In the last few years I have listened to some great lectures by Shawn Achor, author of the best-selling book “The Happiness Advantage.”
Anchor has researched and lectured on positive psychology at Harvard University, Yale University, and the Institute for Applied Positive Research. At Harvard, he won more than a dozen distinguished teaching awards; his classes were always filled to capacity and were in fact the most popular classes on campus.
Curious to learn why so many bright and successful students wanted to take his happiness classes, he began living in the dorms with first-year students and counseling them. What he saw was that students were elated the first week of school, but by the third week a great many students were stressed out and depressed as they began worrying about the competition, workload, and other hassles of college life.
When Achor himself was a student at Harvard, the thrill of getting into the great school never left him, and he remained joyful and inspired. He wondered why these students were so unhappy. What he discovered was that a person’s happiness could not be predicted by looking at their external world, but rather, by what was going on internally—that is, how they perceived the world around them. This led him to realize that changing the way we perceive happiness and success allows us to change our reality.
Achor has traveled to over sixty countries and found that most of the schools and businesses he worked with all teach the following formula for success: “If I work harder I will be more successful and if I am more successful, then I will be happy.”
Achor says this formula is flawed and untrue for the following reasons:
Whenever you have a success, the goalpost for success moves and now you have a new goal for what will make you happy and feel successful in life. Get good grades you want better grades, a good house you want a bigger house, a good job you want a better one with more pay.
The definition of success, then, is always changing, and if it’s always changing you can never feel successful—or happy.
“The real problem,” says Achor, “is that our brains work in the opposite order.” That is, if you feel good and are happy, you will be more successful. The key is to raise a person’s positivity in the present, causing the brain to experience what Achor calls “The Happiness Advantage.”
According to Achor, studies show that when people are positive they perform significantly better than when they are neutral, negative, or stressed. Productivity increases 31%, sales people perform 37% better, and doctors are 19% more accurate and faster coming up with correct diagnoses. Also, when we are positive, stress is reduced, creativity is enhanced, intelligence increases and energy levels rise.
And there is an extra perk to happiness. Body inflammation goes down, heart-rate normalizes, antibodies increase and we can add years to our lives.
So how do we reverse the formula and create happiness before success? That will be discussed in Part 2 …