Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage

Grade: B

Riveting research gets a little stifled by the author’s pride.

Did you know Shawn Achor went to Harvard? 
No really. I’m quite certain of it.  He only mentioned it about 27 times in this book, so it was kind of subtle, but if you read between the lines you too can pick up this hidden gem.
I promise not to mention it again – because it was the only glaring annoyance in this otherwise useful book.

This book could also be called: The Placebo Effect.
It is very very VERY real.  People dismiss the effect of thought on our physical body – and it’s HUGE.

Thought is what leads to hormone release.  Perception of fear releases adrenaline.  Perception of happiness releases Dopamine.  This book discusses Oxytocin and Cortisol and many other hormones and it points out the absolutely real physiological effects of each.

Doing the exact same physical activity, with the thought that you are exercising – leads to more weight loss and increased muscle gain.  HORMONES matter.  THOUGHT matters.
Being “happy” can kill pain better than narcotics. Exercising can cure depression better than antidepressants. 
Being Happy decreases heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other PHYSICAL diseases.
This is not about positive affirmations or “think a happy thought.”  This book is not Peter Pan advice to help us fly away from tragic lives.
This book is science.  Research study after research study proving that our mental outlook on life makes a HUGE difference in our physical health, our finances, our family, our friends, our entire existence.

This book is very worthwhile – because the author doesn’t just say “Get Happy” – He gives you specific tasks and practices to accomplish it.

My favorite chapter was “Principle #6:  The 20 Second Rule”
It talks all about "activation energy."
It takes very little energy to keep a signal running along a nerve.  But it takes a burst of energy to start the flow.  You have to provide enough “activation energy” to start it.  Kind of like getting  a car rolling on a flat road.  You have to put in a ton of energy to push the car from a dead stop but once it’s going it doesn’t take much to keep it going.
It is the same way with habits.  Habits are very hard to start.  Forming them can be a nightmare.
The answer – DECREASE the activation energy.  Make it as simple as possible to do the habit each day.
What ever you want to do: put it in your natural path.  Take away all need for decision making. Make it harder NOT to do the new thing.

If you want to exercise first thing in the morning – sleep in your gym clothes.
If you want to learn to play the guitar – keep the guitar in the middle of the room where you will almost run into it every time you walk through your house.
The same is true for habits you want to STOP.  Make it much much HARDER to do the thing you want to stop.
If you check your e-mail WAY too often and you want to stop – delete your shortcut, and don’t let the computer remember your password.
Make it require time, energy, and a whole lot of work to do the WRONG thing.

This chapter is genius.  The entire book is good.

I recommend it.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Common sense is not common action." - p. 146

"Coercing employees into awkward icebreakers or forced bonding activities, like making everyone at a meeting share something about their private lives, only breeds disconnection and mistrust. Better that these moments happen organically - which they will if the environment is right. The best leaders give their employees the space and time to let moments of social connection develop on their own" - p. 193