The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work

The Happiness Advantage

Summary of “The Happiness Advantage” : The 7 principles taught at Harvard to develop happiness and succeed in life.

By Shawn Achor, 336 pages, 2015

Note: This chronicle is a guest article written by Yohann Feneche of the blog

Chronicle and Summary of The Happiness Advantage


Can I ask you a direct question? Are you happy at work? If you are reading this, the answer is probably “No”. Yikes.

Perhaps you don’t even ask yourself the question anymore. Part of you says: “Do your 8 hours of work like everyone else. Cash your paycheque. And have a blast with it. Isn’t life great? “. That sounds familiar, right?

If you feel anxious on Sunday evenings, the way you do before a visit to the dentist: take a break. What is happening to you is critical. You are on the road to depression. I know. It wasn’t always like that.

Do you remember your first job? When you checked your bank account, and there was money in it for the first time, your own money? Incredible joy.

You’ll finally be able to go on holiday! Treat yourself! No more begging from grandma! Do what you want. Happiness. Who did you see every morning in the mirror? A child, eager to discover the world, to conquer it. An energy that could move mountains.

Then time went by.

You discovered the company: colleagues who dreamt of being elsewhere. Managers squeezed like lemons. And cynicism. Everywhere.

But you don’t give up. You are different. You give it your all. You have strength. You have the desire. Hard work always rewards you in the end, right?

Your manager notices you. He gives you tough projects, the ones nobody wants, with the promise of a promotion at the end of the tunnel. You accept the challenge. You adjust. You optimize. Always faster. Saving time. Your work swallows up every last second of your day.

You have lunch sitting at your computer. You finish late, later and later. You don’t go out anymore. No time. Too tired. Don’t feel like it. Too much work to do? No problem, I’ll get it finished this weekend! Come on soldier, almost there. And one day… Boom!

“Thanks for all your hard work. Your promotion will have to wait until next year. We haven’t got the budget. Sorry. Thanks again for your contribution. “. The hammer blow. It’s too much. Burnout is lurking around the corner.

Welcome to the ranks of the cynics.

The vast majority of employees are unhappy in their job. What a waste.

Sacrificing your well-being is like throwing away your water bottle when you are in the middle of the desert.

Let’s do a little digging: do you have this type of reasoning?

  • “Once I get this promotion, I can finally start enjoying it.”
  • “Once I lose some weight, I’ll feel better about myself.”

If so, you are missing the point.

There will always be something to achieve before you can finally be happy.

There is another way:

There is that colleague who smiles at you. Always ready to listen to you, help you, chat, laugh. Always in a good mood. He is moving forward.

The result?

You like being with him. He lives better AND he succeeds better.

Happiness is like fuel. The more you have, the further you go. You don’t need a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology to understand that:

  • You do your best work when you are calm instead of under a storm of criticism from your boss (does he have nothing else to do?).
  • You work better after a good night’s sleep than after a late night at the office (do you really like your open space that much?).

I see your skepticism returning: “How can I feel great when work is getting me down?”

That is what The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (Professor at Harvard University) will show you, with studies to back him up.

No time to read the book? Not a big reader? No worries. I have extracted the heart of it and I have added my personal touch.

Whatever your age, your situation, your story, you can be happy. Happiness rhymes with creativity, energy, sociability, health, work, friendship. You will see – it changes your life.

Ready to change your state of mind? Let’s go!

Principle 1: Build your happiness

Let’s start with the basics: “What is happiness?”

What a question! And the $1,000,000 answer is: whatever you want! Gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, fun, inspiration, love, joy.

Happiness is like a construction site. It’s up to you to build on it every day and to create a palace.

Your happiness strengthens your health:

It is simple common sense: all centenarians have this point in common. They are happy. This is why they are so well-preserved.

Happiness rhymes with well-being, calm, and motivation, essential ingredients for finding innovative solutions at work.

It is also the pillar of negotiation. No one wants to discuss things with a guard dog, while a person who is in a genuinely good mood can open any doors.

Let’s get down to business:

Here are some activities through which to build your happiness (proven through scientific studies):

  • Meditation: reduces stress, strengthens the immune system. You don’t have to become a Tibetan monk: settle into a quiet place, focus on your breathing for 5 minutes per day, empty your mind.
  • Plan activities: Having something to picture and to look forward to is a way of enjoying its benefits in advance. Plan your holidays, a weekend, an outing, a dinner, a film, whatever you want.
  • Help others: Acts of altruism are good for others and you. Give without counting.
  • The mirror effect: Attitude is essential. Be positive, smiling, and enthusiastic. Those around you will return it in kind.
  • Go outside: If the weather is nice, get some fresh air. A 10-minute walk restores calm and recharges your grey cells.
  • Forget TV: It is proven that the less you watch TV, the better it is for you.
  • Sport: Practice sport regularly – it is the best anti-depressant. Finding a way to let off steam will do you good.
  • Manage stressful situations: Before a vital meeting: take 15 minutes and empty your mind. Put down your speech. You have already read it 100 times.

