The Happiness Advantage – Book Notes

Happiness Advantage
Shawn Achor

My manager gave us this book for Christmas (he’s an awesome manager and one of the most optimistic people I’ve ever met). He said that this book changed his life and to share this with us.

Happiness gives your brain, and organization, a competitive advantage.  

  • Escaping the cult of the average, if we study merely what is average we will remain merely average.
  • As a society, we know very well how to be unwell and miserable and so little about how to thrive. Society focuses on the negative.
  • Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%
  • Social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.
  • Seven Principles
  1. Happiness Advantage  – happiness gives you a competitive edget
  2. Fulcrum and the Lever – adjust out mindset in a way that gives up power
  3. The Tetris Effect – retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility
  4. Falling Up – finding a mental path that leads up out of failure/suffering
  5. The Zorro Circle – regain control of emotions by focusing first on small, manageable goals and then gradually expaning the circle to achieve bigger ones.
  6. The 20-Second Rule – willpower is limited – make small energy adjustments to reroute the path of least resistance and replace bad habits with good ones
  7. Social Investment – the most successful people invest in their friends, peers, and family members to propel themselves forward.
  • Brain not changing is wrong. Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain is malleable and can change throughout our lives.
  • Brain change is a well known fact.
    1. We have the ability for intellectual and personal growth

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Happiness is the center and success revolves around it. Happiness is relative to the person experiencing it. Happiness is defined as pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. A positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future (pleasure/engagement/meaning).

Happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential. Happiness causes success and achievement, not the other way around. Happiness is not just a mood, it’s a work ethic. You can get better at it.

Find a happiness booster – person activity fit is often just as important as the activity itself.

  • Meditate,
  • Find something to look forward to,
  • commit a conscious act of kindness,
  • infuse positivity into your surroundings,20 min outside is great, less negative TV
  • exercise.
  • Spend money on experiences,
  • exercise a signature strength (everyone is good at something – revisit a talent you haven’t used in a while. – best is exercising a strength of character (www.viasurvey.org) e.g. Love of Learning

By changing the way you work, and the way you lead people around you, you can enhance the success of your team and the whole organization.

Make an effort to adopt a more positive tone and facial expression. Encouragement and recognition should be used to drive high performance.

Losada line – three positive comments/experiences to fend off one negative (at a ratio of 6:1 teams produce their best work).  

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum And The Lever

We can use our brain to change how we process the world , and that changes how we react to it. Our power to maximize our potential is based on two important things:

  1. How much power we believe we have (Lever)
  2. The mindset we use to generate that power (Fulcrum)

“Reality is merely our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on where and how we are observing it. Depending on their mindset, each person experiences the objective reality of time differently.

The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality. (ex: hotel works who lost weight by being primed to do so before hand)

The most successful people adopt a mindset that helps them work longer, harder, and faster than their negative mindset peers.  (Use Lifelines instead of Deadlines) When we reconnect with the pleasure of the “means” as opposed to only the “ends” we adopt a more enjoyable mindset and achieve better results. Learn to enjoy life.

The more you believe in your own ability to succeed, the more likely you will (Obama winning the election improved black students performance). When faced with a difficult task/challenge, focus on the reasons you will succeed.  

Fixed vs. Growth mindset. When we believe there is a positive payoff for our effort, we work harder.

Job vs. Career vs. Calling – people who have a calling feel their work contributes to the greater good, draws on personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose (as a result they are more likely to get ahead). A calling orientation is about mindset rather than the actual work being done (e.g. admin and janitors).

The more we can align our daily tasks with our personal vision, the more likely we are to see work as a calling (e.g. don’t’ say we’re not saving lives here – the fastest way to disengage an employee is to tell them work is only meaningful b/c of paycheck).  You can have the best job in the world, but if you can’t find meaning in it, you won’t enjoy it).

The best managers and leaders view each interaction as an opportunity to prime their employees for excellence. Nonverbal messages can transform into reality (e.g. student and teachers who thought they were special).

Theory X managers – people work b/c you pay them, if you don’t watch them they will stop working.

Theory Y managers – people work for intrinsic motives, they work harder and better when not being ordered around, and that they do it for the satisfaction they receive from good work.

We have to be careful not to have unrealistic expectations about our potential. The heart of the challenge is to stop thinking of the world as fixed when reality is relative.