There is often a misconception about what will truly make someone happy. “If I get a promotion I will be happy,” “If I lose weight I will be happy.” “If I am successful I will be happy.” But what if this was all wrong; backwards. What if the key to being happy wasn’t being successful, but reversed? If you could just achieve your goal, right out of reach that it would be the key to your happiness. And yet how many times have you finally reached that goal, only to be left wanting more or left with a sense of dissatisfaction, and you aren’t sure why. I’m sure in many ways we have all felt or believed one of these concepts. The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, completely takes this concept and turns it upside down.
Through years of positive psychology research, Shawn Achor has studied the correlation between success, happiness and a positive attitude. Achor introduces 7 principles to increase happiness, which influence success and career achievement. He also discusses how these principles spill into other areas of life and contribute to living a happier, more productive life. One of the my favorite focuses of this book is the power of the positive mindset, and how a positive outlook can give an individual a competitive edge personally and professionally. Maintaining a positive mindset takes training and practice, and although Achor offers a variety of different techniques to help increase positive mindset, one of my favorite involves having employees (or any individual) focus finding a minimum of one, preferably three, highlights of their workweek. Taking the small amount of time each day to find a positive event, helps train your brain to look towards the positive; when your brain is developing a habit of looking for the positive it helps filter out the negative and create a more optimistic outlook. This concept aligns with essentially the 5 Min Journal, and focusing on gratitude to influence your outlook. Though it may be phrased a number of different ways, focusing on highlights, gratitude, or personal achievements, developing this habit is a great way to train your brain to constantly be searching for the bright side.
Some may argue, that constantly searching for the positive, and filtering out the negative may be maladaptive. However, this is simply untrue. Focusing our minds and intention on the positive helps us create a more optimistic outlook. Achor explains optimism becomes defective when it causes us to grossly overestimate our abilities; Meaning, my positive outlook helps me become a happier individual, confident in my successes. This optimism only becomes a bad thing, when perhaps I think my singing in the car should be for public consumption.
Another interesting aspect of this book is the importance of social interactions to increase happiness, therefore increasing productivity and success. One would think that chatting around the water cooler would decrease productivity; however small purposeful breaks allow you to de-stress and decompress leading to more efficient work. Corporations like Google are known for their innovative ways to increase employee happiness, which leads to increase work and life satisfaction and success. Companies like this understand the significance of happy employees and social constructs in the work environment. We are greatly influenced by the people we surround ourselves with, and this includes our coworkers. Positive social interactions lead to increased optimism, which influences those around us. An attitude can be contagious, either positively or negatively; Choose Happiness.
Our potential for success and habits much depends upon the habits we put in place for ourselves. And to develop these habits, we must put systems into place to set us up for success. If you want to wake up early and go to the gym, get out your clothes the night before, or even sleep in them, to take any needed decision making out of the matter. If you want to eat healthy, plan your meals ahead, and grocery shop for only what fits into your healthy lifestyle. But these potential habits go beyond just physical health, you can develop them for your mental health and productivity too. Achor explains in great detail, the importance of removing too many choices, as will power can be exhausted. Because willpower can be exhausted, developing a habit is crucial to creating lasting, positive effects. Additionally, the more you succeed in developing this habit the greater the sense of control you feel. This greater sense of control, mastery of fate, is one of the strongest drivers of well-being and performance, and thus increases overall happiness.
In one of my favorite lines from the book, Achor writes, “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it’s the belief that we can.” Everyday we all grow and change; this book helps provide a framework for how we can take that change and create positive lasting effects in our lives. Change can increase our happiness. Change can lead to success; Change can and should be a positive experience.