Skip to Content

Summary: The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

  • The book shows how happiness is not just a mood, but a work ethic that can boost our productivity, creativity, resilience, and health.
  • The book explains how we can rewire our brains to become more positive and optimistic, which in turn enhances our performance and outcomes.
  • The book presents seven principles of positive psychology, with practical tips and exercises to apply them in our daily lives.

“We become more successful when we are happier and more positive.” – Shawn Achor

Why it’s important to be happy before and during work:

  • Doctors primed with positive emotions perform an accurate diagnosis 19% faster (Estrada 1997).
  • Optimistic sales people outperform their counterparts by 56% (Seligman, 2006).
  • A 2005 meta-study looked at over 200 studies on 275,000 people worldwide and found that happiness led to success in nearly every domain, including work, health, friendship, sociability, and creativity (Lyubomirsky, 2005).

“Happiness gives us a real chemical edge on the competition. How? Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels. They help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on. And they enable us to make and sustain more neural connections, which allows us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.” – Shawn Achor (all bold italic quotes shown below are by Shawn Achor)

Book Summary: The Happiness Advantage - The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

5 Ways to Build Your ‘Happiness Advantage’ This Week

Help someone by using a signature strength

“Each time we use a skill, whatever it is, we experience a burst of positivity. If you find yourself in need of a happiness booster, revisit a talent you haven’t used in a while.”

My signature strength is learning. I exercise my signature strength by reading books, learning new ideas, and sharing those ideas with others. Finding one great idea provides a happiness boost that lasts the entire day. Your signature strength might be giving advice on a specific topic.

  • Determine what you’re particularly good at and enjoy doing. Each night, before you go to bed, think about how you’re going to use your signature strength to make a small difference in someone’s life.

Arrange something to look forward to

“One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.”

Schedule 3 exciting experiences this week. These experience might include:

  • Watching a movie you’ve been dying to see, playing a round of golf with a friend, or watching a local concert or comedy show.

Practice gratitude

“When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups. Countless other studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.”

  • Keep a journal near your bed. Before going to sleep at night OR before getting out of bed in the morning, write down 3 things you’re grateful for.

Perform deliberate acts of kindness

“Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, has found that individuals told to complete five acts of kindness over the course of a day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the exercise is over.”

Make a conscious decision to help 3 people today:

  • Buy someone a cup of coffee, offer your time to simply listen to someone’s struggles, or send a message of encouragement to a friend or family member.

Yearn for social support

“In the midst of challenges and stress, some people choose to hunker down and retreat within themselves. But the most successful people invest in their friends, peers, and family members to propel themselves forward. This principle teaches us how to invest more in one of the greatest predictors of success and excellence—our social support network.”

As an introvert, I could go weeks without talking to friends. This behavior is destructive to my happiness and my work performance. I’ve learned to make plans with friends at the start of each week to ensure my social support bucket stays full. I often schedule:

  • Coffee dates, dinners, and game nights (card games, board games, etc.)


In “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor, a renowned positive psychology researcher, reveals the secret to achieving success and performance in the workplace: prioritizing happiness. Contrary to popular belief, happiness is not a byproduct of success; rather, it is a precursor. Achor presents seven principles of positive psychology that empower readers to cultivate happiness, leading to improved job performance, increased productivity, and a more fulfilling career.

Principle 1: The Happiness Advantage

Achor begins by highlighting the misconception that success breeds happiness. He argues that this formula is backward; happiness actually fuels success. When individuals prioritize their well-being, they experience a positive shift in their brain function, leading to increased creativity, productivity, and resilience. This advantage enables them to perform at their best, ultimately achieving greater success.

Principle 2: The Fulcrum and the Three paths

Achor introduces the “fulcrum,” a metaphor representing the tipping point between success and failure. He identifies three paths that can lead to the fulcrum: the “Path of Most Resistance,” the “Path of Least Resistance,” and the “Path of the Happiness Advantage.” By choosing the third path, individuals can capitalize on their strengths, overcome obstacles, and create opportunities for growth and happiness.

Principle 3: The Tetris Effect

The “Tetris Effect” refers to the brain’s ability to retrain itself to focus on the positive aspects of life. Achor encourages readers to cultivate this effect by practicing gratitude, mindfulness, and meaningful social connections. By doing so, individuals can rewire their brains to recognize and capitalize on opportunities, leading to increased success.

Principle 4: The Fourth Drive

Achor introduces the “Fourth Drive,” which complements the three drives already identified by psychologists: the drive for survival, security, and success. The Fourth Drive is the desire for meaning and purpose. When individuals align their work with their values and passions, they experience a deeper sense of fulfillment, leading to increased motivation and performance.

