The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor


Believe it or not, this book is based on a Happiness course taught at the Harvard University. Targeted primarily for business and companies, I found it exceptionally useful as well.

This book was listed in my ‘Books to read’ list for some time now and ties in nicely in my current pursuit of Happiness theories.  What was funny is when I came to the last chapter where he says. ‘…most people think this research (The Happiness Advantage) is useful for them, but even more useful for all the people around them. The person we have the greatest power to change is ourselves.’ He is practically talking about me. As I read through the seven principles, I thought to myself: hmm…Aaron should read this book; so and so could heed this advise about falling up, etc; when I should be the one to change.

The more I pursue on the subject on what makes people happy, the more I notice the people I am close to around me falling into despair recently.

The question Shawn Achor poses is: which comes first, success first, then happiness, or vice versa. According to him, what is commonly thought, that once you succeed, you’ll be happy, is flawed. Happy people have the advantage of becoming successful easier. This is the result of positive psychology at work.

In this book, scientists define happiness as the experience of positive emotions – pleasure combines with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future. Basically, it’s measured by pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Positive emotions are described as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.

So what do one do? He narrows down to seven principles;

1) The Happiness Advantage- this principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance.

2) The Fulcrum and the lever – teaches us how we can adjust our mindset (fulcrum) in a way that gives us the power (the lever) to be more fulfilled and successful.

3) The Tetris effect- teaches us how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see- and seize- opportunity wherever we look.

4) Falling up – finding the mental path that not only leads us out of failure or suffering, but teaches us to be happier and more successful because of it.

5) The Zorro Circle – teaches us how to regain control by focusing first on small manageable goals, and then gradually expanding our circle to achieve bigger and bigger ones.

6) The 20-Second Rule – Shows how, by making small energy adjustments, we can reroute the path of least resistance and replace habits with good ones.

7) Social Investment – teaches us how to invest more in one of the greatest predictors of success and excellence – our social support network.

Rather than how, I found the book to be more of why we should follow the seven principles. The many studies and researches quoted are very convincing as they describe the predictable patterns of regular (or not yet successful) people like me. For example, why is it so hard for people to keep positive habits (like regular exercise and less TV) when they have the knowledge? Because knowledge without action is meaningless and action to change a habit is a struggle, unless you follow the 20 second rule.

Another good advice I shall heed is the way to see the path from adversity to opportunity is to practise the ABCD model of interpretation: Adversity, Belief, Consequence and Disputation. Aversity is the event we can’t change, Belief is our reaction that leads to a Consequence, and Disputation is challenging or disputing the belief.

And it’s  in the chapter of Falling Up that I shall give this quote to a friend who was recently dismissed, ‘things do not necessarily happen for the best but some people are able to make the best out of things that happen.’ – Tal Ben-Shakar

The book is surprisingly easy to read, and the experiments and explanations done by psychologists would make you sit up and go, ah…I see.

Go leverage on The Happiness Advantage.

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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
This entry was posted in Books. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

  1. I agree with all of your points, especially #1, 5 and 6. Great read. Thanks.

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