If you are an avid reader, you no doubt have a few books on your ‘to read’ list that were published several years ago. I know I do. Whenever I finish one book, I peruse my ‘to read’ list and decide on one that ‘speaks’ to me at the time. More often than not, though, I find myself ditching those on the list for something newer, fresher. Something on the NYTimes Bestseller list. I’m not sure why this happens. Maybe I think that these topics are old hat now that we’re just 360 days beyond their publishing date. Or that there are ‘cooler’ topics to explore. Maybe that’s why I find it refreshing when I actually commit to one of the books on my personal ‘to read’ list.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor is one such book. It was published over 4 years ago but I just got around to finishing it last week.

The book’s “mission” is to dispel the myth that we’ll all just be happier when we’re successful. You see examples of this idea all of the time (probably too much, actually). A friend thinks he will be happy only when he earns 20% more than he does now. A coworker says she’ll be happy when she buys the car that she’s had her eye on for 2+ years. And as many believe near the onset of every New Year, one will only truly be happily satisfied once he or she loses 10 pounds. Sure, this might be a form of goal setting but Achor’s book posits the opposite: that you can only be successful once you define your own sense of happiness. Achor’s book would say to your friend, your coworker, and the “resolutioner” that being happier will enable you to earn more than you thought you would, that you will just want another new car in a few years once you get the next one, and that you can most definitely be happy even with those 10 lbs.

He writes, “We now know that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement–giving us the competitive edge that I call the Happiness Advantage”. Happiness isn’t the reward, but the fuel for success.

Delaying happiness until something seemingly huge happens in your life isn’t the way that the most successful people have lived their lives it turns out. (Novel concept, huh?)

Achor discuses 7 main principles in The Happiness Advantage:

  1. Happiness Advantage
  2. The Fulcrum and the Lever
  3. The Tetris Effect
  4. Falling Up
  5. The Zorro Circle
  6. The 20-Second Rule
  7. Social Investment

There are some concepts in The Happiness Advantage that seem so ‘obvious’ and true. I thought I’d share them with you here and let you consider them for yourself:

The ‘Obvious Truths’ Hidden in The Happiness Advantage:

  • “What we spend our time and mental energy focusing on can indeed become our reality.”
  • “People who expressed more positive emotions while negotiating business deals did so more efficiently and successfully than those who were more neutral or negative.”
  • “Happiness is not just a mood–it’s a work ethic.”
  • “While we of course can’t change reality through sheer force of will alone, we can use our brain to change how we process the world, and that in turn changes how we react to it. Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative.”
  • “The fastest way to disengage an employee is to tell him his work is meaningful only because of the paycheck.”
  • “Sure, simply believing we can fly won’t set us aloft. Yet if we don’t believe, we have no chance of ever making it off the ground. And, as science has shown, when we believe we can do more and achieve more (or when others believe it for us), that is often the precise reason we do achieve more.”

Is there a book that you’ve been meaning to pick up for awhile?

Are there situations where you find yourself thinking, “I’ll be happy when ____ happens.”? Why do you think that is? Do you find it difficult to change this mindset?