When it comes to happiness and success, writes Shawn Anchor, most of us have things backwards. We believe that when we're successful (or buy a new iph...moreWhen it comes to happiness and success, writes Shawn Anchor, most of us have things backwards. We believe that when we're successful (or buy a new iphone, take our next vacation, or get a promotion), then we'll be happy. In fact, Anchor says, the science of positive psychology has shown that things really work the other way around. Instead of success driving happiness, happiness instead drives success -- in work, in life, in relationships. The Happiness Advantage is an attempt to lay out the principles of positive psychology so that laypeople (you and me) can take advantage of its findings.
Anchor is quick to point out that "happiness" does not necessarily mean an Epicurean hunt for instant pleasure. ("Cheesecake every night! Woo!") Instead, "happiness" might be used interchangeably with "positivity" and encompasses many positive emotions: contentment, satisfaction, gratitude, love, fulfillment, etc. Anchor also notes that mainstream psychology -- which seeks to take people who are sick or deeply unhappy and bring them back to an average baseline -- has its place. Positive psychology picks up where mainstream psychology leaves off: when we're already at the average and want to be better, happier, more content, and more successful.
The bulk of The Happiness Advantage lays out the seven interconnected principles of positive psychology:
1. The Happiness Advantage: people with positive attitudes tend to be more successful in all aspects of life, compared to people who are neutral or negative. It is possible, through daily tasks (like meditation, exercise, and conscious acts of kindness), to gain a more positive attitude.
2. The Fulcrum and the Lever: how we experience the world changes based on our mindset. The way you interpret your situation will have dramatic effects on the outcomes you achieve.
3. The Tetris Effect: just as people who play lots of Tetris will see interlocking geometric shapes everywhere, focusing on possibility can retrain our brains so that we see and seize opportunity far more frequently.
4. Falling Up: a small but significant minority of people who experience trauma use that experience to catapult themselves into being more successful. Most people see only two paths out of adversity: the negative event will make them worse off, or will leave them unchanged. However, there is a third, often-overlooked path: we can use the negative event to improve ourselves and our situation.
5. The Zorro Circle: we cannot change everything all at once. By focusing on small, incremental changes, we will eventually reach ever-larger goals.
6. The 20-Second Rule: we naturally want to follow the path of least resistance, which for many of us is inaction (or watching TV). By changing our environment so that the path of least resistance is action, we can replace bad habits with good ones. (e.g. Putting the guitar in the middle of the living room and the TV remote batteries in a drawer across the house.)
7. Social Investment: our social support network is our most valuable asset, and sadly one of the first things we get rid of when the going gets tough. If we maintain our social connections in times of difficulty, large challenges can be less daunting and leave us less stressed.
I really enjoyed this book. The only thing I would have done to improve it would be to add worksheets at the end of each chapter, so that there was an easily-accessible list of actions I could take to live the Happiness Advantage principles. Aside from that, I think that Anchor gives some great advice that I'm going to try incorporating into my life. It's a fast enough read that I highly recommend it, and would be interested in hearing other people's reactions.(less)
I've been slogging away at this book for nearly a month, which is unusual for me. Usually, if I stall on a book (as I did with three other books I sta...moreI've been slogging away at this book for nearly a month, which is unusual for me. Usually, if I stall on a book (as I did with three other books I started reading over the month of February), I simply put it down with a note that it's been partially read. But The Happiness Hypothesis was so compelling that I kept coming back after putting it down and letting my mind digest the material. It's a book that's designed to be read slowly.
I discovered this book through Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath, who borrow Haidt's metaphor of the mind as a rider on an elephant. Haidt asks us to imagine our mind as a rider (your conscious self) trying to direct an elephant (your subconscious self). To some extent, the rider can manhandle the elephant into doing what it wants, but things work out much better if he can train the elephant into going along the proper path. This metaphor helps explain much of the rest of the book.
Later chapters use psychology, neurology, biology, and anthropology to explain the sometimes-confusing world of our minds and our societies. Why do we feel the need to get revenge on someone, even if it doesn't bring us any personal gain? Why are we so likely to see faults in other but not ourselves? How can we find love and happiness? How can we overcome adversity? And, in the pursuit of the ultimate question, what is the meaning of life?
