Yet another surprising read from the field of psychology and neuroscience this year. The Happiness Advantage
is NOT a self-help book - and it's a good thing, because I loathe the genre. Achor culls real applicable lessons from fascinating studies in classical and modern psychology as well as neuroscience (a field I have much more respect for as a materialist) into a plan of action for individuals as well as organizations to make the most out of the way our brains work productively and creatively. The gist of the argument: nearly every fMRI and productivity study, whether in terms of finance or academia, out there shows that happy people are more successful. Not just in the crass way of being able to enjoy the fruits of their labors, but that their happiness transforms both their brain chemistry and their mindset to enable them to recognize opportunities and take advantage of them more frequently, endure stressful situations and setbacks and find greater meaning and satisfaction in the work they do. Well sucks for me, right? I'm cynical and jaded and I enjoy being more critical and skeptical. It's the way I was born. Don't worry, there's hope for you too. Modern neuroscience and biology has all but erased the old adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" and you can change your brains pathways and functioning with relatively simple exercises that can pay huge dividends.
Far from the hokey "everyone's a winner"/"I'm okay, you're okay" psychology of the 70s and 80s, Achor compares the Happiness Advantage more to seeing out of "rose tinted
glasses" rather than "rose colored
glasses" and he does a great job at being a realist while extending what is probably the most hopeful too-good-to-be-true sounding lifelines to overwhelmed working people out there: if you're happy about your work, you'll do it better and it will be easier AND you can make yourself happy with ANY job, no change of careers necessary.To be sure, more cognitive work will be required of some people than others depending on your genetic predisposition, the depth of the cognitive habits you've developed and the nature of your work, but Achor acknowledges this and makes sure that the principles and practices he recommends are easy enough for the most stressed and busiest of us all to follow a piece at a time.
There's nothing to be bought here, and Achor comes across more as an academic and professional than the salesman consultant (even though he is one) types that I have, unfortunately, too much experience with in the field of education and every claim he makes is backed up with a fully referenced study from a professional journal or organization. It isn't a fad or an idealistic model with no function in reality either. Beyond the psychobiological studies and evidence he draws upon, Achor has a wealth of anecdotal evidence from his own personal experiences as a college RA and advisor as well as more rigorous and financially documented transformations from Fortune 500 companies he has advised in the past as testament to the real life working ability of the Happiness Advantage.
The writing is cogent, well-organized and balanced between academic jargon and relatable content with principles grounded in real world examples. It's hard to deny that Achor is on to something very significant by the time you reach the end of his seven principles - in fact, I'm willing to bet that even the most cynical and skeptical reader will be willing to try out at least something he's presented whether it's the "20 Second Rule" or "Zorro's Circle" and you'd be hard pressed not to find something personal in this book you can't relate to, whether it be stress, the paralysis of difficult choices or just sheer willpower fatigue in your career or, like me, finishing chores around the house. I'm seriously contemplating finding a way to present this in the form of curriculum to my college-bound seniors after AP exams because I think it will be enormously beneficial to them as they make the transition to the more competitive and rigorous university system. Looks like I'll be applying some of these principles to my own work life earlier than I thought...