Book review – The Happiness Advantage

Author: Shawn Achor
2010
288 pages
Virgin Books: UK
ISBN-13 9780753539460Reviewed by Sam Hall-McMaster

The Oxford Dictionary purports that happiness is the state of being happy. Indicative of happiness as an ephemeral emotion, tremendous strides in the field of Positive Psychology are rewriting this definition, imbuing the conjecture that happiness ought to factor as a rapt and integral aspect of human experience. In ‘The Happiness Advantage’, a book pertinent to contemporary mechanisms of success, author Shawn Achor commences by eviscerating the ingrained formula for happiness that assails our optimism and debilitates our productivity.

With luminary diction Achor proffers the erroneous formula as this: “If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy.” Empirical criticisms, derived from the fields of Neuroscience and Psychology, have promulgated the reverse of this formula to be valid; enduring happiness is a precursor to success, not the result of it. The implications of this doctrine are that happiness drives and exaggerates our performance, extrapolating a competitive edge, the Happiness Advantage. Achor’s piece is derived with his immense research of over 1,200 Harvard undergraduates and a myriad of complimentary studies. Structurally the work is divisible into three segments: Positive Psychology at Work, Seven Principals and The Ripple Effect.

Forming a pretext to the principals of inducing and building happiness, ‘The Happiness Advantage’ expounds the ballooning presence of positive psychology; a burgeoning field which is acting to confront traditional presumptions surrounding human achievement and function. One poignant corroboration from Positive Psychology is the malleability of the human mind-set. No one is inherently primed to consider or experience the world monochromatically; the individual is in entire control and hence no individual is caged from the prosperity of the Happiness Advantage. In his explanation of imaginary barriers which seemly govern human limitation, Achor writes: “Just as we can’t know the limit for how fast a human can run or predict which student will grow up to win a Nobel Prize, we still don’t know the limits of our brain’s enormous potential to grow and adapt to changing circumstances. All we know is that this kind of change is possible.” The recognition that neuroplasticity occurs in the brain throughout adulthood assails claims of being ‘wired to be unhappy’, and flagrantly proposes our ability to establish character traits in ourselves and be who we want to be. These unveilings of the brains malleability permit us to effuse our higher degree of consciousness and work to better the self.

‘The Happiness Advantage’ promulgates seven principal of happiness which proliferate positive wellbeing and abate the noxious effects of negativism, inducing a competitive and more fulfilling edge. The principals include refocusing our brain to illuminate patterns of possibility; obtaining leverage to conquer mountainous goals by first channelling our exertions into bite-sized ones; and how social investment spring boards our happiness and our success. ‘The 20-second Rule’ discusses how to reinvent bad habits into good ones by minimising barriers to change. Frequently we adopt the path of least resistance, escalating undesirable trends of activity. Will power, the force characteristically employed to avoid this path, is finite and levels of will power are easily fatigued. This presents penchant risk of non-substantive change, with impetus blow outs that may be more noxious than a modicum of undesirable behaviour. Achor proffers a more effective means of achieving discipline is to: “Lower the activation energy for the habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid … put the desired behaviour on the path of least resistance”. This is a pertinent strategy towards capitalising on the mechanisms of human will power, empowering us to bolster our productivity and reap the dividends of developing meaningful habits.

Human behaviour, which constitutes our beliefs, attitudes and habits, are tremendously contagious, as are positive emotions. The benefit from the Happiness Advantage in one recipient infecting surrounding individuals, serves as a tangible tool in fuelling heightened organisational and group performance. By embellishing the role of positive rapport in work groups, Achor asserts: “… we feel a resonance that not only increases our happiness, but actually makes us more successful and productive. Workers in rapport think more creatively and efficiently, and teams in rapport perform at higher levels”. In adopting the Happiness Advantage we imbue our worlds with positivity and make success greater in prominence than negativism. With slowly burgeoning happiness we contribute to a purposeful humanity and set forth a shift from formidable to sanguine illustrations of our human condition. The Happiness Advantage is one which will upsurge our potentiality to resolve our accenting conflictions.

Published on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011, under Announcements

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