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The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work Hardcover – September 14, 2010
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“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
About the Author
Shawn Achor, a member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, 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. 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 University.
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, 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. 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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
I was brought up in a culture of pessimism and had 50 years of experience that was so deeply entrenched that I decided that I would be the perfect candidate for experimentation with such a simple exercise.
I've never had much luck trying to change my 'default mode' of negative self-concept (no matter how much therapy I've had or how many self-help books I've read) so I was really on a mission to prove this man and his ideas wrong! I listened to the whole book on tape to make sure I was doing it as explained in the television presentation and this is what I did:
It takes exactly 21 days to create a new neural pathway so you have to do the exercise everyday for 3 weeks. If you skip or forget to do it, you just keep going until you've done the exercise 21 times. If you find you're missing a lot it's just your old self trying to maintain the status quo. Tell yourself that it's less than 5 minutes a day and that you're out to prove the experiment wrong! (if you really find that you're resistant).
You want to find the part of your routine in the morning where you have a moment (well, 5 minutes) (when you're having a cup of tea or coffee for instance). Keep a notebook in that spot (at your desk or kitchen table). You must write out the experiment.
1). THE THREE GRATITUDES: Write down 3 things you are grateful for (no matter how simple or small). At first I could only write about the cup of tea I was drinking! It can be any three things big or small...As you get into this you'll get more creative and become strangely exuberant about what you feel grateful for.
2). THE DOUBLER: Next you want to take one of those three things and elaborate on it a bit (just a few sentences) OR pick a new gratitude to elaborate on. If you have more than a little time, write as much as you like.
3). THREE SMILES: Smile at 3 living creatures today (guys have to be a little careful about this one...ladies, it's easier for you but just be genuine and really smile!). Smile at your doggie, smile at your kitty, co-workers, toll-booth workers, babies, kids, old folks...
4). THE FUN-15: This one is the optional one but will speed up the process: You want to get 15 minutes of fresh air and exercise...a lovely walk with some sunshine if possible (if you're NOT up to this yet, you can add it in after 21 days when you feel better). This can be done at any time of the day, afternoon, evening (separate from the notebook work). If you already work out, you're all set.
5). CONNECT: Connect with one person today. It can even be an electronic connection...so, if you email your Mom or text a friend or your Sister, it still works!
That's all you have to do for 21 days. I started doing this about a year ago last February and after 21 days (I did not skip because I was out to prove the author wrong) I felt better. I felt a lot better. I decided that It had to be the placebo effect so I kept doing this exercise for 3 months! After 3 months I figured there was something to this neural construction thing (or whatever it's called) and I kept doing 'The 3 Gratitudes' straight through till August. I kept waiting for the music to stop but it didn't. In September I decided to experiment and I stopped doing the exercise just to see whether I would go back to default (after 7 months of being a happy, optimistic, creative and grateful person).
It has now been 7 more months of NOT doing The 3 Gratitudes and I've maintained 70-80% of the gain.
This month I have started doing the exercise again just because I WANT that 20% back! The only time I've slipped back into feelings of real pessimism was one week when I had the flu but it lifted as soon as I started recovering. It is interesting to note that the old neural networks still exist and don't go away but if you REPLACE them with better ones you can override the old belief system.
I've told my son, family members and a few friends about this marvelous phenomenon but no one is interested. I'm sharing this because it would be wonderful for me if someone could benefit from trying this too. I think people are reluctant because it sounds so corny! almost unbelievable and possibly outside some imagined comfort zone. All I know is I have a studio full of paintings and I feel kind of like that exuberant art-making kid before anyone told her that her world-view was wrong. If anyone has luck with this please leave me a message...I want to hear! P.S. Thank you Shawn Anchor.
The first is the debunking of a myth. The myth is that if you work hard, you can achieve success in your chosen field, and once you achieve success, you’ll be happy. The success could be the raise in your salary or position in the organization, status or great wealth.
Ground-breaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience, has demonstrated unequivocally that there is a relationship between success and happiness - however not in the direction we commonly assume.
Meta-analysis of happiness research of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people, demonstrates that happiness leads to success in nearly every area of our lives, from marriage to health, and more specifically in our careers and businesses.
