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The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work [Kindle Edition]

Shawn Achor
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (642 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Our most commonly held formula for success is broken.
Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research—including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG—to fix this broken formula. Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.
Isolating seven practical, actionable principles that have been tried and tested everywhere from classrooms to boardrooms, stretching from Argentina to Zimbabwe, he shows us how we can capitalize on the Happiness Advantage to improve our performance and maximize our potential. Among the principles he outlines:

   • The Tetris Effect: how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see—and seize—opportunities wherever we look.
   • The Zorro Circle: how to channel our efforts on small, manageable goals, to gain the leverage to gradually conquer bigger and bigger ones.
   • Social Investment: how to reap the dividends of investing in one of the greatest predictors of success and happiness—our social support network

A must-read for everyone trying to excel in a world of increasing workloads, stress, and negativity, The Happiness Advantage isn’t only about how to become happier at work. It’s about how to reap the benefits of a happier and more positive mind-set to achieve the extraordinary in our work and in our lives.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


“Achor transports us to his virtual classroom, a journey along which we glean the seven secrets of happiness. The Happiness Advantage reveals the most important discoveries coming out of modern psychology.”
-Rom Brafman, bestselling co-author of Sway and Click

"Shawn Achor is funny, self-deprecating, and devastating to my notions of what his field is all about…. I'm butter to his knife."
-The Boston Globe           

" Achor bases his training on a burgeoning body of research on the positive psychology movement, which emphasizes instilling resiliency and positive attitudes…."
-Wall Street Journal

From the Hardcover edition.


"Achor transports us to his virtual classroom, a journey along which we glean the seven secrets of happiness. "The Happiness Advantage "reveals the most important discoveries coming out of modern psychology."
-Rom Brafman, bestselling co-author of "Sway" and "Click"

"Shawn Achor is funny, self-deprecating, and devastating to my notions of what his field is all about.... I'm butter to his knife."
-"The Boston Globe"

" Achor bases his training on a burgeoning body of research on the positive psychology movement, which emphasizes instilling resiliency and positive attitudes...."
"-Wall Street Journal"

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
265 of 272 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great information - and fun to read! September 16, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read a lot of business books. Most of them are filled with helpful information. Frankly, most of them are also a little on the dry. "The Happiness Advantage" is different. It is filled with fascinating research and great ideas, and it is also a hoot to read. I found myself laughing out loud as I read the book.

Shawn Achor explains the latest research he and his colleagues in the field of positive psychology have conducted. The results are fascinating:

1) Our brains work better when they are "happy."

2) There are concrete things we can do to make our brains "happier."

3) We can also overcome our inclination to procrastinate and put off these exercises. (I found this section to be particularly interesting since I am a procrastinator).

4) When our brains are at "happy" that positivity will ripple out to others and can raise the productivity.

Give this book a look. The research shows that we (and our colleagues at work) can be more productive. And, if we are "happier" our boss will also perceive us as more positive, trustworthy, sincere and successful. Wow! And who wouldn't want to be happier at work - and at home?
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223 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good insights October 20, 2010
When I was invited to review this book, I must admit I was afraid it would be the standard "happiness" pitch. To my surprise and relief, this book turned out to be truly exceptional, beginning with the author's own story.

To be sure, much of the info in this book will be standard fare for anyone who's familiar with the life coaching industry. However, it's packaged in a way that appeals even to left-brained skeptics like me. The author cites research studies to back up each point. Some of the suggestions were totally new to me, and I thought I was deeply familiar with the field.

Just a few highlights that I enjoyed:

p.55 - Work with a signature strength. This recommendation makes lots of sense to me. The book includes a link to a long online survey; I took the survey and found it surprisingly accurate. I'm a little baffled by the authors suggestion to "use it in a new way each day for a week."

p. 67: I loved the discussion of Ellen Langer's research with "senior" men. Langer asked them to imagine themselves as they'd been 20 years earlier. They improved on physical as well as mental measures.

pp 72-73 - Great discussion of leisure. I really resonated to the notion that we tend to think any non-work activity is worthless. This belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

p. 121 - A startling experiment asks people to estimate how "fortunate" they would be if they were wounded in a bank robbery. Great comment about interpretations of Wall Streeters!

p. 139 - Solving small problems can lead to big wins.

p. 163: Add 20 seconds to your day and gain several hours.

Highly recommended. I'm glad I got this book to keep instead of borrowing from the library. I want to read it a few more times.
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137 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Unique September 26, 2010
I've read a lot of "happiness" books and frankly when I chose this book I was a little pessimistic about learning anything new. I couldn't have been more wrong. This book, while building on a lot of prior research, is full of new insights and presentation that is refreshingly insightful and helpful. I learned a lot and it was a compelling and convincing read. There is a wealth of useful and practical takeaways from the material. The author works in the real world and doesn't just write from a position in academia and thus has a lot more practical real-world experience than you often find in these types of books mostly written by psychology professors. I consider this one of the best I've read and I highly recommend it.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Having already read Tal Ben-Shahar's The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life as well as Jessica Pryce-Jones' Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success, and having absorbed and digested what their authors share, I was curious to know what (if anything) new Shawn Achor could contribute to the on-going multi-logue and how well the material is organized and presented. My rating correctly indicates what I think he has accomplished. Others have their own reasons for admiring this book. Here are two of mine.

First, Achor introduces seven principles that serve as the foundation of what he characterizes as "the happiness advantage": positive brains have a significant biological advantage over brains that are neutral and an even more substantial biological advantage over brains that are negative. In fact, The Happiness Advantage" also serves as the first principle, followed by

2. The Fulcrum and the Lever: How a positive mindset (fulcrum) can leverage power to achieve success (however defined)

3. The Tetris Effect: How that same positive mindset can recognize can recognize patterns of possibility that leads to possibilities that would otherwise be missed

4. Falling Up: When experiencing a major crisis or encountering a major threat, how selecting the right mental "path" will reveal the best course of action to take

5. The Zorro Circle: When coping with crisis or threat, how to control emotions "by focusing first on small, manageable goals, and then gradually expanding our circle to achieve progressively bigger ones"

Read more ›
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More About the Author

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn has become one of the world's leading expert on the connection between happiness and success. In 2012, Shawn's research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular all time with over 3.8 million views, and he has a new lecture airing on PBS called "The Happiness Advantage." Shawn is currently leading the Everyday Matters campaign with the National MS Society and Genzyme to show how happiness remains a choice for those struggling with a chronic illness.

In 2007, Shawn founded Good Think to share his research with the world. Subsequently, Shawn has lectured or researched in 49 countries, speaking to CEOs in China, school children in South Africa, doctors in Dubai, and farmers in Zimbabwe. He has spoken to the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, doctors at St. Jude Children's Hospital, and worked with the U.S. Department of Health to promote happiness.

Shawn graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. For seven years, Shawn also served as an Officer of Harvard, living in Harvard Yard and counseling students through the stresses of their first year. Though he now travels extensively for his work, Shawn continues to conduct original psychology research on happiness and organizational achievement in collaboration with Yale University and the Institute for Applied Positive Research.


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