He starts the book with an overview of why something like ‘happiness’ is important, downloading research and evidence with amusing anecdotes about how happy people – people who have a positive outlook on life – are healthier, smarter, and more successful. Happiness at work also leads to more productive and effective employees.
Sold. You had me at ‘hello!’
1. The Happiness Advantage – Finding even relatively minor ways to infuse joy into our days can have profound impacts. He recounts a study of how doctors primed to feel happy were able to more quickly and accurately form diagnosis than their counterparts. Seems pretty convincing. So how do we do this? Achor suggests the following, relatively simple strategies:
- Find something to look forward to
- Commit conscious acts of kindness
- Infuse positivity into your surroundings
- Spend money on experiences - not stuff
- Exercising something you know is a personal strength
2. The 20-Second Rule – In this principle, Achor shows us how positive change can occur by changing our environment and lowering barriers to the behavior we want to change. He suggests the 20 second rule – if we can access the behavior we want to change within 20 seconds, we’re more likely to follow through. If you’re like me, the “Just Do It!” mantra for change doesn't always work. Achor suggests that the mindset of willpower alone is not effective in seeing change, because of the amount of energy it takes to use it. And the more we use willpower, the more fatigued it becomes. This is why if we just use willpower to do things like diet, we often give up and end up digging through a pint of ice cream in a week – it takes too much energy to sustain healthy eating overtime by willpower alone, until it finally collapses.
Secondly, knowing what we do about habits and behavior, we are hard-wired to travel the path of least resistance. Meaning, the behavior that we often want to change is a habit that we have formed over time. The energy it takes to initiate change is far greater than the energy it takes to follow our pattern of behavior – the path of least resistance. So how do we break that pattern? Achor recommends two things: first, making the path of least resistance harder to initiate – if it’s easier to have ice cream than it is to cook a healthy meal for dinner, don’t keep ice cream in the house. That would mean we would have to go to the store if we really wanted ice cream that badly. Getting dressed, finding the car keys, and driving to the store takes much more energy than we would want to expend. Second, we must make the barriers to the behavior we want to see change, lower. So next time you go to the store and skip the ice cream aisle, make sure you do pick up the ingredients to a healthy meal you would want to make. Having it in the house when it’s time for dinner will make it much more likely that you will eat that instead. And when these behaviors become habits, they’re more likely to be sustained over time.
3. The Tetris Effect – Our brain’s ability to learn and get stuck in patterns of thinking about and experiencing the world around us. From a study at Harvard, they paid students to play hours of the video game, Tetris. When the study was over, the students’ brains had become wired so that they couldn't stop thinking about ways they could fit items they were seeing around them into the Tetris patterns needed to proceed in the game!
Achor supposes that if our brains can learn new patterns like that, why couldn't the same be true for learning a pattern of seeing the world in positive ways?
If we begin to consciously seek out positive experiences, big or small, our brains get trained to spot them more easily and more regularly. Achor recommends writing down three positive things each day for a week. Research has shown that people treated for depression, had lower levels of depression sustained over time than patients who didn't do this exercise.
If my summary of Achor’s book has piqued your interest, you should also take a look at his TED Talk:
Taking my reading to practice (and to habit), I invite you to join in me identifying three positive things daily for a week.
Starting Sunday, August 24 through Saturday, August 30
- Your positive things can be simple pleasures to bursting-with-pride moments!
- Commit to and stick with it for 7 days - but should you miss a day, don't dismay! Just pick up where you left off.
- Post your 3 positive things on Twitter, Facebook, or your favorite social media outlet and invite your friends! (Use #3positivethings when you do)
- Have fun!
- And don't forget to be bold and courageous!