Relax. Go out, chat, read an article. And then anticipate your success, visualize yourself captivating your audience.

You get the picture. Each moment is an opportunity. A conversation, a smile, an act of kindness builds our well-being every day. The second principle will transform you profoundly.

Principle 2: State of mind

Do you regularly have negative thoughts? Such as:

  • “I’ll never make it.”
  • “I don’t have enough money.”
  • “I don’t have the skills.”
  • “I’m too old.”
  • “I don’t have enough time.”
  • “I’m not strong enough.”

If yes, let’s be frank, you are a pessimist.

I know. It’s hard. Life is hard. Competition is tough. Your work is hard. You are the one who sees it as difficult. A challenge is not difficult. It is a problem to be solved. Nothing more.

You are holding yourself back. Result: you are treading water.

Good news: you can change things.

Our beliefs are powerful. This is what differentiates a champion from an average athlete.

2 keywords to move forward: 

  • Trust. This is basic: all those who are successful have faith. They believe in it.

Give it your all. Discover your talents. Build on your strengths. You have already succeeded in the past. You are good enough.

  • You can make progress, you adapt, seize new opportunities in a world that changes every day.

Take an example from people who have succeeded. Spend time with them. Choose their attitude, their optimism, their energy.

I sense you still have reservations. Here is an experiment that will blow your doubts away.

Everything is relative:

How many hours are there in one day?

You are going to tell me 24.

And yet, holidays go by too quickly. And days of meetings are endless.

“So?” I hear you say.

  • Open your eyes, this study is magical:

Take a group of people aged 75. Isolate them. Tell them to behave, to speak, to carry themselves, to move around, and to dress as if they were 55. Ask them to talk about their life at that time. Give them newspapers from the time.

Extend this experience over several months.

What age are the participants at the end?

72 years old!

From an experience of just a few months, they have rejuvenated biologically by 3 years!

Imagine what you could accomplish in a whole lifetime!


So please. Stop complaining. Straighten up. Go and look for the youthfulness sleeping inside you. Your body will thank you.

You don’t believe me? Well then, trust the doctors. The doctors have given it a name: the placebo effect.

Your mind is capable of transforming a sugar pastille into a drugYour mind can TRANSFORM REALITY. 

It’s up to you to transform your daily life into a paradise.

You are on the right track. Let’s go back to your work.

How do you see your work?

  • A chore: If you see your desk as a prison, you will be imprisoned for 70% of your life. Hurrah.

React. The following lines will help you.

  • A career: always giving 200%. A single goal: to succeed. You are the runner who begins a marathon with a sprint. Burnout and depression at the end of the race.

You have the energy. Let’s look at how to go the distance.

  • A vocation: Your work has meaning for you. That’s what gets you up every morning. That’s what motivates you when in doubt.

You have found your way.

I see you are skeptical. You are saying to yourself: “Yes, but I am not a doctor! ” You are not a butterfly catcher either.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • What is the reason for your work?
  • What is your impact on your customers, your company, on society?
  • What do you like about your work?

I know. The answers are not always pleasant.

In this case, there’s no other choice: find a new job. A job you can be proud of, that you will be happy to talk to your friends about.

The next point is crucial.

Do you sometimes get the feeling that everything is going too fast? That there is never enough time to do things? 

Once again, it is a question of state of mind:

  • Take advantage of each moment:

You are the entrepreneur of your own life.

Your day is a wealth of untapped moments: in the morning, traveling, during breaks, in the evening, the weekend… Set your objectives for each moment. What do you want to accomplish in your day? What is the priority?

  • Early morning is an excellent moment to take time for you: sport, a hobby, reading. Nobody will bother you before 8 in the morning, so get up at 6. And enjoy it.
  • At work, maximize your efficiency over 8 hours. Don’t fall into the trap of the 10 hour day.
  • After 15 minutes, Facebook, Youtube, and the news are eating at your brain. Go on a diet.

The next item is drawn from my personal life: Settle in comfortably. Let me tell you a good one about my life as a consultant.

  • You have all had a client who is in a real hurry. I will describe mine:

The kind of customer at a restaurant who wants his dessert before he has eaten his main course. Just in case someone might steal his strawberry pie (remember to book yours).

