The Happiness Advantage
Most people and most companies and schools follow this formula: if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy. This formula is scientifically backward. A decade of research shows that training your brain to be positive at work first actually fuels greater success second. In fact, 75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.
Shawn Achor is the bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential. He spent 12 years at Harvard, where he won over a dozen distinguished teaching awards, and delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics.
Shawn has since become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. Shawn has now worked with over a third of the Fortune 100 companies, and with places like the NFL, the Pentagon and the U.S. Treasury. To do his work, Shawn has travelled to 51 countries, speaking to farmers in Zimbabwe, CEOs in China, doctors in Dubai and schoolchildren in South Africa. In 2014, Oprah Winfrey did a two hour interview with Shawn on the science of happiness and meaning. His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular of all time with over 16 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions.
By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn Achor discovered patterns that create a happiness advantage for positive outliers — the highest performers at the company. Based on his book, The Happiness Advantage (September 2010 from Random House), Shawn explained to the NAHC audience what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.
A key to true happiness and success, said Shawn, is “happiness not as pleasure, but as the joy you feel as you move toward your potential” because “joy turns on the brain and improves every single business and personal outcome.”
The problem with self-help books and courses, explained Shawn, is that they are too selfish and focused on yourself only. However, purpose and joy are shared with others in the world. We are more productive, smarter, more creative, and funnier around others. “We need an interconnected pursuit of happiness. We need to pursue happiness together.”
Shawn explained how problems seem more daunting when we attempt to solve them by ourselves. People preparing to climb a mountain by themselves literally perceive the mountain to be taller and steeper than it actually is, while people preparing to climb a mountain with others have a more realistic and, therefore, positive view of the challenge before them.
It is happiness that leads to success, not success leading to happiness. Success does not guarantee happiness because our brains reset for new levels of happiness. Whatever success we have simply whets our appetite for more, our expectations become greater and happiness continues to elude us. The key is to find happiness and that will lead to success.
Shawn’s talk was funny and insightful and he received a well-deserved standing ovation from a packed ballroom of home health and hospice leaders on the final day of the conference.