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Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being Hardcover – January 30, 2018
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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 experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular all time with over 4 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. Shawn teaches for the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School, and collaborates on research with Yale and Columbia Universities. Shawn graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. In 2007, Shawn founded Good Think to share his research with the world. Subsequently, Shawn has lectured or researched in 51 countries, speaking to CEOs in China, schoolchildren 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. In 2012, Shawn helped lead 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.
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From the time we take our first steps, through all our schooling and most of our work, we are shown that our individual skills, attributes and knowledge are at the center of our success. The story we tell is that the more we are seen to stand out and excel on our own, the more successful and productive we will be. But the research tells a very different story. It turns out success is not just about how creative, smart or driven we are but much more about how well we are able to connect, contribute to -- and benefit from -- the ecosystem of the people around us. Shawn shows that almost every attribute of our potential - from intelligence to creativity to leadership to engagement is interconnected with other people. "We need to stop trying to be faster alone and start working to be stronger together."
I've spent the last decade coaching individuals and organizations on how to apply positive psychology research into actionable steps. Here are the two most powerful and actionable concepts (in my opinion) from Big Potential.
1) Change the way we praise.
o Be generous and consistent with praise. It is a renewable and self-expanding resource. Use it constantly and consistently. Authentic praise, even about the smallest, most rudimentary strengths and actions helps everyone find more things that are going right and creates a virtuous cycle of positive emotions, motivation and engagement.
o Stop comparison praise: for example, forced ranking or telling people they are doing a better job than their coworker, colleague or team member. Comparison saps motivation and sets up artificial expectations of perfection. Use praise and recognition to raise all boats rather than push one down to bring another up. Convert comparison praise into direct positive reinforcement of actions and/or noting progress.
o Pursue the collective win. Praise the whole team, not just the superstar. No one shines alone. For every top performer there are less visible people who provided the resources, knowledge, skills and energy to make that success happen. Acknowledge, celebrate and reward all the people who contributed. And anytime you receive praise, ask yourself who helped you get to that place and pass some of that recognition along to them.
2) Surround yourself with a diverse set of positive influencers. "The conclusion of a decade of my work is clear. You can be a superstar; you just can't be one alone. What you need is a star system: a constellation of positive, authentic influencers who support each other, reinforce each other and make each other better."
o The people around us matter - a lot. And while we don't get to pick our family or all the people we work with, we CAN strategically choose who we spend a lot of our time with. Make sure you bring into your circle 1) Pillars - those who have your back no matter what 2) Bridges - those people who have connections outside your world and provide new perspectives and 3) Extenders - those people who push you out of your comfort zone, make you take risks and try new experiences.
o Give to get. It's tempting to only reach out to people in our networks when we need something. But to get the most out of our relationships we should make a habit of reaching out to offer something to them. The more reciprocal a relationship the more impact it has on our happiness, engagement and creativity.
o Give in all directions yet selectively. Takers at work typically only give to more senior people who will provide obvious benefit towards raises or promotions. This is a path to small potential. The most successful people are those who give up and down the line, who not only look to get mentored but also provide mentoring and support. "The more you help others find their light, the more you both will shine." However trying to be all things for all people is a surefire path to burnout. So be somewhat selective - give to your circle of Pillars, Bridges and Extenders and to those people who make you a better person, those that make you feel good, strengthen you and leave you hoping for more. Find these people in your life and go all in.
Of course, a 5-paragraph review is not enough to convey the depth of the research and the arguments that are so beautifully crafted in Big Potential. Go get a copy of the book, read it and start putting some of the practices into your work and into your life.
The Happiness Coach