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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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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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.
I read approximately 10-15 new books per year. This is the best book I've read in the past year. I am still working to implement many different aspects, but it's truly changing my life for the better.
One example is expressing 3 things I'm grateful for each day, along with one specific direct gratitude directed toward an individual. This one area has changed not only my life in a very positive way, but has also greatly improved happiness in the lives of those around me.
Given the time, I'd go on and on...but I'll leave it at this: well worth the time and money.
Oh, if you're on the fence still...go look up the TED talk on YouTube. It's only 12 minutes, and it perfectly captures the tone of the book. The book just goes into far far more depth.
If you wonder if the power of positive thinking is bunk, or if you suspect that you should try to cultivate a more optimistic outlook, but you're not really sure how to go about it, then this might be the perfect book for you. The author presents basic principles and cites many scientific studies that do a great job of tying it all together into a neat, easily readable package.
The book's key points are:
- Being happy and optimistic help us succeed - this is now a proven scientific fact.
- Happiness is largely a reaction to the world around us - we can use our mind to make us happier despite the circumstances.
- To use our mind, we need to train it to look for reasons to be happy.
- Then we can turn every set-back into a learning opportunity and literally fail-forward.
- When we get overwhelmed, we need to focus on what we can control and set small goals.
- To help us build the habit of happiness, we need to make it a habit, not an exercise in will-power.
- Invest in relationships at home and at work - they matter more than anything else.
- Your happiness radiates and interacts with those around you, so think about who and how you socialize.
This book references some others that I have read recently, including Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which delves deeper into some of the principles. There is also quite a bit about how to build habits, which are covered more extensively elsewhere including Switch and The Power of Habit.
My suggestion is that if you are thinking about a reading a book on this topic, start with this one. It is easy to read and actionable. It may be all you need.