Principle 5: The Zorro Circle

The “Zorro Circle” is a tool for achieving success by focusing on small, manageable tasks. Achor encourages readers to identify their “Circle” by breaking down daunting goals into smaller, achievable steps. By mastering these smaller tasks, individuals build confidence, develop skills, and create momentum toward their larger objectives.

Principle 6: The 20-Second Rule

Achor’s “20-Second Rule” states that any habit can be changed by creating a 20-second delay between the urge to perform the old habit and the actual behavior. By implementing this delay, individuals can overcome old patterns and replace them with positive, productive habits.

Principle 7: The Power of Social Investment

The final principle emphasizes the importance of social connections in fostering happiness and success. Achor encourages readers to invest in meaningful relationships by practicing “positive energy” behaviors, such as active listening, appreciation, and empathy. By strengthening social bonds, individuals can create a support network that enhances their well-being and performance.

The book begins by challenging the conventional belief that success leads to happiness, and instead proposes the reverse: happiness fuels success. Achor introduces the concept of the “happiness advantage,” which suggests that when individuals cultivate a positive mindset, they experience a range of cognitive and emotional benefits that enhance their performance and well-being. Drawing from extensive research studies, Achor presents seven principles that can be applied to leverage this advantage and create a positive work environment.

One of the key principles explored in the book is the notion of “The Tetris Effect.” Achor explains how our brains tend to get stuck in patterns, and by training ourselves to focus on positive aspects, we can rewire our thinking to notice opportunities and solutions more effectively. This principle encourages readers to adopt a proactive approach to shaping their mental outlook, leading to increased productivity and resilience in the face of challenges.

Another important concept discussed in the book is the “Zorro Circle.” Achor suggests that individuals can enhance their happiness and performance by focusing on small, manageable goals rather than becoming overwhelmed by larger tasks. By gradually expanding their circle of control and influence, individuals can regain a sense of mastery and agency, leading to a positive feedback loop of success and happiness.

Throughout the book, Achor emphasizes the role of social connections in promoting happiness and success. He highlights the importance of fostering positive relationships with colleagues and creating a supportive work environment. By promoting a culture of gratitude, kindness, and collaboration, organizations can enhance employee engagement and overall performance.

“The Happiness Advantage” is not only a theoretical exploration; it also offers practical strategies and exercises to implement the principles discussed. Achor provides clear action steps that readers can incorporate into their daily lives to experience the benefits of positive psychology. From gratitude journaling to practicing acts of kindness, these exercises are designed to cultivate a positive mindset and promote personal and professional growth.

One of the strengths of this book is Achor’s ability to present complex psychological concepts in an accessible and engaging manner. His writing style is engaging, blending scientific research with real-life anecdotes and examples. This makes the book relatable and applicable to a wide range of readers, including professionals, managers, and individuals seeking personal development.

However, one potential limitation of the book is its heavy focus on workplace success and performance. While the principles outlined by Achor undoubtedly have broader applications, readers looking for a more comprehensive exploration of happiness in various life domains may find this emphasis somewhat narrow.


In “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor provides a comprehensive guide to cultivating happiness and achieving success in the workplace. By implementing the seven principles of positive psychology, readers can rewire their brains, improve their well-being, and reach their full potential. Achor’s engaging writing style, relatable anecdotes, and actionable strategies make this book an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to boost their career and life satisfaction.


I highly recommend “The Happiness Advantage” to anyone looking to enhance their professional life, improve their well-being, or simply seeking a more fulfilling career. Achor’s book offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between happiness and success, providing practical strategies that can be applied immediately. Whether you’re an individual seeking personal growth or a leader looking to create a positive organizational culture, this book is a valuable investment in your personal and professional development.

Here are some additional thoughts on the book:

  • I appreciate that Achor provides a clear and concise explanation of the happiness advantage. This makes it easy to understand the concept and start applying it in your own life.
  • I also appreciate that Achor provides a variety of practical tips for increasing happiness. This gives you a lot of options to choose from and helps you to find the approach that works best for you.
  • I think the book is most helpful for people who are already working on improving their happiness. It can help you to stay motivated and focused on your goals by providing you with a framework for tracking your progress and celebrating your successes.

If you are interested in increasing your happiness and improving your performance in all areas of your life, I highly recommend reading The Happiness Advantage.

Summary: The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

    Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

    Your Support Matters...

    We run an independent site that is committed to delivering valuable content, but it comes with its challenges. Many of our readers use ad blockers, causing our advertising revenue to decline. Unlike some websites, we have not implemented paywalls to restrict access. Your support can make a significant difference. If you find this website useful and choose to support us, it would greatly secure our future. We appreciate your help. If you are currently using an ad blocker, please consider disabling it for our site. Thank you for your understanding and support.