to start with the simple/easy ones.

Thus, you can rapidly establish some minor victories, reinforcing the concept that you do, in fact, have power over your destiny. Continue in this manner until you've completed all of the steps.

Remember, it's a long walk, not a sprint; you can't solve all of your problems in one day.

The 20-Second-Rule

An IT staff changing the settings of the laptop used. Change is also necessary for us to reach our goals.

It's self-evident that getting from where we are to where we wish to go necessitates change. And we know what we need to do in practically any circumstance to get there.

For example, if we want to lose weight, we know we need to exercise more and eat less.

The issue is that we are habit machines at our heart. Our ability to effect change is a finite resource (for more on this, see our description of the excellent book Willpower). It's difficult to rely on to effect long-term change.

The solution, according to Achor, is to put the desired behavior on the path of least resistance, eliminating the need for willpower.

Getting started is generally the most difficult part. That's why you'll be successful if you reduce the activation energy for the behaviors you want to embrace and increase it for the ones you want to avoid.

Researchers discovered that simply shutting the lid of an ice-cream fridge might slash cafeteria ice cream consumption in half. Isn't it crazy?

To save energy getting out of bed, to the door, to the gym in the morning, Achor kept his running shoes near his bed and slept in his workout gear.

You may redirect the path of least resistance and replace harmful habits with healthy ones by making minor energy modifications.

Social Investment

A group of peers hugging each other, showing support as part of social investment.

This final point is simple: the more social support you have, the happier you will be.

As Achor points out, the most successful individuals invest in their friends, peers, and family members to move ahead.

In reality, our social support network is one of the most important determinants of our total performance.

The good news for those who struggle to develop social relationships is that psychologists have shown that even brief contacts may result in high-quality connections. That leads to a slew of verifiable practical performance improvements.


Let's go back to the beginning and review the formula we're all familiar with to round out this section.

Work hard, and you will succeed. Then enjoy it.

The fact, as shown by science, is that the simple formula is reversed:

Be happy first, then work hard to achieve success.

You have a choice; choose it carefully, young grasshopper. It's a matter of life and death for you.

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