The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

10/10 – I will definitely be buying this book!

I know it is labelled as positive psychology to fuel performance and success at work but I found it very beneficial for every day life too! This book talks a lot about our reality and how we can construe our circumstances and experiences to change our reality and ultimately lead a happier life.

He starts by talking about how “reality” is only our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on our observations and so we can change our perspective at any time and therefore change our experiences.  It is the mental construction of our daily activities that defines our reality.

Predictive encoding is when you prime yourself to expect a positive outcome and this encodes your brain to recognize the outcome when it does arrive. To do this, start each day making a list of good things in your job/life and listing 3 positive things that happened the day before. Be positive but not irrationally optimistic.

Adversarial growth is when you experience positive growth from a negative situation. You can help to foster this with optimism, acceptance of the circumstances, coping mechanisms and viewing setbacks as an opportunity for growth.

The brain will invent alternate scenarios (counterfacts) that help us evaluate and make sense of what actually happened. These are hypothetical situations and so we can select the counterfacts that help us feel fortunate. e.g. viewing the fact that I got hit by a car tonight (TRUE! Happened on my way home!) as a positive experience because I was not badly hurt vs. a horrible thing because I was hit by a car… In this way we can shape our reality.

Feeling in control of our own life is one of the strongest drivers of well-being and performance. It is less about the actual control we have and more about how much we think we have control (whether we attribute it to an internal or external locus of control).

Willpower is a limited resource so to conserve it and ensure positive change we can:

    • Decrease the activation energy required to make the decision: put the thing you want to do right in front of you/more effort to move it/not do it/avoid it
    • Limit the choices to make
    • Set up rules for yourself so you don’t have to think about making a decision
    • Ultimately create habits
    • Identify the activation energy required and reduce it (time/effort required)

Social support is key to a happier life. It provides emotional, intellectual and physical resources to help manage stress. Sharing positive news with someone helps to multiple the benefits of the event and increases the bond between the people. Mirror neurons are brain cells that sense and mimic the feelings/actions/physical sensations of another person. This can lead to emotional contagion and can be positive or negative depending on the emotions of the people around you.

Overall I just found it a really enjoyable read and that it had a lot of takeaways that I could make actionable in my own life.  It makes you really realize that there are always multiple ways to look at a situation and based on your perception you can truly create your own reality. I highly recommend this book!



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