Hooray for a friend who recommended The Happiness Advantage, a book by Shawn Achor about the connection between happiness and success. Achor, who became interested in the topic when he worked as a teaching assistant for a Harvard course called “Positive Psychology,” is now a business consultant, so he’s all about success on the job. But there’s no reason his research shouldn’t apply to success in all our endeavors. In the book he based his conclusions on his own study of 1,600 Harvard undergraduates, but also cited work of other positive psychology researchers.
What I appreciate most is that this is not a traditional self-help book that dishes out simplistic sounding advice. Achor uses brain studies to explain how we can get beyond “yellow smiley faces and rainbows.” Dr. Cathy Goodwin, who reviewed the book for amazon.com, said it better than I could. “…it’s packaged in a way that appeals even to left-brained skeptics like me. The author cites research studies to back up each point.”
Over the course of several blogs, I’m going to dribble out what Achor and others have learned, starting with definitions. What do we mean when we say someone is happy? I love the definition by psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, who divides happiness into three segments: “pleasure, engagement, and meaning.” Pleasure is important, but never enough; it needs to be accompanied by meaningful activities that we find fully absorbing. Another positive psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, says the ten most common positive emotions are: “joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.”
Today’s noteworthy tip is that a belief many of us carry around with us — that we will be happy after we achieve success — is mistaken. In fact, the reverse is true: happy people become successful. In other words, happiness starts the ball rolling toward success.