The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
Author: Shawn Achor
Publisher: Currency
Published: 6/5/2018
Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we'll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

About the Author

Shawn Achor, born March 9, 1978, is an American author and speaker widely known for his positive psychology advocacy. He spent twelve years at Harvard University where he graduated magna cum laude and earned a Masters from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. Achor has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. He authored The Happiness Advantage (2010), Before Happiness (2013), and founded GoodThink, Inc. His research on mindset made the cover of Harvard Business Review. His TED talk is one of the most popular with over 13 million views. His Happiness Advantage training is one of the largest and most successful positive psychology corporate training programs in the world. In 2014, he did a two-hour interview with Oprah at her house to discuss the science of happiness. Achor has also worked with over a third of the Fortune 100 companies, and with places like the NFL, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Treasury.


You shouldn’t expect to become happier after you gain success. Become happier first in order to gain more success. If you’re sitting around complacent and not working to achieve your goals, do not be surprised if you don’t have the best mood. The Happiness Advantage is about approaching the world with optimism versus being consumed by ideas that situations will not work out in our favor. In the words of Achor, changing our language of “failure” to “growth potential moments” can impact our lives for the better.


-The Happiness Advantage encourages readers to focus on small goals to control the amount of time and effort required to create positive change.

-Happiness comes before success—one should not wait to become successful in order to become happier.

-The happier and more positive a person is, the more motivated and efficient he or she can become.


Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage

-Achor believes happiness is achieved when we strive after our goals, which makes happiness more than a mood but also a work ethic.

-Positive emotions give us more options to handle difficult situations instead of simply fighting through the challenges or leaving.

-Happiness offers a competitive advantage and can be achieved through meditation and exercise as well as encouragement from employers, colleagues, friends, and family members.

Principle #2: The Fulcrum and the Lever

-The fulcrum and the lever is a seesaw metaphor. The lever is the bar that can be pulled up or down depending on the weight stacked on top of it. The fulcrum is below the lever and helps to stabilize or balance a seesaw.

-Achor writes that our ability to make the most of our potential depends on the length of our lever (how much power we believe we have when faced with troubling circumstances) and the position of the fulcrum (our mindset to make positive changes to help balance out our efforts to face challenges).

-Our brains often act on what we predict will happen next, which is called ‘Expectancy Theory.’ However, we must not expect the worst. Happiness requires that we reprogram our thinking from negativity to positivity.

 Principle #3: The Tetris Effect

- Expecting negative outcomes can result in higher stress levels and lowers the motivation to achieve goals.

- If you expect positive outcomes, you can appreciate the work it will take to achieve those outcomes.

-Creating a list of three good things that happened to you within a day can allow you to see more potentially positive situations.

Principle #4: Falling Up

-Achor explains the idea of “falling up” so that failure can be seen as moments to spark progress.

- “Falling up” can lead to adversarial growth which occurs when difficult situations are interpreted in a more positive light.

-Overlearning occurs when the lesson learned from one situation is applied to all situations because a person has not developed more tools to handle challenges. Happiness can result in more creative solutions to handle difficult situations.

Principle #5: The Zorro Circle

- Achieving smaller goals can allow us to work our way up to achieving bigger goals—Achors calls this “drawing circles in the sand.”

-People who believe that their actions impact their outcomes are more successful.

- Those who can articulate their feelings in words are often able to recover from negative emotions more quickly.

Principle #6 The 20-Second Rule

-The 20-second rule is about replacing bad habits with good habits.

-In physics, it takes about 20 seconds to activate energy after experiencing a period of inactivity. That same energy to move from no movement to movement is needed for people to take on positive habits.

-Reducing the amount of effort used to perform activities unrelated to your main goals and increasing the hours spent completing tasks related to those goals can foster the positive change needed to achieve success.

Principle #7 Social Investment

-Happiness depends on having positive social interactions.

-Thousands of professional men and women were interviewed and the majority claimed that their work friendships helped them achieve success.

-Brief positive conversations among coworkers can decrease stress, enhance motivation, and improve employee performance.


-Actions have been scientifically proven to be contagious being that our actions, attitudes, and moods impact those around us.

-Buffering your brain from negativity keeps you in a space to be more positively influential.

-Making one positive behavioral change can influence others to believe that change is possible and that happiness is a choice.


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