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The Happiness Advantage
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Listen in 20 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage

The seven principles that fuel happiness and success

Being happy is a mindset, and allows us to achieve success and reach our goals, both at home and at work. We can learn to be happy, because it is an attitude. In his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor describes these principles through research studies, direct experiences, evidence, and practical examples. He also provides a number of simple exercises we can all practise, in order to change our mindset and be happier.

The Happiness Advantage
Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.

Our society is all too familiar with suffering, but we still haven’t quite figured out how to be happy

Sometimes it seems like the world has been hit by a pandemic of unhappiness. The rate of depression today is ten times higher than it was in 1960. What’s more, fifty years ago, the onset of depression began on average at the age of 29; today, statistically, it starts at 14. 

In order to understand what has gone wrong, it is important to take a step back, and analyse the mistakes traditional psychology has made. The first was defined by Tal Ben-Shahar, also known as the professor of happiness, as the “error of the average”, which focussed only on average results as a way of understanding human behaviour as a whole. In the long term, this method led to what is known in behavioural science as “the cult of mediocrity”, which completely ignored any behaviour or result that fell outside a specific, average range. In this way, study programmes, for example, were geared towards average students, ignoring others who were able to learn something in a shorter time, or those who needed more help. Yet focussing only on average results meant that, generation after generation, mediocrity became the goal, creating an inevitable vicious circle. The second mistake was to focus on negativity, in other words, on those who fell below average. The reason behind it was understandable: these people needed more help to reach a level considered normal. However, in trying to bridge the gap between below average and normal, the best possible outcome was, in fact, just average. Moreover, continuously focussing on the negative distorts our vision, and makes us believe that our lives will be nothing but suffering, and that there is nothing we can do about it. For this reason, in 1998, the then-president of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman, stressed the need to also study what worked, not just what was broken. This was the beginning of what would later become known as positive psychology.


The key ideas of "The Happiness Advantage"

Our society is all too familiar with suffering, but we still haven’t quite figured out how to be happy
Positive psychology reverses the persistent belief that happiness comes as a result of success
Change is possible: a person is not simply the result of their genes, and can change the things they don’t like about their attitude
There are seven key techniques of positive psychology we need to use, in order to develop our potential and achieve success
Happiness gives people, and companies, an edge over the rest
The principle of changing our mindset to improve performance is based on Archimedes’ Formula
It is important to find a purpose in our work, otherwise we will never enjoy it
To be able to seize any opportunity, we must escape from the Tetris Effect
On the path to happiness, we are the masters of our own fate
Humans are social animals: having a network of supportive relationships is critical to being happy
Take-home message
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