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Thursday, September 26, 2013 - September 2013 Newsletter: Book Review: "The Happiness Advantage"
I stumbled upon “The Happiness Advantage” after watching a “Ted Talk” from author Shawn Achor. Achor graduated from Harvard University with a degree in positive psychology and then spent nearly a decade teaching and studying Harvard students. He is now regarded as an expert on the connection between happiness and success.

Divided into seven key principles heavily supported by case studies, Achor’s overall theme is that happiness can have a huge impact on the path to success.

The first principal is that positive brains have a biological advantage, meaning people are more creative and open to new ideas when happy. Dopamine and serotonin, the happiness biochemicals, actively dial up the learning centers of our brains, help organize information to retrieve it faster, make new neurons and ensure more skill at complex analysis. Positive emotions even expand peripheral vision, physically enabling a broader view of the world.

People may say, “How can I be positive if nothing positive in my life is happening?” The author debunks this way of thinking with the second principal, “the fulcrum and the lever” approach. Achor explains that success and positive outcomes are a result of positive thinking, not the other way around. Studies show external circumstances only contribute to about 10 percent of total happiness. He explains how to change one’s current mind-set to be positive long term.

The remaining five principals include:
  • The Tetris Effect: How to retrain the brain to spot patterns of possibility rather than patterns of failure.
  • Falling Up: How to view failure positively and come back from it stronger than before.
  • The Zorro Circle: How to fight off emotions and regain control by beginning with small manageable goals.
  • The 20-Second Rule: How to fight off the weakening willpower to be positive.
  • Social Investment: How to invest in friends, peers and family members to move forward in challenging times.
Overall, this was an extremely interesting read. The biological and case study findings for how happiness can impact success are consistently staggering throughout the book. Each chapter leaves the reader not only surprised at how effective happiness can be, but also with tools for implementation of positive psychology.