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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 this free version of 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

The Happiness Advantage :An Introduction

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.

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 our 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 our 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 our 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).


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.

Getting the Most from The Happiness Advantage

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 13-page text summary, and a 28-minute audio summary.The Happiness Advantage summary - book summary bundle

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. You can purchase the book here for the full details, or visit

About the Author of The Happiness Advantage

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work is written by Shawn Achor–an American author and speaker. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and a Master of Arts in Christian and Buddhist Ethics from Harvard Divinity School. Achor worked as a Freshman Proctor and teaching assistant at Harvard University and was also one of the teaching assistants for Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Happiness” course. In 2007, Achor founded GoodThink, Inc. and later co-founded The Institute for Applied Positive Research with his wife Michelle Gielan.

The Happiness Advantage Quotes

“Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.”

“Happiness is not just a mood—it’s a work ethic.”

“Happiness causes success and achievement, not the opposite.”

“The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.”

“The most successful people see adversity not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone to greatness.”

“The person we have the greatest power to change is ourselves.”

Click here to download The Happiness Advantage summary & infographic

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