The Happiness Advantage - First Thoughts

For a number of reasons, I've been reading Shawn Achor's "The Happiness Advantage." Achor's
work has been the subject of quite a bit of positive press in the educational world, and I'm finally getting the chance to dig into the underlying work.

In short, it's great to read a work that focuses on the need to focus on what's positive. Natuarally the work we do often focuses on remediating the negative: narrowing achievement gaps, addressing negative behaviors, finding out why a school bus is regularly late, whatever. Much of what we talk about is the desire to make things better, which suggests: what we're doing isn't good enough.

Seeing the glass as half empty is an occupational hazard sometimes.

Achor's thesis reads like this: we typically believe that success comes before happiness. Once you become successful (whether it's getting a good job, earning a raise, losing weight, whatever), then you will be happy. The order of operations goes: first success, then happiness.

Unfortunately, if we believe our happiness depends on success, we instinctively redefine success at the moment we achieve it. We want to get a better job, earn a bigger raise, lose more weight. Therefore, we perpetually push happiness further and further away.

Achor's research finds that this is completely backwards. He writes, "happiness is actually the precursor to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement...."


This reminds me in some ways with Mihayli Csíkszentmihályi's Flow Theory. That is that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of total concentration or absorption with the activity at hand. At any rate, it reminds me of the connection between happiness and creativity, well being, and productivity.

At this point, I'm just starting the book, and I'll be blogging as I move through it and reflect on Achor's work. It's been a great start so far.