October 14th, 2017

Positive Psychology and the Happiness Advantage

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Society’s formula for happiness and success is broken. That’s what Shawn Achor – positive psychology researcher, corporate speaker, and bestselling author – states in his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. In our society, hard work brings success, and success brings happiness.

However, judging from other’s experiences – and, perhaps, including your own – this doesn’t seem to be the case. And recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have confirmed what you may have suspected all along: happiness brings success.

Reversing the Formula for Happiness and Success

Imagine, for instance, that you are working for a top, well-known company. The hiring process is known to be extremely competitive, but despite the fierce competition, you were selected.

Yet, even so, you’re unsatisfied. Although your role in the company is alright, you won’t be happy until you’ve received that big promotion or landed that top position. Then you’ll feel happy. Then you’ll feel successful.

But in the midst of this, you’ve forgotten one important thing: being hired by this company was supposed to make you happy. During your job search, weren’t you thinking that you’d finally be happy once you secured a job? What happened? What changed?

With our current formula, each time you achieve success, you change the standard of success. Suddenly, your job at that top company doesn’t look so great anymore – you want a better one. But if you keep placing happiness on the other side of success, then you will never get there. And, eventually, the whole thing becomes a tireless race to happiness.

Thankfully, there is a better way. The keys to happiness can be found when you reverse the formula: if you put happiness before success, then you will end up with more happiness and greater success rates.

The Happy Brain

Our brains work in the opposite order. Raising your positivity in the present moment will allow your brain to experience a “Happiness Advantage”, and a positive brain performs significantly better than a brain that’s neutral, negative, or stressed. When you’re happy, your intelligence, creativity, and energy levels rise.

Your happiness is actually determined by the way your brain perceives your surroundings – even though it may feel like the opposite is true. Dopamine, the “happiness chemical”, rushes throughout your entire system whenever you’re feeling positive, switching on all the learning centers in your brain and making you happier. This makes it much easier to adapt to the world and view it in a different way.

The key is to find ways to be happy in the present moment, which will help you work harder, faster, more intelligently, and with heightened passion. By changing the way your brain views the world, you can mold and reshape your reality – and make it even better.

Make Positivity a Habit

Achor details seven practical, actionable principles to help you capitalize on your Happiness Advantage, including:

  • The Tetris Effect: retraining your brain to identify patterns of possibility and opportunity;
  • The Zorro Circle: channeling your efforts towards smaller, more manageable, goals before gradually conquering larger ones; and
  • Social Investment: investing in and reaping the dividends of your most vital happiness and success predictor – your social support network.

It’s important to understand, though, that adopting a positive mindset will not happen instantly; adopting new habits can be difficult. But it’s encouraging to know that habits can easily be learned with a bit of practice and sustained effort.

You need to train your brain to be positive, just like you train your body through physical exercise. For the next 21 days, challenge yourself with an experiment. Rewire your brain with one of the five daily activities below and make positivity a habit:

  1. Three Gratitudes. Every day, write down three new things that you’re grateful for. This causes your brain to retain a pattern of scanning the world for positive things first.
  2. Journaling. Write for two minutes each day, describing one positive experience you had. This allows your brain to relive that wonderful experience.
  3. Exercise. Engage in physical activity for ten minutes a day. This teaches your brain that your behaviour matters, which prepares you for success.
  4. Meditation. Meditate for two minutes each day, focusing on your breath. This calms your brain, decreases stress levels, and raises happiness.
  5. Random Acts of Kindness. Every morning, make it a habit to write one quick email to either thank or praise a team member. This significantly increases your feelings of social support.

Be Happy Now

Reverse the formula, and turn your happiness into a success advantage. In your pursuit of happiness, you’ll experience even greater success – and feel amazing while doing it.