The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success at Work
Traditionally, most people believe that in order to be successful they must work hard, and once they are successful, they will be happy. Today we have the beliefs that if we can just find that great job or win that promotion, happiness will follow. This theory may be the cause of many people leading unhappy lives. The Happiness Advantage: the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology to Fuel Success at Work by Shawn Achor a psychologist and former professor at Harvard shows how positive psychology research has proven the complete opposite.
Achor provides stories and case studies from his research among many Fortune 500 companies and executives in 42 different countries, to explain how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive to gain a competitive edge at work.
Achor has established seven principles that serve as a foundation to the characteristics of the happiness advantage to show how they can be beneficial to maximizing individual potential.
Happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result… happiness and optimism actually fuels performance and achievement (Achor, 4). Positive psychology researchers conducted over 200 studies on 275,000 people worldwide and found exactly what Shawn depicts in the book, happiness leads to success in nearly every domain including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity and energy. Thus, when people become more positive their brains will become more engaged, creative, motivated energetic, healthier, resilient, and productive.
These seven principles will help individuals overcome obstacles, reverse bad habits, become more efficient and productive, make the most of opportunities, and help conquer the most ambitious goals either in life or in work. The principles include the happiness advantage, the fulcrum and the lever, the Tetris effect, falling up, the Zorro circle, the 20-second rule and social investment. These seven principles are a set of tools that can be used to achieve more out of every day (Achor, 24).
By following the happiness advantage individuals are altering their mindset and behaviors to maximize their potential for the future, essentially changing their work ethic. The reason why individuals are able to change mental state is due to the fact the brain modify itself in response to the actions and circumstances an individual undergoes. The question then becomes will using the principles make a real difference?
The first of Achor’s principles is the happiness advantage. According to the principle there is no single meaning, but happiness is relative to the person experiencing it and is based on how each individual feels about their own lives. The essential take away of this principle is happiness is the center and success revolves around it. When an individual is happy and when their mindset and mood are positive they are smarter, more motivated therefore they will be more successful. Achor gives an activity list of what he called happiness boosters which give a quick boost of positive emotions, but if preformed habitually it has been shown to help permanently raise an individual’s happiness baseline. The boosters include meditation, finding something to look forward to, committing conscious acts of kindness, infusing positivity into surroundings, exercising, and spending money (but not on stuff). By integrating activities such as these boosters in an individual’s life they will notice an enhanced positivity which in turn opens up opportunities for greater achievement. In a work environment a change in one individual can spark a change in among the entire organization and enhance the success as a whole.
The second principle is the fulcrum and the lever, changing your performance by changing your mindset. Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances (Achor, 63). In other words the mental construction of an individual’s daily activities, more than the activity its self, defines our reality. The example used in the book was an experiment on a group of 75 year old men went on a week retreat where they were not allowed to bring pictures, magazines, newspapers, or books dated later than 1959. They were told that for the week they were to pretend as though it was 1959 when the men were 55. Before the retreat the men were tested on physical strength, posture, perception, cognition and short-term memory, after most of the men had improved in every category in addition to their physical appearance (Achor, 66-67). These men are proof that individuals have the power and mindset to form reality and external “reality” is far more flexible then thought to be. “Relativity doesn’t end with mere physics. Every second of our own experience has to be measured through a relative & subjective brain. In other words, “reality” is merely our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on where and how we are observing it. Most important, we can change this perspective at any moment, and by doing so change our experience of the world around us. This is what I mean by moving our fulcrum (Achor, 66).”
The fourth principle is falling up, capitalizing on the downs to build upward momentum. Achor starts the section with an experiment he underwent as an undergraduate he would make $20 for “helping the elderly.” He was asked to attach reflectors to each of his joints and he was given only a pair of tight white bike shorts to wear. The researchers were going to examine how the elderly fall to the ground in order to eventually help senior citizens avoid injuries. He fell about 240 times during the experiment to find out he was not helping the elderly it was a study on motivation and resilience, where they wanted to know how much pain and discomfort an individual could go before they gave up. He actually ended up making $200 dollars for being the longest lasting subject (Achor, 106-107). This study shows that no matter how tough the situation is if an individual mentally stabilizes themselves they can bounce back from adversity. If individuals are able to visualize a failure as an opportunity for growth, they are all the more likely to experience that growth. Robert F. Kennedy said “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” I like this quote because it shows that we are all human failures are acceptable and come as valuable lessons that can promote creative problem solving.
Principle six the 20-second rule, how to turn bad habits into good ones by minimizing barriers to change. An individual asked Shawn “isn’t positive
psychology just common sense?” This was interesting to me yes it maybe common sense but individuals actions may not correlate with what they say. “Even though doctors know better than anyone the importance of exercise and diet, 44 percent of them are overweight (Achor, 146).” Achor has the 20-second rule which implies make good habits easier to accomplish and make the negative habits less accessible. He uses the example of taking the batteries out of the remote and to place them in a draw about 20 feet away and placing a book or laptop on the couch. The results of his study were he didn’t go get the batteries instead he did other activities. It has been proposed that it takes 21 days to make a habit but by using just sheer will power leads to failure. Willpower is ineffective at sustaining change and the more we use it the more worn out it gets. Individuals are drawn to activities that are convenient and easy such as watch television over let’s say a bike ride. This is due to the fact active leisure almost always requires more initial effort. Human nature will take us down the path of least resistance which is why in order to create good habits an individual must put the desired action as close to the path of least resistance. In addition to making these habits a ritual, repeated proactive until the actions become a second nature to the brain.
The last principle is social investment, why social support is your single greatest asset. Researchers sought out characteristics of the happiest 10 percent the only characteristic that distinguished them from everybody else was the strength of their social relationships (Achor, 176). They also shared the correlation between social support and happiness at 0.7 which is a very strong positive correlation between the two. Therefore, the more social support an individual has the happier the individual will be. When an individual is faced with adversity they do not have to take the path alone they can use social support in order to achieve great things. “two heads are better than one… the more socially connected employees feel the more they took the time to figure out ways to improve their own efficiency or skill set (Achor, 184). When individuals feel the need to turn inward in a time of need they should find someone to share the experience with to enhance both happiness and performance.
The last section of the book is the ripple effect. Achor says once we start capitalizing on the happiness advantage in our own lives, the positive changes quickly ripple out, and this is why positive psychology is so powerful. Think about it when an individual yawns and another sees it isn’t natural instinct for that person to mirror the action. The same is true for a smile an individual cannot resist the temptation to smile even when told not to. Since positive emotions are known to be contagious companies can use the theory to boost employee performance by just being happier. “So the happier everyone is around you; the happier you will become (Achor, 200).”
Shawn stated that just reading the book is not enough to make a difference but putting actual focus and effort into the practices of these principles will it result in enormous returns. After reading The Happiness Advantage I found that if I actually put these principles into practice I could change my outlook on life and become a happier person. Maybe even change the happiness in others.
Achor, Shawn. The Happiness Advantage: the seven principles of positive psychology in the work place. New York: Crown Business, 2010.
Cite this Principles of Positive Psychology
Principles of Positive Psychology. (2016, Oct 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/principles-of-positive-psychology/