The Happiness Advantage | Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor is a book I’ve read twice and bought the CD’s for the audio book and listened to it twice while driving to and from work.  My fascination with Shawn’s works started when I watched his Ted talk and was taken by Shawn and his work.  If you have 12 minutes, I strongly recommend you listen to Shawn’s Ted talk.  Shawn is bright, very funny and extremely informative.  In his talk, he talks about how

  • the external world only predicts 10% of your long-term happiness
  • 90% of your long-term is predicted by the way your brain processes the world
  • 25% of your job success can be predicted by IQ
  • 75% of job success is predicted by optimism levels, social support and ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat
  • your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative neutral or stress;  when positive, your intelligence rises, creativity rises and your energy level rises.  Every single business outcome improves.
  • You can train your brain to be more positive.

After listening to his presentation several times and sharing it with my family and employees, I bought the book, the Happiness Advantage.  Shawn does an excellent jot presenting many great ideas and the research supporting them.  These are just a few that

—  Brains grow and change depending on how we use them

  • taxicab drivers in London have significantly larger hippocampi (the part of the brain dedicated to spatial memory) than the average person
  • blind person’s brain lights up many more parts of his brain when his right index finger is touched (the one he uses to read Braille) compared to his left index finger.
  • One’s mindset strongly affects one’s physical reaction:  75-year-old men who lived as if it were 20 years earlier for one week (their surroundings were changed and they talked as if it were 20 years earlier) showed meaningful improvement in physical strength, posture, perception, cognition, and short-term memory
  • Half of the cleaning staff at 7 different hotels lost weight when told how much exercise they were getting through cleaning compared with the other half who were not told
  • placebos are 55-60% effective
  • Students highly allergic to poison ivy developed a rash when a harmless plant was rubbed on their arm when they were told it was poison ivy
  • Students highly allergic to poison ivy did not develop a rash when poison ivy was rubbed on their arm when they were told it was a harmless plant

—  Being positive significantly improves results

  • positive emotions broaden the possibilities we see, making us more thoughtful and creative (whereas negative emotions narrow our thoughts — think fight or flight)
  • positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin — chemicals that open up learning centers of the brain
  • positive 4-year-old children put together puzzles faster
  • positive doctors correctly diagnosed illnesses faster
  • Marcial Losada’s research shows that 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate teams successful

—  You can change your mindset, for example, by changing your counterfact

  • imagine you are in a bank during a bank robbery and you are shot in the arm and the only person to get shot:  are you lucky or unlucky?  you may consider yourself lucky (because you could have been killed) or unlucky (because you could have been safe at home during the robbery).  Your counterfact (you could have been…) determines whether you consider yourself lucky or unlucky.  Since you make up the counterfact, you can change it to make yourself feel fortunate

—  You can train your brain to be more positive

  • meditate
  • write down 3 gratitudes (things you are grateful for) every day for 3 weeks
  • keep a journal and journal about one thing each day that went well
  • find something to look forward to — one study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie raised their endorphin levels by 27%
  • commit conscious acts of kindness
  • exercise — physical exercise releases endorphins
  • exercise a signature strength  – do something that uses one of your strengths
  • infuse positivity into your surroundings — flank your computer with pictures of loved ones
  • social activity – spending money on experiences, especially those with other people, produces positive emotions that are meaningful and long-lasting

There are so many great ideas in this book.  Shawn does an outstanding job showing the importance of being positive, the effect of being positive and how to be more positive.


  • Nathan S. Gibson

    Nathan S. Gibson is an independent worker compliance business partner who provides expertise and creative solutions to enhance workforce flexibility and maintain compliance. He helps mitigate the risks associated with the misclassification of self-employed consultants, freelancers and independent contractors.

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