I had just delivered 80% of the work to my client. Suddenly he wants the remaining 20% FAST (the least important). Well, you know the story: stick to the deadline at any cost. One small problem: I was leaving on holiday in one week, making it impossible to finish on time.

Unless…I did the work during my holiday. Which is what I did. Ah, youth… the hope of a promotion… the dangling carrot that pushes the donkey forward.

The result?

The client NEVER read the remaining 20%. I could have sent him an empty file with the same result. No. I didn’t get that promotion, I got that old chestnut: no budget. Surpriiiiiiise!

What a beautiful lesson! Learn to say no.

The next step is fundamental.

  • Genuinely recharge your batteries:

I know, Monday evening can be pretty tough. Back to work. The worries. Didn’t we have a lovely weekend… right?

Stress is invasive. If you allow it, it will invite itself inside your head and move in permanently. It will haunt your nights. Stress is like a verruca under your foot. Ignore it and it will soon become unbearable.

Work and relaxation go hand in hand, like 2 legs that are part of the same body. It is impossible to keep moving forward unless both are working together.

If you are thinking about your boss, it is because you are sprawled in front of the television, your computer, or your console rehashing that remark your boss made about the stain on your shirt in the middle of a boring meeting.

About as lively as a moldy vegetable at the back of the fridge. Come out of your coma. Disconnect yourself. And take action:

  • Action atomizes stress. 

Don’t wait for the weekend. Go out in the evening, do some sport, make a good meal, play with your children, talk to a friend.

Move yourself.

Take time to have dinner with your family, with no TV and no radio. Talk, remain sitting at the table after the meal. Share.

Problems are something you will have all your life. What counts is the importance that you give them.

Let’s take things further:

  • Words are magical

Words influence the mind. Positive talk is a way of taking care of yourself.

Where some people see a crisis, others see an opportunity.

Where some people see failure, others see a lesson.

Where some people are satisfied with a “no”, others ask why.

  • You control your happiness: 

It happens inside you. You are in control. You have the ability to be happy.

The following principle will be the vehicle towards your well-being.

Principle 3: Train yourself

The more you play tennis, the better you get. I know. It’s obvious. Wait. The next bit will surprise you.

Do you train yourself in well-being?

I see your eyebrows rise. Yes, to be happy, to feel good, requires training. Here is why you probably don’t do it:

At school, you learn to figure out what is not right. To solve problems. It’s the same at work.

The concern? 

Unconsciously, you are nitpicking. For the fussiest among us, nothing will ever be good enough.

  • An example? Our good friends the lawyers.

Lawyers are trained excessively to seek out faults, errors, and what is negative in the opposing party. That’s what they get paid for, right?

The result? Levels of depression among lawyers are 3 times higher than in other professions, despite a high standard of living.

  • Why am I telling you this?

Think beyond immediate well-being. Nothing is ever perfect for you. It is never a good time. You hold back. You don’t dare. You wait. Worse still: you dwell on it. You regret it.

Don’t panic – there is a remedy. Be positive, optimistic, open.

Here is how to practice this:

  • Keep a journal:

You don’t need to worry. There is no need to write a novel.

Each day, write down what you liked about the previous day. 3 things are sufficient.

Anything at all: lunch with a friend, a kindness from one of your relatives, buying a gift, a laugh, an activity, being in a good mood, a good night’s sleep.

You will see, it takes 1 minute per day, and it does you good.

Tip one: Multiply the effects: share with your spouse, suggest that s/he write it down too.

Tip two: I use Evernote (free app) on my phone to keep my journal. It is simple and fast, and you will never lose it.

Let’s take things even further:

  • Talk in detail about a strong experience of happiness:

It is like time traveling. Telling the story relives the moment. And the happiness it brought you. Go there, enjoy yourself. Describe it. Did you laugh, did you cry? Reread it. Complete it. Share it.

Simple right? Now all you have to do is practice.

I see you are skeptical. You are saying to yourself: Is this guy living in Care Bear land or what? Let’s not go overboard.

The main thing here is to move forward. Priority goes to the good, without hiding the negative. The next principle is going to grab your attention, no matter what.

Principle 4: Fail to succeed: 

Ok. I know. You have already heard it a thousand times. Failure is a step towards success. Well then, let’s have some fun.


You are a sales rep. for a paper clip company. Your only goal: sell. Your salary is a percentage of your sales.

You spend all day making hundreds of calls to strangers to convince them to buy your magnificent paper clips.

Fewer than 10% of your calls lead to a sale. The rest of the time – at best peanuts, at worst insults.

A thankless profession, don’t you agree?

