Shawn Achor, a happiness expert featured on the Oprah Winfrey show as well as published in top psychology journals reveals his secrets to achieving success and happiness in this New York Times Bestseller, “The Happiness Advantage”. It is a habit building system for getting ahead at work, improving relationships to ultimately live a more meaningful, productive life.
My key Takeaways from “The Happiness Advantage" by Shawn Achor:
What leads to success at work in today's fast-paced world? Working harder? Knowing the right people? Having great sales skills? No, the answer is increased happiness. The following 7 principles will teach you how to increase your happiness and therefore get closer to success.
Takeaway #1 Focus On The Positives
Traditionally, psychology focuses on averages, it looks at what makes people fall below the average level of happiness or fulfillment, the aim then being to bring people back up to the average level rather than asking how and where they are already above the average level. Therefore, people are not encouraged to improve in the areas they already excel in, only in those where they fall below the average meaning opportunities to surpass the average are often missed.
Takeaway #2 Happiness Comes Before Success
We often think that in order to be happy, we need to be successful but in fact, it's the other way around. Happiness is highly subjective yet we know through positive psychology that when we are feeling good, we feel more motivated, our minds are open to new ideas, we can retain more information and we are more successful. On the other hand, when we experience negative emotions, our ability to think and act is reduced in all areas of our life. Happiness can be achieved by doing positivity exercises each day, these can include meditating, showing appreciation for the small things in life, making other people happy, and thinking about things you're looking forward to.
Takeaway #3 Turn Negatives into Positives
One negative encounter can put you on a downward spiral for the rest of the day and in the long run, make us freeze up from failure but there is a better, way to react – Surge above the failure to become more capable and stronger than you were before. You are not defined by the events that happen to you but rather, by what you were able to produce from those events. Our brains automatically choose counterfacts after an event but these can go either way, making us feel unlucky or lucky, it's your job to ensure your brain always finds the positive outcome from each situation.
Takeaway #4 Take Control and Keep Control
In order to be happy and successful, you must believe that you are in control of your future but that also means not blaming failures on other people, the weather, the economy etc. In the moments when you feel that you're losing control, regain control by writing down your negative emotions, putting those bad feelings onto paper so as to diminish them. Secondly, list what you can control and what you can't, do not stress about the things that are out of your hands but take action on the things you can, no matter how small.
Takeaway #5 Willpower Is Not Enough
No matter how good your intentions to be happy and turn each negative into a positive, willpower alone is not enough as it becomes depleted when overused. The solution is to reduce your activation energy, this means making tiny changes that help yourself to stay on track, this might mean always having healthy snacks in the fridge if you're trying to lose weight or having an exercise mat unrolled by the bed if your aim is to do yoga every morning.
Takeaway #6 Social Support is Mandatory
When you cut yourself off from the world, no contact with friends or co-workers in an attempt to succeed it's highly likely that you'll either completely exhaust yourself or fail. Social relationships are a vital part of happiness and therefore success.
Takeaway #7 Happiness Spreads Happiness
In the same way that a yawn is contagious, so is happiness therefore, it's your job to spread happiness. Your positive attitude and behavior can influence those around you creating a ripple effect that can spread around the world.