The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work

Success first, happiness second. That seems to be the case of how most people think.’ If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy.’ We now know that happiness is the precursor for success. The Happiness Advantage is very powerful indeed.

The auto did his grad school in Harvard and eventually stayed there for 12 years. Many people in Harvard were too worried about the stress and did not enjoy themselves. In a school in Africa which I visited, 95% of the students liked to do schoolwork. The students found doing homework as a privilege. According to research, many of those in Harvard are unhappy. I started to investigate what made successful people have the edge over the norm. Unlike other psychologists, I like to observe the outliers. If we study merely what is average, we will remain merely average. Do not simply strive on eliminating the bad and reverting to the average. There are not enough studies on happiness out there. In 1998, positive psychology was born. Excessive pressure can make you unhappy in life. Some of these students neglected relationships and love. Social relationships are the key to success. The Seven Principles are 1) The Happiness Advantage; 2) The Fulcrum and the Lever; 3) The Tetris Effect; 4) Falling Up; 5) The Zorro Circle; 6) The 20 second rule; 7) Social Investment.

Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can. – Shawn Achor

It is possible that through practice, your section in the brain for doing a particular tasks improves. Mere thoughts can change our brain structure. Brain change is a fact and is supported by neuroscience. There are no limits to human potential. Everyone has the ability to become happier. Small interventions can create long-term change.

Happiness is the centre and success revolves around it. Happiness is relative to the person experiencing it. It is pleasure with deep feelings of meaning and purpose. It can lead to longer lifespans and healthier bodies. It leads us to being more open to new ideas etc. They improve our cognition ability as well. Positive emotions expand our peripheral vision too. A small burst of happiness in your work environment can lead to a drastic change in your performance and motivation levels. Richard Branson believes in fun. Simply recalling happy moments might help as well. You just need a little form of encouragement. Happiness can undo physical stress and anxiety. It is possible to raise your happiness baseline. Do not be extremely ambitious and learn to enjoy the finer things in life. Find something to look forward to. Usually the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. Commit conscious acts of kindness. Give back to others and you’ll feel happier. Infuse positivity in your surroundings. Exercise more. Get your ass moving about. Spend money on others or spend on experiences. Exercise a signature strength and do something you are good at. Provide frequent recognition and encouragement. 2.9013 is the Losada’s ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful.

By moving the lever, we can change the moments in a see-saw. Learn to move your mindset. The fulcrum and lever are the most important things in life. Mental construction has a direct impact on the physical ageing process. Time flies when you’re having fun. Placebos can be effective in controlling pain too. Expectancy theory = our expectations create brain patterns that can be just as real as those created in the real world. Use terms like lifeline instead of deadline. You can’t reap the benefits of an event if you think negatively. Believe that you can succeed and in own ability. Gender or racial stereotypes will affect performance if you believe in them. Someone with a growth mindset can outperform the others. Use the fulcrum and lever to find your calling. Is your work a job, a career or a calling? Job crafting means not changing your job scope but changing your mindset. Ask yourself whether there is meaning to your work currently. Learn to connect with a higher purpose. See how your work adds in to the larger meaning of things. Learn to change the fulcrum of those around you too. Pygmalion effect: when our belief in another person’s potential brings that potential to life. Employees tend to turn out how their manager expects them to be.

That is not to say that all jobs have equal meaning, but that even a rote or routine task can be meaningful if you find a good reason to be invested. You feel productive at the end of the day. You showed people that you were smart and efficient. You made life easier for customer… – Shawn Achor

If you keep repeating a game, the effect may get stuck in your head. After playing Tetris, people imagined shapes falling from the sky. This is known as the Tetris effect, or commonly known as a cognitive afterimage. It also explains how our brains work. Instead on scanning the negative, we can also scan on the positive. If you always look out for mistakes at work or as part of your job, you may tend to do that in your personal life as well. Don’t just look out for the weaknesses of others. Lawyers have higher chances of falling into depression because of the nature of their work. This pessimistic attitude might affect your happiness advantage. We only remember pertinent advice that we receive. Humans suffer from inattentional blindness. You can choose what your mind should focus on. Learn to have a positive tetris effect instead. Grateful people enjoy life more than others. Optimists set more goals and are better able to cope with stressful situations. If you always think negatively, your performance subsequently will be affected. Your brain becomes less able to spot opportunities. Make a list of good things in your life. Write down the good things that have happened to you. Write short journal entries about positive experiences. Connect with your calling. Keep practising. Create a gratitude list. Have a healthy dose of optimism as well.

How much pain would you be willing to accept before you gave up? The author was placed in a trial experiment and hated it. There are three mental maps you can build: 1) keep circling around where you currently are; 2) lead to negative consequences; 3) to overcome setbacks. Learn to conceive failure as an opportunity for growth. Be freed by your choices. It might take something very bad for you to pick yourself up and learn. There can be good that arises from a tight struggle. Mindset is all important and is very crucial indeed. Learn to bounce forward, not back. You can learn from every setback. See it as a stepping stone. It is okay to make mistakes. Fail early and often. If you believe your situation is helpless, you won’t do anything to change it or try to improve on the situation. We simply feel like giving up. This feeling will move to other areas of your life as well. Crisis may act as a form of catalysts. Crisis are a chance for others to shine. Our brains are good at inventing counterfacts. This is actually reality altering and is not a good idea. Having an explanatory style means you explain past events as being local and temporary in nature. Use the ABCD model. Adversity, Belief, Consequence and Disputation. Stumbling on Happiness is a good book as well.

