The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor Book Summary

The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor | Free Book Summary

The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor

Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.

Defining Happiness As Positive Emotioms

The chief engine of happiness is a positive emotion. The ten most common of these are joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.

The Losada Line

Based on Losada’s mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful. 

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It takes three positive comments, experiences, or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative. 

Dip below this tipping point, and performance quickly suffers. Rise above it to a ratio of 6 to 1, and teams produce their very best work.Free book, podcast summaries

The Fulcrum and The Lever

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

Archimedes’ quote about the fulcrum and the lever inspires us to move our own fulcrum (the mindset we have) and lengthen our levers (how much possibility and power we believe we have) to lift our world and maximise our potential.


Our brains are processors with finite resources. We can spend those looking at pain, negativity, stress and uncertainty, or look through a lens of hope, gratitude, resilience and optimism. We can’t change reality, but we can change how we perceive the world.

“A Job” vs “A Calling”

People with a “job” see work as a chore, and the paycheck is the reward. People with a “calling” view work as an end in itself. Their work is fulfilling, because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose. These are the people who are more likely to succeed.

The more we can align our tasks to a personal vision, the more likely we are to view work as a calling.

Write down the tasks at work that feel devoid of meaning and ask yourself “what is the purpose of this task?” If the answer still seems unimportant, ask again, and keep going until you get a result that is meaningful to you.

From a Job to a Calling: Finding Meaning

Even a rote or routine task can be made meaningful if you find a good reason to be invested: you felt productive, you improved your skillset, you showed you were smart and efficient, you learned from a mistake, and you made life easier for a customer or client.


The fastest way to disengage an employee is to tell him his work is meaningful only because of the paycheck.

The Tetris Effect

The tetris effect is named after the phenomenon experienced by tetris players who begin to see tetris-like patterns in everyday life after playing for long periods of time.

With a negative tetris effect, we always spot the annoyances, stresses and hassles. With a positive tetris effect, we can condition our minds to always look for opportunities and ideas that allow our success rate to grow.

Mental Maps to Success

In every mental map after a crisis or adversity, there are three mental paths:

  • You keep circling around where you currently are.
  • You are led to further negative consequences.
  • You are led to a place where you are stronger and more capable than before.


Study after study shows that if we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience that growth. In this way, we give ourselves the greatest power possible: the ability to move up not despite the setbacks, but because of them.

Change Your Counterfact

Imagine that you walk into a bank filled with people. A robber walks in and fires his weapon once. You are shot in the arm.

Is this fortunate or unfortunate?

70% say unfortunate: “how unlucky I happened to be there at that time and I was the one who was shot.”

30% say fortunate: “I could have been shot somewhere worse,” or “a child could have been shot instead.”


The situation is objectively bad. But, both counterfacts are invented by us. This shows we actually have the power in any given situation to consciously select a counterfact that makes us feel fortunate, not helpless.

Our fear of consequences is always worse than the consequences themselves.

The 20 Second Rule

Sustaining change is difficult to do with willpower alone because willpower becomes more worn out the more we use it. A better way is to decrease the willpower required by decreasing the “activation energy” (time, choices, mental and physical effort) for habits we want to adopt, and alternatively, increasing it for habits we want to avoid.

Decrease activation energy by reducing the time it takes to do something by 20 seconds, e.g., sleeping in your gym clothes.

Increase activation energy by increasing the time by 20 seconds, e.g., by putting the TV remote batteries in a cupboard.

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