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Book: The Happiness Advantage

Author:  Shawn Achor

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage : the seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York: Broadway Books.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. The Happiness Advantage is why companies have foosball tables, massage parlors, and bring their dogs to work.  These aren’t PR gimmicks - smart companies cultivate these kinds of working environments because every time employees experience a small burst of happiness, they get primed for creativity and innovation. (pg. 45)

  2. Find something to look forward to - often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation (such as a trip). Whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it (the trip). Anticipating future rewards can actually light up the pleasure centers in your brain as much as the actual reward will. ​

  3. Can positivity be overdone?  Absolutely.  The key is not to completely shut out all of the bad, all of the time, but to have a reasonable healthy sense of optimism.  In business and in life, the reasonable optimist will win every time. (pg. 103)


Other Key Ideas:

​​When we are happy - when our mindset and mood are positive - we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful.  Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it. (pg. 37)

Healthy employees are more productive on the job.  Unhappy employees take more sick days, staying at home an average of 1.25 more days per month.  This is or 15 extra sick days a year. (pg. 43)​

Students who were told to think about the happiest day of their lives right before taking a math test outperform their peers. (pg. 48)

As a boss should always be looking for ways to encourage employees - give them confidence as opposed to stress them out.  Do whatever makes your employee think positively heading into a pressure filled situation.


Few bosses encourage their employees to take time out from their work days for exercise or let them leave 30 minutes early to volunteer - even though, as the research proves, the return on investment is huge. 

Most people would be embarrassed or ashamed if the boss walked by and they were watching a YouTube video or telling a joke in the hallway. However, these practices provide exactly the kinds of quick bursts of positive emotions that can improve our performance on the job.​​

Money spent on activities - such as concerts and group dinners out - bring far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, expensive watches.

Leaders should provide frequent recognition and encouragement.  Teams with encouraging leaders perform 31 percent better than teams whose managers were less positive and less open with praise.

3:1 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful; teams at a 6:1 ratio produce their very best work​

When your brain conceives a family dinner or phone call as a “waste of time” it won’t be able to reap its benefits.  But if you change the fulcrum so that you use this free time as a chance to learn and practice new things, you recharge your batteries and connect with others, you’ll be able to leverage the power of that rest time and return stronger than before.  (pg. 73)

When a manager openly expresses his faith in an employee’s skill, he doesn’t just improve mood and motivation; he actually improves their likelihood of succeeding. (pg. 82)


Optimism is a tremendously powerful predictor of work performance.  Optimists set more goals than pessimists, put more effort into attaining those goals, stay more engaged in the face of difficulty, and rise above obstacles more easily. (pg. 98)​

When you write down a list of “three good things” that happened that day, your brain will be forced to scan for positives.  Those who wrote down three good things each day for a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month, and six-month follow-ups.  

If we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience growth.  Conversely, if we conceive as a fall as the worst thing in the world, it becomes just that. The most successful people see adversity not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping-stone to greatness.​

Adversities, no matter what they are, simply don’t hit us as hard as we think they will.  Just knowing that our fear of consequences is always worse than the consequences themselves can help us more toward a more optimistic interpretation of the downs we will face.

Inactivity is the easiest option.  Unfortunately, we don’t enjoy it nearly as much as we think we do.  In general, Americans actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work.  Passive leisure, like watching TV and trolling around on Facebook, might be easier and more convenient than biking or playing soccer, but they don’t offer the same rewards.  Studies show that these activities are enjoyable for only about 30 minutes, then they start sapping our energy - “psychic entropy” - which is a listless apathetic feeling. (pg. 155)

Teenagers are 2.5 times more likely to experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby or sport than when watching TV.  However, these same teenagers spend four times as many hours watching TV as they do engaging in a sport/hobby.

The average employee gets interrupted from their work every 11 minutes, and on each occasion experiences a loss of concentration and flow that takes almost as many minutes to recover from.​

Many leaders simply refuse to put in the effort to get to know their people; the reasons are varied - not enough hours, fear of undermining authority, “work is work” not friendship.  The more they ignore the power of social investment, the more they undermine both their company’s performance and their own. (pg. 190)

When someone walks into your office to talk don’t stare at your computer screen.  When someone calls on the phone, don’t keep typing that email. Forging a connection requires active listening - giving someone your full attention and also allowing them to have their say. (pg. 193)​

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