The Happy Secret of Success

Some people are able to change and improve their lives.  Others seem to be stuck.  What makes the difference? Shawn Achor addresses this question in his book, Before Happiness, and in a TED Talk “The Happy Secret to Better Work.”

He describes a significant difference in people’s abilities to visualize the possibilities of change. Achor explains, “Before somebody can make a change to their health and their happiness, their brain has already constructed a picture of reality in which change is possible or not. Basically, this predicts whether or not they’ll be able to make that change.”

His research demonstrates that such changes are not age related.  He documents deliberate changes in people of all ages from 4 through 84 years old.

In a related TED Talk, “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance” he describes his studies of traits common to outstanding performers.  He claims that external circumstances account for only 10% of long term happiness, and 90% is related to how you respond to those circumstances.  You can become happier and more successful than you currently are by reframing your perspective and thus influencing your effectiveness in the world.

Addressing success at work, he estimates that 25% results from one’s intelligence, and 75% is contingent on such factors as one’s confidence level, social support networks, and ability to see stress as a challenge rather than a threat.  

He claims our dominant model for success is backwards.  Most people say, “If I work harder I’ll be more successful, and if I’m more successful then I’ll be happier.” Although this belief undergirds much of our parenting styles and employee management techniques, it is actually scientifically broken and backward.

For one, success on these terms is unachievable.  Once we reach a goal, the objective retreats to the next goal and thus our brains never get to experience the feeling of success or happiness.  He describes this as “pushing happiness over the cognitive horizon.”

Secondly, his research demonstrates that our brains operate in the reverse order.  Happy brains operate significantly better than negative, neutral or stressed brains.  When we are in a happy state, we are more intelligent, creative and more energetic then when we are burdened or anxious. Achor describes this “Happiness Advantage” as improving every measurable business outcome such as sales, productivity, workplace attendance, and teamwork.

How can we improve our happiness first so as to achieve better success?  He summarizes the research of other social scientists demonstrating that a number of daily practices directly correlate with increased happiness, including:  inventorying gratitude each day, journaling things that are going well, physical exercise, loving-kindness meditation, and conscious acts of kindness.  

He claims to have demonstrated that such exercises performed for 20 minutes a day over 21 consecutive days actually rewire the operations in our brain and increase our overall happiness and success.

To see Shawn Achor’s TED Talk: “The Happiness Advantage” CLICK HERE

To see his TED Talk: “The Happy Secret to Better Work” CLICK HERE

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