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Book Review: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Happiness AdvantageThe Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

I am a self-admitted self-help junkie and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor is like those first few drops of rain after a hot week – refreshing and welcomed. Personally, I have found that work places are perceived as places to escape from and we seem to think that we’re clever in how we do that. Vacation, sick days, personal days, quitting.

Try taking a different approach to work – My mindset is that I’m there for a third of my day anyway, might as well make it great. That mindset has paid off. I love going to work. I love my job (and no, not just the people). Yes, I admittedly get frustrated, annoyed, and flabbergasted sometimes. It’s about 5% of the time. As with Shawn’s research, it has taken me years (not decades, I’m not old enough for that yet) to figure out happiness at work. I’m excited to share this book with you because it is based in science.

Bill Nye It's Science

Why is this book great?

  1. Accessibility – the language is plain, the actions are clear and manageable.
  2. Stories – there is a healthy smattering of relevant tales throughout.
  3. Actionable! – Bring each of the principles to life in a series of small actions.
  4. Acknowledges the human factor – written by a human, for humans. Not just those with big brains.

“Person-activity fit” is often just as important as the activity itself…Find a personally tailored substitute instead. (pg 51)

Achor expands on seven principles as methods for gaining the Happiness Advantage for yourself, if they work for you. However, if you try them and they don’t jive with your mojo, it’s okay. It’s a starting point. For me, yoga rocks my socks and my hubby thinks it’s awkward and breathing in a specific way is weird. Instead, he prefers to play strategy games. Find your thang.

The Seven Principles and My Findings

Dicing up the big idea of happiness into seven principles makes the idea of achievement much more real:

  1. The Happiness Advantage

    The Zorro Circle

    The Zorro Circle

  2. The Fulcrum and Lever
  3. The Tetris Effect
  4. Falling Up
  5. The Zorro Circle
  6. The 20-Second Rule
  7. Social Investment

First, readers can consume this book in bits. Achor writes for the average person and encourages taking a break from section to section allows for digestion of the material. I find that I get the most from self-help books when I take the time to read, relax, perceive and action.

Second, readers are encouraged to experiment, which I love to do. I personally tried The Tetris Effect and The 20 Second Rule. I’m still using them a month after reading this book and am seeing results. That is exciting for me. Here’s what I did:

The Tetris Effect:

One great way to train your brain to look for the positives is to practice reciting or recording gratitude’s. The best practice is to ritualize the task, choosing a daily time to stop and record or recite the things you’re grateful for. (p.102)

I started a ritual of taking two minutes during my morning routine to write down what I am thankful for in four areas of my life:

  1. Life – the grand, overarching narrative that I walk through every day.
  2. Career – the recording of my contribution to others. I include my writing career and my personal endeavours to help in here.
  3. Job – the tasks I do at work, the people I work with, the relationships I have in the workplace, the initiatives I’m involved in.
  4. Relationship – the intimate relationship I share with my hubby.

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Personally, the afterimage is real. I discover more positive experiences throughout my day, I am more patient and calm with others and I smile each time I think then write what I am thankful for.

The 20 Second Rule:

If we can lower barriers to activation for positive activities, we can begin to form habits. Likewise, if we raise barriers to activation for negative activities, we can break those habits. (p.154)

Essentially, “make it easy to go right and hard to go wrong” (Gretchen Rubin). After clearing this experiment with the hubby, I moved our PS4 controllers across the house, about 15 seconds away from the living room, in an effort to curb my Netflix/Anime/TV habit. I placed books in the living room instead and within a few days, I was reading more. The controllers haven’t made it back into the living room and I’m more productive for it.

This principle is fun to try in other areas too! I aim to be focused in whatever work I am doing and my phone is a major distraction to that. So, I turned off all notifications except for phone calls, installed an app called BreakFree. The app tracks your unlocks, blocks notifications and alerts you after you’ve been using your phone for a preset amount of time. After tracking for two weeks, I have noticed habits of mine. For example, I will check my phone a LOT if I’m bored. I also don’t miss those Facebook, Instagram, email and other notifications. Nothing has been so pressing that it can’t be attended to in 20 minutes or more.

At the end of the day…

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for ways to better themselves. It is so important to find useful information and methods that answer why and whether it will work. I would find something within the book that speaks to me, try it out and see if it works. I sincerely believe that what you get out of this book is truly going to be the effort that you put into finding with works for you.