What’s the secret to being happy and successful in work and life?
Harvard Professor Shawn Achor’s enlightening book, “The Happiness Advantage,” gives a whole host of answers all based on data and solid research (us Data Fanatics just loved it). Last week we gathered around a conference room table to discuss and digest Achor’s principles for happiness at Pattern’s inaugural book club meeting.
Here are five takeaways from the “The Happiness Advantage” that we discussed and loved.
1. Fail fast, fall up.
We’re no strangers to failure around here. In fact, most successful people aren’t (spoiler alert!). After all, challenges come up in work and life. It’s inevitable! However, how we perceive and then react to those challenges is completely within our control.
Achor’s fourth principle to happiness, Falling Up, pulls on a whole host of studies and data to prove that people who see crisis as a catalyst for growth come out of hard times even stronger than before. Post-Traumatic Growth is an actual term psychologists use for people who experience positive psychological effects after crises (like breast cancer or forced displacement).
We decided that problems are either roadblocks or opportunities, and changing our mindset to the latter is an important part of happiness and subsequent success. After all, a key tenant of “The Happiness Advantage” is that happiness precedes success, despite what most of us think.
2. The 20-second rule: Disrupt the path of least resistance.
If going on a bike ride or hike makes us more happy, why do we usually get home after work, prop our feet on the coffee table and automatically reach for the TV remote? Achor explains that our brains are wired to follow the path of least resistance.
If we truly want to change our lives (and experience greater happiness) we need to actively disrupt our bad habits by requiring more effort to do those things. By simply adding another “20 seconds” between us and our bad habits, we can consciously take back control of the path of least resistance.
For example, Achor’s answer to watching too much TV was removing the batteries from his remote and putting them in a drawer. To watch TV, he had to get up and put the batteries back in the remote, adding well over 20 seconds to the task. It worked, and it’s just one way we can change the way our minds fall into habits we’d like to break.
3. See each other as Game Changers (the Pygmalion Effect).
One of our cultural values is Game Changers. We believe it’s important to recognize the hard work of our Pattern teammates and recognize them when they do great work. “The Happiness Advantage” discusses the Pygmalion Effect, which found a correlation between expectations and performance.
One study found that students performed much better than their peers after their teachers were told that the students were especially bright. In actuality, the students weren’t any smarter than the other students, but because the teachers believed more in those students’ capabilities, they succeeded even more than they normally would have.
Not only does positive reinforcement from peers and superiors feel good, it actually helps us do better work. Thus, the importance of seeing (and recognizing) each other as Game Changers in the workplace can be, you guessed it, game-changing. We need to see each other’s potential and believe in our team if we’re going to succeed.
4. The 2.9013 ratio: Make sure the positive outweighs the negative.
We like dabbling in numbers around here, so we found the findings Achor shares about the number 2.9013 especially interesting. “2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful,” Achor wrote.
In other words, it takes about 3 positive comments to overcome the consequences of a negative one. This finding from the psychologist Marcial Losada points out just how important it is to make a concerted effort to be more positive in your daily interactions with coworkers, friends, and family.
Here at Pattern we believe positivity is an absolute must. Believing in what we’re doing as a team and a company is important for our success—especially believing in each other. In a positive environment, there simply isn’t room for harmful negativity.
5. Happy, healthy living is habit-based.
Finally, we loved the practical advice in "The Happiness Advantage." Achor shares 7 different things we can do to be happier in life and work. These three were some of our favorites that we discussed the most.
Commit conscious acts of kindness
Little things like bringing cookies to your team on a particularly difficult Monday matter. They make us happier, and happiness is often contagious. The more we serve consciously, the more satisfaction we feel.
Infuse positivity into your surroundings
We can always try to bring more positivity with us wherever we go. Whether it’s being more intentional with what you say or putting up happy pictures of family and friends on your desk, you can make your working and living space more positive by making a concerted effort.
Exercise your strengths
Rather than focus on the things you’re not good at, do more things that you are good at. This refuels your confidence, satisfaction, and it can be fun.
Ending thoughts: The Zorro Circle.
We ended our discussion talking about principle five: The Zorro Circle. As Zorro’s mentor taught him the hard way, we have to learn how to excel in our circle of influence (in his case, a literal tiny circle) before we can move on to bigger and better things.
By starting small, we can ensure we’re succeeding at a pace that makes sense for our circumstances and abilities. None of us will ever be perfect at applying “The Happiness Advantage,” but we can begin to implement small pieces at a time.
As we become happier, all aspects of our lives improve. Whether it’s being a better coworker, CEO, spouse, or friend, the contagious benefits of being happy are endless.