Monday 7 PM. Your last phone call. The 150thof the day. The person picks up, listens to you for 10 seconds, and then says “Get lost.”

How do you react? Take 1 minute and write down how you feel.

Done? Ok. Let me introduce you to 2 people: Mr. Pessimist and Mr. Optimist.

Here are their reactions:

  • Mr. Pessimist:

“Oh shit! I’m wasting my time. Nobody’s buying. I’ll never manage. I’m going to get fired. There’s a recession. I’ll never find another job. My life is ruined”: 

Soon Mr. Pessimist will drown his sorrows in a shabby bar with the cream of the local soaks. Yes. I’m laying it on thick. Do you see the ridiculous side of it?

Mr. Pessimist is anxious. He makes a mountain out of a molehill. The end of the world is at his door. Each day. The economic downturn is just an excuse. There will always be recessions. Upheavals. Changes.

Understand. Adapt. Making the most of it is the key.

There’s no point in whining like an eight-year-old child. Nobody is going to change your life for you.

Let’s leave Mr. Pessimist in the cemetery.

  • Mr. Optimist:

“Ok. Not to worry. What isn’t working? How can I do better? Who can help me?” 

Is Mr. Optimist going to become the salesman of the century? No. However, Mr. Optimist is going to grow, evolve, and find his way. If this is not in sales, it will be in something else.

He has faith.

Remember: There is always a solution that leads upwards. The following principle is a pillar towards success.

Principle 5: One step at a time

If you are not sporty, there’s no point in trying to run a marathon. Obvious, isn’t it? To get there, you have to train. Take it step by step.

I see you raise your eyebrows. No. No, we didn’t invent sliced bread. Is that what you do in your job? Probably not.

I know. You are going to give me the old refrain: no time, no money, not a priority.

The boss wants just one thing: results. Money. And fast! And now you are going to botch this big project. More haste. Less speed.

The result?

Stress. 10 hour days. Mediocrity. And it’s onto the next project. Same handling. Pretty soon, there will be just one thing on your mind: your holidays. And they are a long way away (seeing as there is too much work on).

  • And what about keeping up with your training? Do you do the same? 

Maybe you don’t take courses anymore. It’s dangerous. Your skills will become as out of date as that cheese you left in the car.

No choice? (Seeing as there is too much work to do).

Stop running. You will always have too much work. You will never have the time. It will always be a recession. The company is not going to coddle you like a newborn child. Think about yourself first.

  • What do you want to do in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years? 

1 hour per day to train yourself. Early in the morning. While your boss is on Facebook (he has the time).

You have a goal. You move forward every day. You take back control. You feel better.

When it comes to projects that count: take your time. Set yourself very small objectives. It is easy. You can do it.

Baby steps. Tiny victories. You go further. You work better.

The following principle will condition your success.

Principle 6: Transform your habits

  • Do you keep your New Year’s resolutions?

Probably not. No need to read the tea leaves for that one. Look around you. 80% of resolutions are not kept.

And yet, you know that they are good for you. Logical.

Let me guess: Sport. A diet. Training. A new project. A hobby. Stop snacking. Spend more time with your loved ones.

You get started. You are motivated. You even keep your resolutions for several weeks. And one day you forget. One day. Two days. One week. You are back to your old routine.

Back to square one. With even less desire to start again.

Oh yes. A good habit is like a secret. It is very difficult to keep.

And yet… 90% of our actions are habitual, automatic.

  • Why is it vital to have good habits?

Simple: Are you in the habit of keeping calm? Of being in a good mood? Of focusing? Of doing sport? Of eating well? Of resting? Of meditating?

I see Mr. Pessimist is back: “But I’m too old for that! ” WRONG!

Whatever your age, you can adopt new habits.


  • You are ready to start your habit again. To begin with: no problem.

Now you need to set your habit in stone.

The secret? Make it easy.

An example:

Just one click. Television, Emails, Internet. It is so simple. Even a monkey can do it (some have already tried).

You barely have time to blink and 30 minutes have gone by.

After that: you don’t even think about it anymore. You are gone. Brainwashing.

The simpler it is, the more we stick to it.

If only sticking to your new habit was as easy! Do everything for it.

  • If you are on a diet, prepare diet-friendly snacks. Always have them close to hand.
  • If you do sport in the morning, plan everything. Everything is ready when you get up. Put on your trainers. Off you go.

Let’s go back to the call of the sofa and the TV. I know. There’s a new mail to check every 10 minutes. News from Facebook. And there you are mired in your sofa watching Coronation Street.

There are better things you could be doing, right?

Once again. The same magic potion.

The more complicated it is, the less we will stick with it.

