Happiness Researcher, Shawn Achor: What I Would Tell My Twenty Something Self

Happiness Researcher, Shawn Achor: What I Would Tell My Twenty Something Self

Shawn Achor’s advice to his twenty something self:

A photo posted by Different Hunger (@differenthunger) on Jun 10, 2016 at 4:00pm PDT

I wish I had known that success would not lead to happiness, but happiness would lead to greater success. I often thought if I got the next good grade, or got into the right school, or got the right job, or got the bestselling book, THEN I would be happy. But success is a moving target for the brain, so every time we have a success, our brain changes the goalpost.
Only after working with Harvard students for a decade and becoming a positive psychology researcher did I realize that the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain. And fortunately, happiness is a choice, it just requires dedication, practice, and perseverance.
When we are positive, every business and educational success outcome rises.
So my advice is seek real happiness (not just pleasure) first, and your chances of success rise dramatically.



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When I first came across Shawn Achor, it was watching his Ted Talk as a college student. I just remember that my whole perspective and view of psychology had changed, because as it had traditionally been viewed, psychology was a way to get us from -5 five back to 0, or from -10 back to 0.

For example, let’s say the psychologist diagnoses you with depression. Now, his next step is to determine which medication he can prescribe to you to get you from your depressed state back to a neutral state…

However, positive psychology is all about learning from highly functioning individuals and studying what makes them so successful, then using that knowledge to improve our well-being…

Why is it that some of you are so high above the curve in your intellectual ability, athletic ability, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, your resiliency in the face of challenge, your sense of humor? Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information. Not just how to move people up to the average, but how we can move the entire average up.

When I first was introduced to this concept, I instantly became hooked on this premise of learning from highly successful individuals and top performers in order to determine how, I too, could achieve top level performance.

Shawn is now one of the worlds leading experts in happiness research, and positive psychology, and he is a bestselling author of the book, The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. In The Happiness Advantage, Achor talks about how our brains, and how we function when we are happy, everything elevates, it’s not a matter of achieving success, and then being happy, it’s a matter of first achieving happiness, as a way to get to success.

Because as his research has shown, the traditional formula of getting that good grade, getting into that school, getting that job, and then being happy is scientifically broken and backwards. Because every time that happens, our brain moves the goalpost from what success looks like. We’re constantly pushing our happiness, and our success beyond our reach.

Every time your brain has a success, you just change the goalpost of what success looked liked. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades. You got into a good school, now you have to get into a better school. You got a good job, now you have to get a better job. You hit your sales target, we’re going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.

Key Takeaway:

We need to change our view of success. We need to first focus on being content with our current situation, and then going after success, using happiness as our foundation. Because again, when we constantly push our cognitive horizon further and further, and we continually push the goalpost, it’s damaging to our happiness and also our performance.

Shawn Achor has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on mindset made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular of all time with over 13 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. He is the author of New York Times bestselling books The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness.

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