Book Review: The Happiness Advantage

October 16, 2016
Wally Bock
Media Appearances

When I was coming up we thought the process was simple. You worked really hard and sacrificed today so that you would be happy in some distant tomorrow. When you imagine the process that way, you develop two beliefs about work and happiness.

The first one is that what makes you happy are the rewards of work. But the problem is that those rewards are almost all hygiene factors. They’re pay and benefits and other things that quickly lose their power to make you happy.

The other belief is that the hard work precedes happiness. That one’s wrong, too, but it took those wonderful positive psychology researchers to make the case.

Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work brings the research together to make two points.

You can be happy now. You don’t have to wait until “someday.” Even more important, he describes how being happy today is more likely to make you more successful. Yep, you heard that right. Shawn Achor covers the research and its implications throughout the book. Another writer, Jeff Sutherland, described the same research and benefits this way:

“Happy people sell more stuff, make more money, cost less, are less likely to leave their jobs, are healthier, and live longer. Or as a 2005 paper that did a meta-analysis of some 225 papers with over 275,000 participants put it: Happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity, and, in particular, our jobs, careers, and businesses.”

The big reason you should read this book is that it deals with happiness in the workplace and career, as well as happiness as a general concept. Achor uses seven “principles.”

Principle one is “The Happiness Advantage.” It includes Achor’s own definition of happiness.

“For me, happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential.”

This principle also includes the basic psychology and ways to increase your own happiness and the happiness of others.

“The Fulcrum and the Lever” is principle two. It’s about changing your performance by changing your mindset. You’ll have to read the chapter to discover what Archimedes has to do with this.

Next is “The Tetris Effect.” It’s about how to teach your brain to scan for and concentrate on the positive. It turns out that those motivational speakers were right, a positive mental attitude can be a great thing.

You’ve heard of “falling down.” Well, principle four is “Falling Up. This principle will introduce you to “Post Traumatic Growth” and turning bad events into growth opportunities.

Principle five, “The Zorro Circle,” is about learning, mastering and expanding our circle of control. More importantly, for most of us, there are lessons here about how to regain control when we succumb to our primitive instincts and act like a jerk.

The next chapter is “The 20 Second Rule.” It’s about how to turn bad habits into good ones by reducing the barriers to change. The economist Richard Thaler likes to say that if you want people to do something, you should make it easy. Achor applies this to changes that you want to make. In this chapter you’ll learn about “Activation Energy.”

Principle seven is “Social Investment.” Think of the happiest people you know. I’ll bet they’re the ones with lots of friends and other relationships. That’s not news. But Achor connects this to the real world, especially at work. Here’s a money quote from this chapter.

“In the midst of challenges and stress at work, nothing is more crucial to our success than holding on to the people around us. Yet when the alarm bells at work go off, all too often we become blind to this reality and try to go it alone; and as a result we end up like I did, circling helplessly at some dead-end corner until we run out of air.”

Bottom Line

If you want to be happy and successful, and you’d just as soon not wait for “someday,” then you should buy and read The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. Don’t stop there. Make the commitment and take the time to put what’s here to work. Your life and career will be better for it.

More From Wally Bock

Individual Contributor to Manager: Advice and Resources

The Practice of Gratitude

3 Things I Wish I Had Learned Sooner

In addition to writing the Three Star Leadership blog, Wally Bock is an author, ghostwriter, writing coach and book doctor. In his past lives he has run a small publishing company, been a popular keynote speaker to audiences around the world, and served as a U. S. Marine. He loves good beer, good friends, and good stories.

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