Shawn Achor | The Happiness Advantage (Episode 344)

Happiness does make a difference.

“Happiness is an incredible competitive advantage.” -Shawn Achor

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Shawn gave a talk about happiness at the Pentagon: true or false?
  • The science behind the contagiousness of happiness.
  • The importance of mirror neurons explained.
  • What is the 10-5 Way and how can it improve your life?
  • At what point in her career was Oprah most depressed, and why should you care?
  • And so much more…

Is happiness a choice? And which comes first: happiness or success? Here to answer these questions is Shawn Achor, Ted Talk speaker, Harvard professor, positive psychology expert and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. Not only does he answer these questions (and more), but he also provides the science to back up these answers.

On this episode we’ll discuss why happiness is such an advantage in every area of life, as well as some simple happiness hacks you can practice right now. Listen in for all of this and so much more on episode 344 of The Art of Charm.

(Direct Download)

More About This Show:

Shawn Achor is the leading expert on positive psychology; he won over a dozen awards for his teaching at Harvard on this topic (his class was the most popular at the university), he’s also written several best-selling books including The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, and even had a two-hour interview with Oprah.

But today’s episode isn’t about what he’s done. It’s about what his research has discovered about the happiness advantage and why happiness matters. The first thing to address is his definition of happiness. It’s not mere pleasure like the enjoyment of a good dessert or a marathon of Felicity reruns. Happiness is the joy you feel as you are growing into your full potential. With a definition like that, it’s much easier to be an optimist.

A study done with Metlife sales personnel as the subjects reflects the power of a positive attitude. They took two groups of people: in one group they hired optimists who scored low on the industry standard tests and in the other group they hired pessimists who scored high on the same tests. Within a year, the optimists had done 19% more in sales. Within two years they had done 57% more in sales!

It’s not just sales that are affected by attitude and outlook; optimists are consistently found to be more attractive, more trustworthy, better liked, and are more likely to receive promotions at work. And the people around the optimists are found to be happier as well.

The link between optimists and those around them being happier could lie in the science of mirror neurons, a subject we’ve talked about on the show before. Put simply, mirror neurons are those neurons in our brain that influence our bodies to respond as a reflection to what’s happening around us.

Shawn gives us another study to explain the mirror neuron phenomenon. At its core the research showed that if you are near someone who is anxious, you will start to feel anxious. If that person is tired, you’ll feel tired. The same is true of happiness.

Shawn also shares the brain functions that explain why happiness begets success, not the other way around. Achieving goals doesn’t make us happier, because when we achieve those goals our brain automatically creates another goal or definition of success. Now that you’ve gotten that big promotion, your brain automatically redefines success as the next promotion — the next “get.” So instead of focusing on achieving something to make you happy, embrace the definition of happiness Shawn gives and success will naturally follow.

In fact, Shawn’s research has shown that if you find ways of raising your optimism and happiness, every area of your life will be more successful and your happiness will continually increase through your life, making you happier and healthier. But if you pin your happiness to a specific goal or set of goals, your happiness levels will flatline.

We got into greater detail on all of this and more in this episode of the show, and we wrap with five happiness hacks you can incorporate right now to bump up your optimism levels. Shawn says you don’t have to do all five, just choosing one will make an impact. All five are simple, they vary from journaling to emailing to meditating, and only take a few minutes a day. To hear the five and the rest of our fascinating discussion, listen in to the full show.

After you do, please join me in thanking Shawn for sharing his positive outlook, his vast scientific knowledge, and the practical application of that knowledge. Thank you for listening — we appreciate each and every one of you! We’ll see you next time.

THANKS, SHAWN ACHOR!

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1139 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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