This is an absolutely fascinating book, and I highly recommend it. You'll start to see some of the underlying reasons behind things that might previous have been a mystery. I expect I'll come back to this book and reread it every few years, because it's just so rich with information.(less)
The rules of social behavior are complex. How can you get someone to like you? What's the best way to provide criticism? How can you present your idea...moreThe rules of social behavior are complex. How can you get someone to like you? What's the best way to provide criticism? How can you present your ideas persuasively? Clifford Nass has tackled all these questions using an odd lab partner: the computer. The idea was simple: human collaborators can be inconsistent, leading to inconsistent lab results. A computer, on the other hand, can replicate the exact same experiment as many times as you need it to, without complaining and without deviation.
But will people respond to a computer the same way they'd respond to a human being? The answer should be clear to anyone who's ever pleaded with their printer to not run out of ink on the final pages of a report, or to anyone who's ever screamed in frustration when their laptop crashed at a crucial moment. People treat computers like people, even while adamantly denying they do so. People like computers more that flatter them, that have a similar "personality" to their own, that are part of their team. They will reciprocate favors with a computer. They'll assign female stereotypes to a computer that uses a female voice, to the point that male German drivers wouldn't trust a GPS system that used a female voice because they won't take directions from women.
Through the book, Nass and Yen point out that many of the complex social issues we face in our daily lives can really be reduced to simple rules. Flattery will make people like you more but make you seem less intelligent. All emotions can be reduced to varying levels of "valence" (happy vs. sad) and "arousal" (calm vs. excited). Teams are built based on identification with a group and interdependence. Persuasion comes down to expertise and trustworthiness. One of the reviewers of the book, Chip Heath (one of my favorite authors, incidentally), said, "If Dale Carnegie had been a Google engineer, this is how he would have written How to Win Friends and Influence People." Nass' main thrust seems to be, "If a computer can master social interactions, so can you!"
All told, it's an interesting book. I think it relies a bit too much on Nass' own research and should probably have been expanded to show that, yes, these traits actually do work in the real human world and not just for computers. Still, it's a fun read and a few of the "rules" have probably slipped into my long-term memory for me to use when I'm not sure how to deal with some distressing social situation.(less)
Having now read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Have a Little Faith, I figured it was time to go back to the book that made Mitch Albom famous,...moreHaving now read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Have a Little Faith, I figured it was time to go back to the book that made Mitch Albom famous, Tuesdays with Morrie. For some reason, I don't know why, I always thought this was a book based in Montreal, but in fact it isn't. The "plot" is deceptively simple: a workaholic finds out that his favourite university professor has been diagnosed with ALS and has months to live, so he goes back on Tuesdays to talk about life and learn deep lessons about how to live. In the course of a few months, they speak about compassion, forgiveness, culture, and a host of other significant issues.
Of course, as with all the other books by Albom I've read so far, Tuesdays with Morrie isn't about the plot, it's about the content. Like all of Albom's other books, this one made me emotional and contemplative. He really has a gift for description and for making his readers connect with the main character's feelings and thoughts. Like all of Albom's other books, I enjoyed this one very much. Yet another must-read and something I'd love to have on my shelf.(less)
I'm in awe of Albom's writing style. He uses simple, easy-to-read words, and manages to convey the nuances of everything from mourning to elation. Whi...moreI'm in awe of Albom's writing style. He uses simple, easy-to-read words, and manages to convey the nuances of everything from mourning to elation. While I was reading Have a Little Faith, I found myself both emotional and pensive, pondering over the questions that Albom himself struggled with: Why do good things happen to bad people? Is there really a God? Why do people choose to go into the ministry? Can people really, fundamentally change? Heavy stuff, but it doesn't really feel that way as you're reading it. It just feels like an excellent, thought-provoking story.
The plot revolves around two men, a suburban Jewish rabbi in New Jersey, and an inner-city priest in Detroit. The two men couldn't be more dissimilar. "The Reb" came from a family of rabbis and wanted to be a history teacher. The priest grew up as a drug dealer and did a 7-year jail sentence for a crime he didn't commit. But both of them embody their faith and inspire the people around them, both in their congregation and beyond it.
Every year, I'll read dozens of books from the library and happily return them when I'm done. I'll want to own only a handful. Have a Little Faith is one of those books I want sitting on my shelf, so that I can reread it. You should read it to. And then we should get together with some hot beverages and talk about it.(less)