Success does not lead to happiness; happiness leads to success! Success is not the cause of happiness: it is the result of happiness as evidenced by literally thousands of scientific studies. This explains the title of the book – The Happiness Advantage.
One simple illustration was an experiment with 4-year olds that demonstrated the positive effects of happiness on solving puzzles. Some of the children were first asked to recall events that made them happy, and the others were simply asked to solve the puzzle. In the lives of 4-year olds, the event that made them happy was recalling the jelly they had at lunch, and this made them more successful. Similarly, happy recollections had a positive effect on the accuracy of doctors doing a complex diagnosis!
Finding anything in your day at work that makes you feel happier will make you more productive. While this may seem simplistic, the scientific evidence is unassailable, and it would be ridiculous not to use this insight. That is why sophisticated companies cultivate working environments where employees experience small bursts of happiness - sharing birthday cake or a quick game of pool.
You too could do this in your business.
Another principle for improving happiness and consequently success, Achor calls ‘the Tetris Effect’.
In one study students played Tetris, (a shape-forming computer game,) for hours. For days after the study, some participants literally couldn’t stop seeing the world as sets of Tetris shapes, from books on tables to actually dreaming about shapes falling from the sky.
This effect is called a “cognitive afterimage,” very similar to the dots in your vision seconds after someone takes a flash-photograph of you.
Achor describes work he had been doing with the tax accountant KPMG, to help their tax auditors and managers become happier. These are people who spend 8 to 14 hours a day finding errors in tax forms and like the students who had played Tetris, their brains were becoming wired to look for mistakes. “When they went home to their families, they noticed only the C’s on their kids’ report cards, never the A’s.”
The problem is being unable to compartmentalize abilities: athletes who can’t stop competing with their friends or families, and managers who can’t stop micromanaging their children’s lives. This is the negative Tetris Effect.
Imagine a way of seeing that constantly picked up on the positives in every situation - the Positive Tetris Effect: “Instead of creating a cognitive pattern that looks for negatives and blocks success, it trains our brains to scan the world for the opportunities and ideas, that allow our success rate to grow.”
Armed with positivity, the brain is open to possibility. “We can train our brains to let in these messages that make us more adaptive, more creative, and more motivated—messages that allow us to spot and pounce on more opportunities at work,” Achor explains.
A now well-known study of the U.S. MetLife insurance agents, found that the more positive agents sold 37% more insurance than the more negative ones. When the company committed to hire agents picked solely on the basis of their positive thinking style, these agents out-sold their more negative colleagues by 21% in their first year of work, and by 57% in their second.
The best way to kick-start this process is by listing the good things in your work and your life, daily. “In just five minutes a day, this trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.”
Achor’s ‘Social Investment’ happiness principle, is putting time and effort into friends, peers, and family members, probably our greatest single asset class.
When disaster and collapse happened in the financial world in 2008, traders didn’t retreat to the stronghold of their teams in bars and coffee shops, as they normally did after a day of trading. They all walked off silent and alone. “At the very time that they needed one another most, they were forgoing their most valuable resource: their social support,” Achor notes.
It is so easy and common to retreat into our own shells at the very moment when we most need to be reaching out to others. However, the most successful people, instead of turning inward, hold more tightly to their social support. These people are not only happier, but they are more productive, energetic, and resilient.
The Harvard Men study, a 70-year study of 268 of Harvard freshmen in the late 1930s to the present, demonstrated that our relationships with other people matter more than anything else in the world. Bar none. When we have a spouse, family, friends, or colleagues we can count on, we multiply our emotional, intellectual, and physical abilities, recover from setbacks faster, and accomplish more.
In another study researching the characteristics of the happiest 10% of people, one characteristic stood out above all others: the strength of their social relationships.
If you must cut out some part of life to cope with the demands on your time, your social connections should be the last on the list. “When set adrift, it seems, those of us who hold on to our raftmates, not just our rafts, are the ones who will stay afloat,” says Achor pithily.
The value of this book lies in the specific, actionable, and proven principles that predict success and achievement, and that can and should be incorporated into one’s life. Doing so will give you the “happiness advantage” that has been proven to increase success.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy and is the author of Strategy that Works.
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?