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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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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.
After reading the book, I understand why people struggle to perform at their optimal level when they do not harbor a positive attitude. While the ability to retrain a negative or positive brain is possible, it requires dedication to the process of adjusting one's mindset. Shawn provides insight into how this can be accomplished along with ways to short circuit bad habits that have a deleterious effect on one's outlook. In the latter chapters, he focuses on concrete ways to modify one's behavior. The road to change can be arduous, but Shawn provides a road map that can be followed.
I can see how his key ideas could enhance K-12 education. Far too often the motto in American schools is to work hard and then you will be successful and happy. This runs counter to the latest psychological theories of happiness and success. Current theories shared by Shawn show that "When we are happy-when our mindset and mood are positive-we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it."
While quantifying levels of happiness in a classroom situation may be tricky. Shawn points to the emotions of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride amusement, inspiration, awe and love. How many American classrooms exhibit these qualities? Scientific data illustrates how positive emotions fuel brain chemicals. These chemicals make it easier for the brain to process new information and retrieve it quicker and can also aid analysis and problem solving. Just this simple morsel of information could make a huge difference in the productivity level of struggling students.
The rest of the book has a treasure trove of information that can be applied to the classroom. I recommend this book to teachers who feel under pressure to raise the achievement levels of a low performing classroom as well as teachers who are lucky to be in an environment where test scores are not an issue. Understanding the mechanisms associated with happiness will shed light on a number of issues that will improve classroom environments as well as the overall quality of life.