  • In other words: remove temptations.

If you are on a diet: throw away the sweets.

Put the TV in the attic.

It is even worse at work: We spend 107 minutes per day on our emails, and we need just as much time to refocus. 30% of your time wasted on distractions.

Remove all the shortcuts to distractions: Automatic logins, favorites, email alerts.

Practical and simple. That’s it. The final principle will give you the strength to overcome anything.

Principle 7: Your relationships. Your oxygen.

  • “No need for help, I can manage”.

You only count on yourself – the biggest mistake that you can make.

Your problems are a weight on your shoulders. Carry them alone and you will end up visiting the specialists: psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts. And for those in the worst state: clairvoyants, witch doctors, and other visionaries.

All that trouble to talk about an anvil hanging over your head that you forged all by yourself.

Unfortunately, in the era of ultra-communication, many keep their worries to themselves. It’s no surprise that there is a therapist on the corner of every street.

Talk. Share. Listen. The more you talk, the less it hurts.

  • Let me guess: You have more than 200 friends on Facebook. 

Cool. An army. They are great when it comes to sharing the latest jokes and pictures of cute cats. How many listen to you when things are not going so well? How many help you?

Those one are your real friends.

Forget the computer. Spend time with people who are prepared to see you, listen to you, advise you. Share your troubles. Empathize. Laugh.

Your relationships are more important than anything.

A number? After a heart attack, your chances of survival are 3 times better if you have people around you.

  • It’s the same thing at work.

Don’t go it alone at work: You will not succeed alone.

Share your knowledge with your colleagues. Don’t be like the ladder-climbers, ready to stab their colleagues in the back for a 2% pay raise.

You will get there more quickly on your own. But you will go further together.

To conclude, here are 2 tips to love your work:

  • Make friends at work. And you can endure anything, no matter what.
  • Work with a boss you appreciate. And you move forward.

Conclusions about The Happiness Advantage by Yohann Feneche from the blog

If someone smiles at you, you smile. Happiness is contagious.

A change in your mood transforms your world. Smile, stand up straight. Your brain will follow.

When you talk to someone, look them in the eye. Show an interest in others and they will return it.

This book is like a big dollop of positive vibes. Happiness leads to success. Not the opposite.

Adopting these principles is a return to the essential: our well-being, our relationships, our surroundings. Take your life in hand. Build your happiness and spread it around you.

Strength points of The Happiness Advantage

  • Concrete
  • Simple:
  • Results proven by studies

Weak point of The Happiness Advantage

  • Repetitive

The Practical Guide to Shawn Achor’s Book The Happiness Advantage

The Seven Main Sections of the Book The Happiness Advantage

1. Building Your Happiness
2. Mindset
3. Training Yourself
4. Failing to Succeed
5. Step by Step
6. Transform Your Habits
7. Your Relationships. Your Oxygen

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Shawn Achor’s Book The Happiness Advantage

1. How was Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage” received by the public?

The book “How to Become a Contagious Optimist” was well-received by the public and sold nearly 13,000 copies.

2. What is the impact of Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage”?

This book has empowered readers to take control of their lives, build their happiness, and spread it to those around them.

3. Who is the target audience for “The Happiness Advantage”?

This book is intended for everyone, without exception.

4. What does happiness mean according to Shawn Achor?

In his book, Shawn Achor believes that happiness is like a construction site that needs to be built every day, turning it into a palace.

5. How does Shawn Achor define failure?

According to Shawn Achor, failure is a step toward success.

Who is Shawn Achor?

An American author and speaker, Shawn Achor was born on March 9, 1978, in Texas, United States. He holds a bachelor’s degree in arts from Harvard University and a master’s degree in Christian and Buddhist ethics from Harvard Divinity School. After his studies, Achor worked as a first-year proctor and teaching assistant at Harvard University. He was one of the teaching assistants for the popular course “Happiness” taught by Tal Ben-Shahar.

In 2007, Achor founded GoodThinkInc and later co-founded the Institute for Applied Positive Research with his wife, Michelle Gielan, comprising speakers, researchers, and trainers offering positive psychology-related services to enhance workplace performance. In 2015, Achor launched a two-part online learning course with Oprah Winfrey’s network and was named to Oprah’s Super Soul 100 list of visionaries, talk show hosts, and influential leaders in 2016.

In addition to “The Happiness Advantage” he is also the author of “Big Potential,” “Before Happiness,” “Energy + Motivation,” and the children’s book “Ripple’s Effect,” co-authored with his sister, Amy Blankson.

Buy The Happiness Advantage on Amazon :

To learn more about how to be happy, you may read my review about The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama.

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