Best-selling author Shawn Achor on 'happiness'

Achor has two books on the NYT best -selling list, both on happiness. Get inside his head and learn how to be happy Photo: Author Website

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2013 — Ask anyone what they want in life, and the answer is invariably: “To be happy.” However, the question remains how to achieve this lofty goal and what tools, skills and strategies are necessary to fulfill the goal of personal happiness.

This is where best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, debuting at number two on the New York Times, steps in.

Shawn Achor recalls being in the grip of depression while at divinity school at Harvard University and writing down “I don’t remember being happy”.

Achor embarked upon a journey of discovery to find out what conditions, skills and strategies must be met to achieve happiness. Achor wished to know what must come before we can be happy or successful. During this personal journey, he discovered what he calls the “Five hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness and sustaining positive change.”

His premise is one does not find happiness via success but finds success via happiness.

Achor realized for one to be happy, there are certain essential strategies and learned skills that must be in place. When Achor achieved a final analysis, he penned the book Before Happiness as a road map to achieving one’s personal goals to establish a pattern of success modeled via happiness.

Achor is not new to science by a longshot. He grew up a test subject for his Father who was a neuroscientist, in harmless yet interesting research. His Father saved the serious efforts to conservative methods sans his son. Achor apparently has the science, research and curiosity genetic advantage combined with self-imposed forces of determination and uses the combination well.

Achor has traveled the world speaking, engaging, consorting and researching at some of the best schools and environments of shared interest .

Achor’s books suggest he is onto something good. His research can save the average person years of learning. Many people never learn the secrets of happiness, instead becoming distracted by the vicissitudes of life. They can work hard and unhappy or smart and happy.

Achor lays out his accumulated wisdom and knowledge in five skill sets. In each skill set, Achor reveals strategies for balance, achievement and a linear, gainful means of creating lasting, definitive results that proves happiness and positivity can serve us and those we share with, for a lifetime.

Skill one is what he calls “Reality Architecture: Choosing the Most Valuable Reality.” This chapter is devoted to the way people interpret and perceive their reality. Achor uses his experience in the US Navy to describe an incident whereupon he was surprised to learn a distorted reality is still a functional reality and shows perception can be arranged and rearranged to gain a greater understanding of which reality serves a person’s best interest.

With the second skill, Achor again uses his military experience to drive home the point that without good, solid mapping of actual abilities, one gets stranded in misdirection. Achor provides mental exercises but not too many to get bored, confused or disinterested. In fact, the ones he uses are awe inspiring at times.

This chapter is titled Mental Cartography: Mapping Your Success Route. Again, Achor offers many strategies to map out your skill set and abilities as ammunition for action and closing in on one’s goals.

In the following chapters, Achor leads the reader to finding what he calls “Success Accelerants” and methods of boosting “Your positive signal by eliminating negative noise” which is a fascinating trip to personal discovery by embracing positive internal and external forces and reducing or eliminating negative internal and external forces and influences.

The fifth chapter deals with transferring what the reader has learned of positivity and happiness to those in their team, family friends and others. This transference is essential for collective frame of mind and positive effort. He teaches readers how to perform this transference.

Again, as with all chapters, there are a multitude of strategies outlining a path to the Happiness Advantage.

An interesting comparison Achor uses for perception of goal oriented achievement is a story of soldiers drudging up a hill filled with obstacles. He describes the mentality of those depressed by the remaining obstacles to reach the top and those who favor the thought process of having achieved so much to get where they are, a quick assessment of how far they have to go that seems relatively easy and far less a burden at this point. The difference in perspective can spell the difference in achievement.

Those with positive mindset will wait at the top for the depressed and mentally overcome to drag themselves over not only the terrain but over their lack of energy and will due to misperception.

From an external perspective, it would appear Achor wrote the first book then began to wonder how to define a perspective of achievement and how to get in a psychologically positive mindset in order to achieve happiness.

Perhaps the cart was put before the horse.

In a brief discussion with Achor, he provided some interesting insights to share with readers of the Washington Times Communities.

As an expert in the relatively new and rapidly rising popular area of psychology called positive psychology, Achor tell us that the older style of psychology could take someone with issues that on a scale of say one to ten, from a minus seven and post treatment, return them to a level of ‘0’ or starting fresh.

However, Achor concurs with the so-called Father of modern positive psychology, Martin Seligman, that this form of psychology focuses on peoples strengths and positive features and uses these assets to guide people from the same minus seven and propel them to, say a plus seven with renewed vigor and profound levels of happiness.

Achor also discussed a part of the book that explains how we need some ‘good stress’ to achieve and excel much like a comedian does for a live performance. A comedian harnesses the good stress for an edge to keep the mind sharp, focused and goal oriented. The non-comedian can do this a well.

Achor says the key here is to channel stress for productivity but not let it accumulate into anxiety and Achors’ book addresses this strategy.

Achor is an open, honest and skilled professor of happiness and how to use it for achievement. He is sought by companies, corporations, colleges, universities and various enterprises to speak, train and improve corporate levels of achievement by combining collective resources to move into the future with the strategies outlined in his books as guides for positive thinking, happiness and growth.

Studies in psychology have shown that each culture from every corner of the world share the very same five basic personality traits. How we use these traits to our personal advantage dictates how well we will flourish and live and happiness is the key to flourishing.

The science of positive  psychology teaches us that 50 percent of our demeanor and level of happiness comes from family genetics and far less is a workable variable so Achor’s book is a must read in order to understand what is semi-fixed and what is malleable.

Hopefully, Achor will find time to author a third life changing book.

 

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist.

 


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