Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage is one of those books you read and re-read. It’s simple and gives practical steps you can take to turn happiness into an advantage. One of those practical steps is the 7 principles. I give a summary here.
Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage. By retraining our brains to focus on the positive and by employing other Positive Psychology principles (such as the importance of nurturing relationships and social support), we improve our productivity and performance. This statement is backed up by empirical studies conducted amongst student and professional populations.
Principle #2: The Fulcrum and the Lever. In this case, the fulcrum is our mindset – the way we perceive the world and events that take place in it. The lever represents our potential power and possibility we believe we have. By moving the fulcrum (our mindset) in the right direction we can exert a lot more power when moving the lever.
Principle #3: The Tetris Effect. By training our brains to look for positive patterns, rather than focusing on the negative, we train ourselves to observe and seize on opportunities. Happiness, gratitude and optimism all place us in a much better position to capitalize on opportunities as and when they arise.
Principle #4: Falling Up. Failure or extremely negative experiences can have two results: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post-Traumatic Growth. The latter is achieved when the individual believes her behavior can still have a positive impact on her life and she takes small concrete steps to demonstrate accordingly; when she is supported by a strong set of relationships and when she changes the way she describes the trauma that occurred.
Principle #5: The Zorro Circle. When faced with crisis or threat we can control emotions by focusing on manageable, small goals and tasks that we can immediately handle. We can then move on to the bigger ones, without being immediately overwhelmed.
Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule. Smaller tasks that are easier to achieve are a great place to start when it comes to forming a habit. By focusing on removing barriers, however small, we can achieve significant changes in habits and overall behavior. The author cites the example of him removing the 20 seconds it took to get his guitar from his closet. By leaving the guitar out he managed to start practicing as he wanted to.
Principle #7: Social Investment. Social support networks are one of the most reliable predictors of future success. Making an investment to enhance those relationships, both in and out of the workplaces, reaps rewards that range from an extended lifespan to improved performance at work.