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The Happiness Advantage – Part One

December 2, 2010

Sean Achor, CEO of Aspirant and author of The Happiness Advantage: the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work was recently featured on a HBR Ideacast where he discussed the profound effect a positive outlook has on our ability to work productively and experience happiness both at work and at home.

Sean begins by clarifying what is meant by positive psychology. He’s not talking about  irrational optimism, but rather, Sean is interested in a rational optimism; one that involves a realistic assessment of the present i.e. what is the economy like? What is my team like? etc. and places the focus on maintaining an optimistic belief towards the future. Moreover, he describes the need to rearrange a commonly held formula for success and happiness.

The Commonly Held Formula For Success

It reads like this: if you work harder right now, you’ll be successful, and if you are successful, you’ll be happy, but as Sean explains, this mentality is wrong for two reasons:

If we follow the current formula, we will never attain happiness because every time we experience success, we just change the standard of what success looks like. If we place happiness at the opposite side of success, and we constantly change the measure of success, we “push happiness over the cognitive horizon,” where we’ll never be able reach it.

Your brain works in the opposite order. In other words, happiness precedes success.  When your brain is positive, it outperforms a negative, neutral or stressed brain in several categories including: intelligence, energy, resiliency, how long you can work on a project for, how many possibilities you see, your health, and how many connections you have.

So then, what Sean means by the “happiness advantage” refers to the ability of your brain to do more when you’re positive.

Check back next week to find out some ways to integrate the Happiness Advantage into your workplace and to see some quantifiable evidence proving its success!

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