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The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor July 29, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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9780307591548_p0_v1_s114x166In this blog post I want to exam the topic of happiness.  Happiness is one of the most googled topics on the Internet and depression is high around the world. What causes some people to be happy and others unhappy or even depressed?  What contributes to happiness?  Can people increase their level of happiness and if so how?

 

I was discussing this topic with one of my sons and he recommended a book called the The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor.

 

In the book I found the answers to my questions, including some great techniques to be happy.  What stuck out for me about the book is the idea that we can be happier no matter who we are.  Just as there are things you can do to have better health and/or improve your brain, there are simple techniques you can do to be happier.

 

In the introduction Achor says that most people have a formula that they have been taught by schools, parents and society.  “That is: If you work hard, you will become successful, then you’ll be happy.” As a result of this thinking we believe that we have to have something good happen before we can be happy. I’ll be happy when I get a raise, reach a goal, lose weight or get a new house.

 

Achor tells us that this formula is broken because with every goal we accomplish we set a new goalpost for success.  Moreover, the formula is backward.  Happiness is a precursor to success not the other way around.  “Happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement—giving us the competitive edge that I call the happiness advantage.”

 

This discovery is based on thousands of scientific studies and Achor’s own work with Harvard students and Fortune 500 companies worldwide. Achor observed that Harvard students who felt that being there was a privilege excelled, whereas those that were focused on the stress and pressure missed out on opportunities.

 

Achor came up with 7 principles for happiness.

 

▪                Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage

▪                Principle #2: The Fulcrum and The Lever

▪                Principle #3: The Tetris Effect

▪                Principle #4: Falling Up

▪                Principle #5: The Zorro Circle

▪                Principle #6: The 20-second Rule

▪                Principle #7: Social Investment

 

In each section Achor explains the principle and then gives techniques for improving happiness. When talking about the first principle “The Happiness Advantage” Achor said that positive brains have a biological advantage over neutral or negative brains.  If we capitalize on the positive we on are smarter, more motivated and more successful.  Achor gave different techniques in the book to increase the happiness in your life.

 

One technique I’ve been using is to write down at the beginning of each day three positive things that happened during the last twenty-four hours.  I found that this keeps me focused on the positive things in my life.

 

Another technique I’ve tried is to commit conscious acts of kindness.  This can be as small as smiling at someone or opening a door for someone, to weeding my Mother’s garden or having a friend over for dinner.  It makes me feel good to do something for someone else.

 

A third technique is to exercise.  I try to do this every day.  It’s warm in Minnesota this time of year and I enjoy swimming, biking, hiking, and yoga.

 

Achor also suggests meditation to calm the mind and step away from multi tasking.  Instead I take time everyday to contemplate.  I often sing the word HU to uplift my consciousness.

 

Here are a few additional ones

Write about a recent positive experience three times a week.  By doing this you relive the experience.

Spend money on “doing” things that you enjoy.  For me it might be on going to a play or going on a trip.

Make plans to do things that you can look forward to.

 

I highly recommend reading The Happiness Advantage if you’d like to be a happier, more creative, positive, successful person.  We can all have the happiness advantage.

 

Here is a humorous Ted Talk YouTube with Shawn Achor.  It’s worth listening to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M

 

To brighten your day here is a YouTube of a baby laughing.

 

I’d like to end with a quote on happiness.

“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”

Martha Washington

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