Learn to master only a small goal, like Zorro. Greater feelings of control leads to greater happiness. It is not actually how much control we have, but how much control we think we have. Have an internal locus of control. You have to believe that what you do matters, even if it is just a little bit. When you do well, do not just credit luck for it. A lack of control can lead to health problems. In the past, we often relied on the knee jerk reaction and not the rational mind. The logical mind is better for decision making. The irrational mind only thinks about fight or flight. People suffering from stress can lead to poor performances. The jerk reaction causes losses in the financial markets etc. Self-awareness is the key. Learn to write down your feelings down. Identify where you have control of and where you don’t. Focus your energies on things that can generate a huge impact. Set goals of moderate difficulty. Kaizen refers to continuous improvement. Focus only on what you have control of.

Research has shown that people who believe that the power lies within their circle have higher academic achievement, greater career achievement, and are much happier at work. – Shawn Achor

Positive psychology has principles from many famous people before us. Knowledge is meaningless without action. Action is the hardest part. New Year Resolutions are easily broken. We are mere bundles of habits. We are biologically prone to follow our habits. These are very automatic in nature. In order for a habit to be formed, there needs to be common practice. Humans usually become more skilled with practice. It is possible to create habits even when old. Using willpower and calendars won’t work for you. It is difficult to maintain a diet using willpower to resist the unhealthy food. The more you use it, the more it gets depleted. Those who used up their willpower supply tended to fair badly at cognitive tasks. Our willpower is usually very low by the time we get home after work. Studies have shown that spending time on habits provide better pleasure than solely leisure activities. Advertising companies are smart and use the opt-out strategy sometimes. They are betting that customers are lazy and won’t do it. Lazy people prefer the default option. Humans are usually distracted by tasks like surfing FB etc. The moment you get hit by distraction, your concentration span is gone. We all like the path of least resistance. Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt and vice versa. For instance, you can buy a guitar stand for your guitar. Out of sight, out of mind. If you need 20 more seconds to engage a new habit, chances are that you will just give up after a while. Add 20 seconds to your day and gain more time for your hobbies. The government has used the opt-out option for organ transplants. Focus on only one task at a time and do not allow distractions to affect you. Do not allow yourself to make too many choices. Learn to sleep in your gym clothes. Exercising in the morning boosts your cognitive ability. Set second order decisions which actually dictate the first order ones.

Hold on tight to those around you and not let go. In times of crisis, many people like to wander around alone. Learn to invest in your close relationships. Your relationships with people matter more than anything else. We need social relationships to thrive. Social support is one of the best predictors of happiness as compared to other factors. Those people with less social ties have higher risks of depression. Having good relationships can protect you from job stress. Do not withdraw when you need them most. Some books always paint the picture of a successful guy in his lab working alone. The more socially connected you are, the better you perform. Many of the major companies invest in social capital. Small differences can have a big impact too. Companies reap the benefits if the boss-employee relationship is good. Some people fear getting too close to their boss as it might be awkward. You need to reinvest your current relationships as well. Learn to make eye contact with others when talking face to face. Learn about your employee habits. You need to respond in a way that is both active and constructive to build relationships. Learn to introduce two employees from different departments to one another. There must be mutual respect and authenticity. Coercing doesn’t work. Learn to pay attention to people when they are talking to you. Manage by walking around.

Studies have shown that the more team members are encouraged to socialize and interact face-to-face, the more engaged they feel, the more energy they have, and the longer they can stay focused on a task. – Shawn Achor

A longer, 15-year study even found that employees who had a difficult relationship with their boss were 30% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. It seems a bad relationship with your boss can be as bad for you as a steady diet of fried foods – but not nearly as fun. – Shawn Achor

Studies have found that the strength of the bond between manager and employee is the prime predictor of both daily productivity and the length of time people stay at their jobs. – Shawn Achor

Spiral upwards. The more practice, the more it helps in habit formation. The 7 principles are all inter-linked. If you change for the better, those around you will be shaped unconsciously as well. Your change will lead to some impact to friends 3 degrees away from you. Look into someone’s eyes and smile. Humans are very good at mirroring others. That is why smiling is contagious. Your colleagues are contagious. If you are very negative, those around you will be affected as well. Each workplace has its own group emotion. However, the good thing is that positive emotions are contagious too. You can act to be happy. Develop rapport with others. You can build rapport by simply giving eye contact.

Bruce Sacerdote found that when students with low GPAs simple began rooming with higer-scoring students, their GPAs increased. These students, according to the researchers, ‘appear to infect each other with good and bad study habits – such that a roommate with a higher GPA would drag upward the GPA of his lower-scoring roommate. – Shawn Achor



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