The Happiness Advantage (Sean Achor)

The happiness advantage is one of the better books I have read in a very long time.  The basis of the book is that most humans operate on a formula that is taught to us as we grow up. If you work hard, you’ll be successful, and once you are successful, then you’ll be happy. This pattern of belief is copied across a lot of areas of our lives – once I lose 5 kilos, then I’ll be happy – once I get a raise, I’ll be happy etc.


Sean Achor in his book the happiness advantage shows that actually the opposite is true. Happy or positive people actually are more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative and productive, which drives performance.  So happiness is a precursor to success, not a result of it! Sean is a Harvard lecturer who has been studying positive psychology on students and work environments.  He found that the most successful people didn’t look to happiness as some distant reward for their achievements; they capitalize on the positive and find happiness daily. Longitudinal studies have even found that happiness is a strong predictor in success, and also even longer life spans. Some people are obviously more naturally inclined to be positive people, but Sean identifies a number of proven ways that people can improve their moods and raise their levels of happiness through the day. In his book he explores seven principles – the first of which in the happiness advantage.  

  • Mediation  - even spending 5 mins a day watching your breath go in and out can increase feelings of calm and contentment
  • Find something to look forward to – often an enjoyable part of an event is the anticipation. Anticipating future rewards can actually light up the pleasure centers in your brain
  • Commit conscious acts of kindness – this means not thinking back over something nice you did, but rather, making a decision to something nice for someone. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, even a small thing will work.
  • Infuse positivity into your surroundings – pictures of loved ones at your desk, going outside for a walk to get lunch etc these small things will make a difference to your day
  • Exercise – we’ll all head this one before… that’s because it’s tried and true.
  • Spend money (but not on stuff) – studies have shown that money spent on experiences such as concerts, group dinners, nights out, on other people etc have a longer pleasurable effect than material purchases like shoes or even televisions.
  • Exercise a signature strength – knowing what you are good at and incorporating your strengths into your day will give you a burst of positivity.

I will explore the other six principles in upcoming articles… so for today – do something nice for yourself or someone else!

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