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

The Happiness Advantage - Book summary

Many of us have been brought up on the belief that success brings happiness. Yet, today, there’s ample scientific research to show that happiness drives success, not vice versa. When you’re happy and positive, you tend to be more motivated, resilient, creative and efficient, which in turn improves your results. This is the “Happiness Advantage”. Shawn Achor presents seven principles of positive psychology, with tools and tips to improve your resilience, happiness, well-being and performance. In The Happiness Advantage summary, we’ll give an overview of these 7 proven principles:

1) Tap on the Happiness Advantage
2) Change outcomes with your fulcrum and lever
3) Create a Positive Tetris Effect
4) Fall upward
5) Regain control with the Zorro Circle
6) Transform habits with the 20-Second Rule
7) Invest in social support—your greatest asset

For the full details, examples and tips, do get a copy of the book, or get a detailed overview with our complete book summary bundle.The Happiness Advantage summary - book summary bundle

Happiness is a state of subjective well-being that involves a positive mood in the moment and a positive viewpoint for the future. In this book, Achor uses “happiness” interchangeably with words like “positivity” and “positive emotions”.

There’s extensive evidence that the human brain changes throughout our lives. This means that everything from your intellectual capacity to personal potential can be changed. From his research, Achor found 7 positive psychology principles which were proven to help people from various walks of life—from Harvard students to professionals and Fortune 500 executives—to overcome challenges, improve productivity and unlock their potential.

The Seven Positive Psychology Principles

We’ll now briefly outline the 7 principles you can use to unlock the Happiness Advantage. Do get a copy of our full 13-page summary for more details or get the full mojo from the book.

The Happiness Advantage summary_Seven Principles of Positive Psychology


Train your brain to become more positive, as it gives you a natural advantage over being neutral or negative.

In  the book / complete summary we share research findings that show why/how happiness brings better health, success and achievement. The great news is, you can change your “happiness baseline”, regardless of whether you’re naturally happier or moody at present. Achor shares many proven practices that can boost both short-term emotions and permanently increase your happiness levels. Here’s a list of actions you can start applying today!


Meditation has been found to grow the left prefrontal cortex—the part of our brain with the greatest impact on happiness levels. By taking 5 minutes daily to meditate and focus on your breathing, you can reduce stress, improve happiness and even immunity over time.

Look forward to a future reward

Anticipation of a reward or joyful event (e.g. a movie or a vacation) can boost your endorphin levels so you feel as happy as when you enjoy the actual reward.

Perform 5 deliberate acts of kindness daily

Altruistic acts (e.g. giving to friends or strangers) have been found to reduce stress and improve mental health.

Inject positivity into your environment

This has a huge impact on your mindset and well-being. Surround your workspace with pictures of loved ones, go for a walk on a nice day, and watch fewer negative TV programs.


All forms of exercise—be it walking, biking, or playing—trigger the release of endorphins, reduce stress and improve motivation. Exercise has been found to be as effective as antidepressant medication in the short term, and is even more effective than medication in the long-term.

Invest in meaningful experiences and activities

Experiences have been proven to bring more lasting happiness than pleasure from material acquisitions (i.e. buying things for yourself).

Use a signature strength

It feels good to apply a core skill. Identify your top 5 strengths on and use at least 1 key strength each day.

In  the book / full book summary we also elaborate on how you can lead with the Happiness Advantage to create huge ripple effects to unlock staff potential and improve team performance.


Famous scientist and mathematician Archimedes theorized that with a long enough lever and the right fulcrum, a man could single-handedly move the world. Your mindset is like your fulcrum while your belief is like your lever. By shifting your mindset and extending your belief of what’s possible, you can magnify your ability to create what originally seemed impossible.

In  the book / complete 13-page summary we share evidence to show that (i) your perceived reality is so powerful that it shapes your world and your outcomes, (ii) your belief about your potential defines what you can achieve, (iii) with the right mindset/beliefs, you can achieve greater success and fulfillment from work/life, and (iv) how/why you can start making those shifts.


The Tetris Effect occurs when we spend so much time and attention on something that it changes our thoughts, mental images, and behaviors. It was named after the phenomenon of people seeing their world in Tetris blocks (e.g. constantly thinking how buildings or items may fit together) after they’ve played the game for too long.

In our summary bundle we (i) explain how our brain works as a filter, (ii) share examples to show why focusing on the wrong things will cause you to miss out on great opportunities that are right in front of you and (iii) how you can train your brain to see positive patterns (like possibilities and opportunities) instead of the negatives (like stress and failure).

Digest these powerful tips in minutes with our summary & infographic!


During crisis and failures, we typically have 3 mental paths: (i) we keep dwelling on our current situation, (ii) we think about worst-case scenarios, or (iii) we find the upward path that brings us out of the dumps and into a stronger position than before.

In the book, Achor explains how our brains work in times of distress. In our detailed summary we present the strategies you can use to find the third mental path so you can emerge stronger and happier from setbacks.


We find the best solutions when we can think clearly and creatively. Unfortunately, in times of crisis, all logic goes out of the window. The Zorro Circle represents our “circle of control”. When things are spiraling out of control, refocus on small, manageable goals, then gradually expand your circle as you rebuild your confidence and control.

In our complete book summary we explain (i) why perceived control is vital for performance and well-being, (ii) why we lose control during times  of distress and (iii) how to regain control 1 circle at a time.


Almost everyone understands the value of a healthy diet, exercise and rest. Yet, most people don’t do it. Even if you want to nurture positivity, it’s hard to break existing habits to create lasting change.

In our full summary bundle we elaborate on (i) how habits are formed, (ii) how willpower works, (iii) why it’s so hard to overcome inertia and (iv) how you can use the 20-second rule (or the path of least resistance) to replace bad habits with good ones.


In times of difficulty and stress, we need social support more. Yet we tend to withdraw from others, bury ourselves in work and reduce our time with friends and family.

In the book, Achor shares research findings on the relationship between social relationships and happiness levels, well-being and performance. In our full summary, we give a details overview of (i) why social support is so important, (ii) how you can build your social capital and (iii) strengthen connections at the workplace as a leader.

Create a Positive Ripple Effect with The Happiness Advantage

All 7 principles above are closely intertwined and will create a larger synergistic effect when applied together. The best way to create a massive effect is not to preach to others and hope they’ll change. Instead, apply the 7 principles to change yourself; in so doing, you’ll naturally create a positive ripple effect for up to 3 degrees of influence, to improve happiness and results not just for yourself, but also countless other people.

Other Details in “The Happiness Advantage”

In the book, Achor shares many other empirical research and examples to help us understand the foundations of positive psychology and how the 7 principles are derived and applied. Do get a copy of the book for the full details, get The Happiness Advantage summary bundle for an overview of the various ideas and tips, or visit


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 Unlock the Happiness Advantage to improve your resilience, happiness, well-being and performance!

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