Shawn Achor: Success Formula

Best Book of 2014

Recently I shared the ten best books I read in 2014. And, at the time I wrote that list I had read 49 books for the year and had one more book to reach my goal of 50. Well, a funny thing happened. The 50th book I read was the best book I read for the year. It will now have to roll over to my list of best books for 2015…

My Ten Best Books for 2014

Shawn Achor

Shawn AchorThat book was by Shawn Achor and it’s called Beyond Happiness. Shawn is the CEO of Good Think Inc., where he researches and teaches about positive psychology. His previous book ‘The Happiness Advantage’ is also excellent.

Plus, his TED talk ‘The Happy Secret to Better Work’ is rated as one of the 20 All-time most popular TED talks. It’s been watched a cool 9,394,687 times. That’s nine million times! Wow!

TIP: If you want to grow your brain in 20 minutes then I highly recommend this playlist!

Shawn’s talk is funny, fast and fantastic. It’s fantastic because he flips on its head one of the great fallacies of how to be successful in life, business and career.

[Tweet “Learn why your success formula is backwards by @shawnachor #besttedvideos”]

Why You Don’t Want to Be Normal

One of the really funny and poignant points Shawn makes is about statistics. And, the implication of what it means to be normal. Normal means average. Mmm… You might want to stop and consider this. Normal means average.

And, conversely, if you fit outside the average range then you’re an outlier, a misfit or a rebel.

Which reminds me of the brilliant Apple ad and manifesto: We Are The Crazy Ones which I was discussing with a good friend recently. I don’t want to be average. I’m happy to be part of that crazy club that do want to change the world!

What world are you living in?

One of Achor’s key themes is ‘change your lens, change your reality’. And, this is the key to being happy.

From his research, and he has a PhD from Harvard, 90% of your happiness is determined by the way you process the external world. And, therefore only 10% by factors in the external world.

As a result we have spectacular stats like this: 75% of your job success is based on optimism and whether you see a situation as a stressor or a challenge. Mmm…

Is your Business built Backwards?

This raises a fundamental question: Have you built your business or your life or your career backwards? Traditionally, the formula for success goes like this:

If I work harder, I’ll be more successful and then when I’m more successful I’ll be happier.

And, typically all that we have learnt and practiced about management, motivation and success is backwards too.

The fundamental flaw here is that every time we achieve a success we then shift the goalposts and adjust to a new target. For instance, you get the promotion you always dreamed of and then are instantly in pursuit of the next rung up the ladder. You hit your record sales target this quarter and which merely means you must beat it next quarter. Or you deliver that killer keynote this week and as a result you need to rewrite it to improve it next week.

In scientific terms, this means we’ve pushed happiness over the ‘cognitive horizon’. It’s a carrot on a stick that is always out of reach. The result is not happiness. It’s more likely struggle, frustration and maybe eventually even sadness from not achieving your goals.

The Happiness Advantage

In contrast, our brains work in the opposite order – if we can raise our levels of happiness first, we will then take more effective action and ultimately we will be more successful. This is the happiness advantage (the title of Shawn Achor’s first fabulous book).

We all perform better when we feel positive stress rather than when we operate under negative stress. Our whole physiology shifts! Our creativity levels improve, our energy levels rise and we are more productive. In fact, we’re a whopping 37% better at sales!

In our brains, by being happy the dopamine that is released then turns on all the learning centres in our brains. So, if you want to be more successful, be happy first.

[Tweet “Five Things you can do to be happier right now by @shawnachor #besttedvideos”]

Five Things You Can Do Today

Shawn Achor suggests there are five simple things backed by research you can do today to help you make this positive shift:

  1. Be grateful – find three things every day to be grateful for. This shifts your attention to look for positive situations. Do this for 21 days to shift your mindset.
  2. Journaling – document one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours to let your brain relive it.
  3. Exercise – Move your body to train your brain that activity is important.
  4. Meditate – Train your mind to focus on one thing at a time. The side effect of this is often a relaxation response.
  5. Random acts of kindness – Write one positive email praising someone or thanking them. This will train your focus to look for the positive and it will have an enormous impact on the quality of your social network.

Shawn Achor’s message is simple. Just as you would train your body, invest time to train your focus and your brain to be more positive. And when you’re happy you’ll be more successful.

PS: If you haven’t already, watch this video! This easy and enjoyable investment of 12 minutes and 17 seconds today may make you happier and more successful tomorrow.

Love to hear your thoughts: What practices, habits and rituals do you perform to be happy?


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