Shawn Achor

Everyone knows that if you work hard, you will be more successful in life, and if you are more
successful, then you’ll be happy, right? Recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology
show that this formula is actually backward – happiness fuels success, not the other way
– Shawn Achor

You can eliminate depression without making someone happy. You can cure anxiety without
teaching someone optimism. You can return someone to work without improving their job
performance. If all you strive for is diminishing the bad, you’ll only attain the average and
you’ll miss out entirely on the opportunity to exceed the average.
– Shawn Achor

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

Happiness gives us a real chemical edge on the competition. How? Positive emotions flood our
brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up
the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.
– Shawn Achor

Positivity is such a high predictor of success rates.
– Shawn Achor

What we’re finding is it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through
which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not
only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business
outcome at the same time.
– Shawn Achor

Only 10 percent of our long-term happiness is predicted by the external world; 90 percent of
our long-term happiness is thus how our brain processes the external world. This is why we
find people at the same job who are positive and love their work, and others see it as
drudgery and stress. This is why some people love being single and others cannot stand it.
The external world does not predict your happiness, which is a freeing scientific realization
about how much control you actually have over your happiness.
– Shawn Achor

Find something to look forward to. One study found that people who just thought
about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.
– Shawn Achor

Studies have found that American teenagers are two and a half times more likely to
experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby than when watching TV, and three
times more likely when playing a sport. And yet here’s the paradox: These same teenagers
spend four times as many hours watching TV as they do engaging in sports or hobbies. So
what gives? … The answer is that we are drawn – powerfully, magnetically – to those things
that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia.
Active leisure IS more enjoyable, but it almost always requires more initial effort – getting the
bike out of the garage, driving to the museum, tuning the guitar, and so on. Csikszentmihalyi
calls this “activation energy.” … Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt,
and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the
activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start
positive change.
– Shawn Achor

Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about
adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances.
– Shawn Achor

Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.
– Shawn Achor

The ruling powers continue to tell us that if we just put our nose to the grindstone and work
hard now, we will be successful, and therefore happier, in some distant future.
– Shawn Achor

In a study appropriately titled “Very Happy People,” researchers sought out the characteristics
of the happiest 10 percent among us. Do they all live in warm climates? Are
they all wealthy? Are they all physically fit? Turns out, there was one – and only one –
characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength
of their social relationships.
– Shawn Achor

Sacrificing positivity in the name of time management and efficiency actually slows us down.
– Shawn Achor

It’s more than a little comforting to know that people can become happier, that
pessimists can become optimists, and that stressed and negative brains can be trained to
see more possibility. The competitive edge is available to all who put in the effort.
– Shawn Achor

If we study merely what is average, we will remain merely average.
– Shawn Achor

So how do the scientists define happiness? Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive
psycholgy, has broken it down into three, measurable components: pleasure, engagements,
and meaning. His studies have confirmed (though most of us know this intuitively) that people
who pursue only pleasure experience only part of the benefits happiness can bring, while
those who pursue all three routes lead the fullest lives.
– Shawn Achor

You’ve probably heard the oft-told story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in
the early 1900s to assess opportunities. They wired separate telegrams back to their boss.
One read: “Situation hopeless. They don’t were shoes.” The other read: “Glorious opportunity!
They don’t have any shoes yet.”
– Shawn Achor

Habits are like financial capital – forming one today is an investment that will automatically
give out returns for years to come.
– Shawn Achor

Remember, happiness is not just a mood – it’s a work ethic.
– Shawn Achor

One study found that participants 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.
More amazing: Even after stopping the exercise, they remained significantly happier and
showed higher optimism. The better they got at scanning the world for good things to write
down, the more good things they saw, without even trying, wherever they looked. The items
you write down each day don’t need to be profound or complicated, only specific. You can
mention the delicious take-out Thai food you had for dinner, your child’s bear hug at the end
of a long day, or the well-deserved acknowledgement from your boss at work.
– Shawn Achor

One of the greatest paradoxes of human behavior: Common sense is not common action.
– Shawn Achor

Think about it: In the work world, as in our personal lives, we are often rewarded for noticing
the problems that need solving, the stresses that need managing, and the injustices that
need righting. Sometimes this can be very useful. The problem is that if we get stuck in only
that pattern, always looking for and picking up on the negative, even a paradise can become
a hell. And worse, the better we get at scanning for the negative, the more we miss out on
the positive – those things in life that bring us greater happiness, and in turn fuel our
success. The good news is that we can also train our brains to scan for the positive – for the
possibilities dormant in every situation – and become experts at capitalizing on the Happiness
– Shawn Achor

You can have the best job in the world, but if you can’t find the meaning in it, you won’t
enjoy it, whether you are a movie maker or an NFL playmaker.
– Shawn Achor

When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of
a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy
better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.
– Shawn Achor

If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences
what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs
significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your
creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single
business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your
brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19
percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead
of negative, neutral or stressed.
– Shawn Achor

The more effort it takes us to obtain unhealthy food, the less we eat of it, and vice versa.
This is why nutritionalists recommend that we prepare healthy snacks in advance so that we
can simply pull them out of the refigerator, and why they recommend that when we do eat
junk foods, we take out a small portion, then put the rest of the bag away, well out of our
– Shawn Achor

The ideal mindset isn’t heedless of risk, but it does give priority to the good. Not just because
that makes us happier but because that is precisely what creates more good.
– Shawn Achor

In fact, if I put my hand in front of my face and look at it, area 17 in my visual cortex lights
up. Now if I close my eyes and think about my hand in front of my face, that same part of my
brain actually lights up, area 17 in my visual cortex. Which means, my brain actually can’t tell
the difference between visualization and experience. So when I journal for just five minutes a
day, I’m actually doubling the amount of positive experience that I have. And then over a
period of 21 days when you do this, is what we did for the experiment, when you do this for
a period of 21 days, your brain connects the dots between these meaningful moments
creating a trajectory of meaning that pulls you through each day instead of having your
pattern be, “I got through these lists of tasks and now I’m done.”
– Shawn Achor

For untold generations, we have been led to believe that happiness orbited around success.
That if we work hard enough, we will be successful, and only if we are successful will we
become happy. Success was thought to be the fixed point of the work universe, with
happiness revolving around it. Now, thanks to the breakthroughs in the burgeoning field of
positive psychology, we are learning that the opposite is true. 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.
– Shawn Achor

It shouldn’t surprise you that a national survey of 24,000 workers found that men and women
with few social ties were two to three times more likely to suffer from major depression than
people with strong social bonds.
– Shawn Achor

Positive psychology researchers had finished a “meta-analysis,” a study of nearly every
scientific happiness study available – over 200 studies on 275,000 people worldwide. Their
findings exactly matched the principles I was teaching – that happiness leads to success in
nearly every domain, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity, and energy.
– Shawn Achor

A quick burst of positive emotions doesn’t just broaden our cognitive capacity; it also
provides a quick and powerful antidote to stress and anxiety, which in turn improves our
focus and our ability to function at our best level.
– Shawn Achor

When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the
most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism.
– Shawn Achor

Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive
brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, and productive, which drives
performance upward. This discovery has been confirmed by thousands of scientific studies
and in my own work and research on 1,600 Harvard students and dozens of Fortune 500
companies worldwide.
– Shawn Achor