What Happiness has to do with Success

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor explains how happiness is a tool to aid us in achieving success, and is not the result of it. He then provides us with seven applicable principles that we can use to expand both our success and happiness. The definition of happiness that Achor resonates the most with is the one Aristotle used, “ eudaimonia, which translates directly to “human flourishing”(Achor, 40). He goes on to say that “For me, happiness is the joy we feel striving for our potential.”(Achor, 40). The four principles that I believe are the most applicable to daily life are, principle number one: The happiness advantage, principle number three: the tetris effect, principle number four: falling up, and principal number five: the zorro circle.

In principle one, the happiness advantage, Achor describes how feeling happy has mostly to do with a person’s mental attitude. We cannot often control what happens to us, but we can change our outlook on the situation. Happiness is relative and everyone has a different viewpoint on the subject. This is why it is essential to discover our own ways to better our frame of mind and increase our levels of joy throughout our day. However, no matter what technique we use to increase our daily levels of positivity, doing so causes “even the smallest shots of positivity to give someone a serious competitive edge.”(Achor, 48) Having a more positive frame of mind causes us to be more intelligent and enthusiastic, and thus more successful.

Some of the many “happiness boosters” that Achor gives us that will help us gain from the happiness advantage are meditation, finding something to look forward too, and committing conscious acts of kindness. Meditation is a good way to experience feelings of calm and contentment. Practicing it can also be a way for us to remove ourselves from the busy pace of everyday life and just slow down for a while. Having something to look forward to is a happiness booster that I have benefited from often. Just thinking about a family event, party, or a event happening in the community relating to my interests that is coming up causes me to feel a rush of positivity. I also become more productive because the harder I work in the moment, the more free time I will have to fully experience that positive future event. Seeing people light up when we do small favors for them is a good way to increase our feelings of well-being.

Especially, when we can witness how that act of kindness made their day better. Whether it gave them more time for other responsibilities, or relieved them of some stress, acts of kindness cause feelings of happiness to be contagious between the two people and the others around them. Small life changes that we implement have the possibility of having a large impact in our mental and physical well-being. In a study, there was a man who was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and he decided to prescribe himself a regime of funny videos and watched to see if his condition improved.

Eventually his disease went into remission and then many more tests were done to see if laughter was able to help other patients. In the same way, there were positive results in the end. “They found that the same anticipation of mirthful laughter reduced the levels of three detrimental stress hormones were reduced 39, 70 and 38%.”(Science Daily, 12) I believe that this principle is applicable to daily life because there are many simple lifestyle choices that we can start right now that have a major impact on our overall health and happiness.

In principle three, the tetris effect, Achor describes the tetris effect and what happens to those who experience it. This effect is what occurs when someone spends a great deal of time doing a certain activity. While participating in the activity, our brains become so occupied, that the setting of the activity overflows into the other aspects of our lives. People who have spent a large amount of their time playing the tetris game began to see the shapes before they went to bed, and visualizing boxes of cereal fall into place at the grocery store. Achor characterizes this effect as being either favorable or unfavorable.

However for the gamers, it was mostly a positive experience because they were able to enhance their surroundings and become more productive. In the same way, we can teach our brain to keep an eye out for the beneficial aspects of our lives, and this can help us to become more cheerful as we progress through the day. A great way to start this process is to adopt a gratitude practice, in which we write down three positive qualities of our day that we feel grateful for.

No matter what happened that day, simply doing this can give the day an optimistic feel. In a study, where college students were seeking mental health counseling related to anxiety and depression, the researchers had one group write gratitude letters to someone they knew, and the other groups were tasked with writing about their negative experiences or feelings they had. The results were that, “Compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended.” (Wong, 18) I believe that this principle is applicable to everyday life because there are things in our lives to be grateful for each day, whether it be something big or small. Practicing gratitude and making ourselves realize the positive things in the world around us can cause us to be more observant and we will begin to appreciate the little things in life, which often turn out to be the most impactful.

In principle four, falling up, Achor tells us how we can fall upwards, instead of downwards by using our mistakes like a stepping stone. If we are able to find a way to view our losses as a possibility for improvement, then we are more likely to manifest that improvement in our lives. In order to be more productive in life and work, we can begin by managing our failures and stressful feelings in positive ways, and then admiring the outcomes and improvements in our work over time.

When we fail, there are three possible outcomes, nothing could change, we could get stuck in a cycle of self-pity, with more bad things to come, or we could rise above the failure and come back stronger than we were. Achor states that, ‘Finding the path up’ is what separates the successful from those who give up.” “It requires that you look for the opportunity in any setback, rather than settling in to despair.” (Achor, 118) This is the path that we should be looking to take while we choose which way to describe how our failures happened to us to come out with the most positive explanation possible.

Whatever we tell ourselves, we believe, and that will end up shaping our mindset. I believe that this principle is applicable to everyday life because it is an experience that most of us have in common. There are many instances in one’s life where they have risen above a challenge and created a better outcome for themselves through hard work or innovative thinking. Allowing themselves to fail as many times as they needed to get it right allowed them to achieve their goals, and they gained valuable life lessons in the process.

Lastly, in principle five, the zorro circle, Achor discusses how there are many times in our lives when we feel engulfed by various incidents and situations, and we may lose track of ourselves. He then explains how we can get our power back. Sometimes large goals can overtake us and we can feel burdened. Starting out with small, manageable, goals can give us a sense that we are in control and actually feel like we are instrumental in our own success.

Over time, those small accomplishments will add up into major successes. A zorro circle is one that grows larger each time we master being able to fight in the smaller one. We work on making the circle bigger on step at a time. When we narrow our focus down to certain areas of our lives in which we want to improve, then we can gain control of those areas more easily. In my own experience, I have researched and explored the philosophy of Kaizen. The word Kaizen is japanese for “good change.” I came upon it when an interesting article about the philosophy appeared on my social media. It basically said instead of trying to learn something new in big sections, or all at once, that I should work on whatever it was for five minutes a day.

In the past, when I got excited about learning something new, I would go all out. I would read a bunch of information, download all the software, and spend many hours trying to absorb an overwhelming amount of information. In the end, because of the rushed process I put myself through, the new hobby inevitably got pushed to the sidelines and forgotten. However, with Kaizen I was unable to use the excuse that learning the new skill would take many long months and was not worth it.

Almost everyone has at least five minutes in their day to spare. The achievements I made were small and slow but over the course of a year, they stacked upon each other and I had decent mastery of something I did not know before. One of the main ideas in Kaizen is, “There is always room to make small improvements, challenge the status quo, and tune processes and practice on an everyday basis.”(Mind Tools, 12) That is why I believe this principle is applicable to everyday life because it is important to focus on what we can do today to improve because the only thing we can change or work with right now is the present.

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What happiness has to do with success. (2021, May 24). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

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