After recently devouring Janice Kaplan’s The Gratitude Diaries and writing a 3-part blog series on Gratitude on my personal blog, I came across The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, an International Bestseller by Shawn Achor. Naturally, I dove right in. And if I had any doubts on his findings and insights (which I didn’t – who can argue with science! Or Oprah…she’s a huge fan!), Achor’s 12-minute TED Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work sealed the deal. Not to mention, established my first Ted Talk Crush. But I digress.
Achor’s lighthearted yet enlightening talk starts with a charming story of him, at 7 years old, pushing his 5-year-old sister, Amy, off a bunk bed in the middle of a G.I. Joe vs. My Little Pony war. In an attempt to stop her from crying (and more importantly, to avoid getting in trouble by waking his napping parents who would discover an injured child), he convinces Amy that she landed from the bunk bed just like a baby unicorn would land – so she must be a baby unicorn. Without shedding a tear she continues to play excitedly and embraces her newly found identity. Achor didn’t know it at the time, but that bunk bed incident was his first brush with Positive Psychology – paving the way for a lifelong passion including hundreds of studies and indisputable research findings about the benefits of Happiness.
While I truly enjoy sharing insights I gain from books, articles, and lectures in forums such as this LinkedIn post, this time, I’m doing so with some additional ammunition behind me in the form of science. Achor writes: “Extraordinarily, recent research exploring the role of social networks in shaping human behavior has proven that much of our behavior is literally contagious; that our habits, attitudes, and actions spread through a complicated web of connections to infect those around us.” So I’ll consider this piece my way of spreading positive vibes today.
While The Happiness Advantage is divided into 7 Principles, I’m sharing 5 pieces of wisdom I found particularly valuable. There is certainly more where these came from. In fact, as I write this piece, I’m part way through Achor’s other book, a New York Times Bestseller, Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change.
So here goes…5 ideas we can all embrace to be happier and more productive at work and in life.
Happiness leads to success, not the other way around
“For untold generations, we have been led to believe that happiness orbited around success. That if we work hard enough, we will be successful, and only if we are successful will we become happy. Success was thought to be the fixed point of the work universe, with happiness revolving around it. Now, thanks to breakthroughs in the burgeoning field of positive psychology, we are learning that the opposite is true. When we are happy – when our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.”
Infuse positivity into your surroundings
“People who flank their computers with pictures of loved ones aren’t just decorating – they’re ensuring a hit of positive emotion each time they glance in that direction. Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in the good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory.”
Change your perspective, change your fate
“You’ve probably heard the oft-told story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in the early 1900s to assess opportunities. They wired separate telegrams back to their boss. One read: ‘Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.’ The other read: ‘Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet.’ The point, of course, is that when some people meet adversity, they simply stop looking for ways to turn failures into opportunities or negatives into positives. Others – the most successful among us – know that it’s not the adversity itself, but what we do with it that determines our fate.”
Believe in yourself – science says so!
“The more you believe in your own ability to succeed, the more likely it is that you will. This may seem like overly inspirational hokum to some. But the last few decades have seen an explosion of serious science to support it. Studies show that simply believing we can bring about positive change in our lives increases motivation and job performance; that success, in essence, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
Human connection is essential for survival…and thriving
“We have such a biological need for social support, our bodies can literally malfunction without it. For instance, lack of social contact can add 30 points to an adult’s blood pressure reading….Every time you cross the office threshold, you have an opportunity to form or strengthen a high-quality connection. When traveling down busy corridors, greet colleagues you cross paths with, and remember to look them in the eye. This isn’t just for show; neuroscience has revealed that when we make eye contact with someone, it actually sends a signal to the brain that triggers empathy and rapport.”
Next on my reading list:
Have a great book or article suggestion on the subject of Happiness or Positive Psychology? Please spread the love…after all, science says it’s good for us!