Book Review: “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor

Book Review: “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor. Intelligenthq

I will start with a rather “negative” question: what is wrong with the book “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor? Fundamentally, it is the fact that I didn´t write it. I confess that I feel envy the author as the book is well written and very useful to companies and individuals.

Shawn Achor is an American consultant, author and researcher. He was a professor at Harvard University where he researched about the relation between happiness and success. His talk “The happy secret to better work” is one the most popular TED talk ever with more than seven millions views.  Shawn’s research on happiness was published in the “Harvard Business Review” and other scientific journals.

The originality of this book is that it explains why and how we can be happy from a business point of view. The book is written with lots of humour but  avoids the new age trends and  book about happiness.

One of the key points of the book is that it gives a new perspective about the relation between success and happiness. Normally, we think success as the “earth” and happiness as the “moon”. This means that we tend to believe that happiness “gravitates” around success based on a belief that happiness its what comes after success:  first we work hard to have success and then we will be happy because of  what we have achieved.

But according to Shawn Achor. actually it is exactly the opposite: happiness is the “earth” and success the “moon”, as success “gravitates” around happiness. It is happiness that will lead you to succeed in whatever you are doing, and not the other way around. We can have success without being happy. However, if we are happy we tend to be more successful.

Achor affirms that companies should pay more attention to the happiness of their employees. Happy staff tends to work more and be more creative. This is particularly important when the tasks of the workers are cognitively more demanding.

The book is full of useful and practical information about how to be more happy. The consequence of you feeling happy is that you will become more productive. Probably one of the most important information in the book is the “Losada Line”. According to Shawn Anchor, the “Losada Line” marks the difference for most people of whether “blooming” or “withering away” in any type of relationships, be it personal ones like love or friendship or group relationships, such as the ones happening in jobs or sports teams. In other words, the individuals and groups who live above a ratio of three positive interactions (like a praise or a smile) for one negative (like a complaint or some sign of contempt) tend to “blossom”. Below this ratio the tendency is to “wither away”.

Positive and negative interactions can happen in many ways. Some possible ways are: oral  interactions (cheers, etc..), written praise or positive feedback, gestural expressions (eg, a thumb up) and bodily interaction (for example, a touch on the shoulder).

Shawn Achor says that the ratio of 3 to 1 marks an important change of state for individuals, relationships and groups, that is similar to what happens to the water when it reaches zero degrees (that changes from solid to liquid). If to change from the of -3 °C to
-1 °C is of little significance, the opposite is very meaningful as an important threshold is surpassed. When changing from -1 °C  to +1 °C  you surpass that important threshold that enables ice to liquify and transform itself into water.

Individuals above the Losada line tend to be significantly more happy and productive. Not only they will be prone to work more and better, as they will be more innovative and creative. The result of that is that they tend to be more successful in whatever they are involved.

According to Achor the ideal ratio is 6-to-1. The benefits of such ration are greatest when we live in environments where positive interactions are six times more positive than negative. Having this ratio of interaction will make us be able to produce more and better.

Achor points out that many of us live in the midst of relationships to individuals and groups that are far away from either the ratio of 6-to-1 or the Losada Line (3 to 1). Which is quite unfortunate. The lack of positive interactions is a very strong social habit that is conditioned by culture. The author argues that we should make an effort to raise the positive interactions and diminish the negative ones when interacting with the people we relate to, and/or the groups we are part of. This  will be good not only for our happiness and success  but to increase the general wellbeing of the ones that surround us.

The author gives various examples,  throughout the whole book.   He stresses how it is important to take care of the social relationships we are engaged in, and to be very aware of our common patterns of interacting with others. This will be very good not only for us but for the people around us. Indeed, social interaction is of such importance that, for many of us, the way we do it goes unnoticed. In reality, its importance is crucial, as it influences not only our happiness, productivity and success,  as the one of the  people around us: family, friends, coworkers, etc..

The seven principles of the happiness advantage. Intelligenthq

Achor refers that our influence is even greater if we have a higher position in the structure of the organization. In this case, the way we interact with others should be even more careful because of the power we have. Top leaders that have more power and authority influence greatly the happiness, productivity and success of the other members of  the organization. These people determine the culture and policies of the company and act as role models. The other members of the organization expect and are willing to see good examples of leadership, which will be then mimmicked and followed by the co-workers. This is also very important concerning interactions with children who are very dependent on adults.

Personally, I give to this book 4,5 stars in 5. Consider buying this book even if you aren´t a manager. The book is an interesting read and its content can be applied in our daily life.