Top positive review
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the psychological effort of humanity was focused Eeyore like on the negative side of our mental lives
on 2 January 2016
How many times have you read this; This book will change your life.
Ahem, well, actually this book will change your life if you let it. Building on the work of Martin Seligman at Penn State University, Shawn Achor is one of the new young turks in psychology taking the findings of positive psychology and applying them to business and everyday life. These ideas are quite revolutionary, as is the whole of positive psychology predicated as it is on using what we know about our brains to enable us to use them more effectively. Before positive psychology came along, the psychological effort of humanity was focused Eeyore like on the negative side of our mental lives, exploring all of the things that could go wrong with the complex human mind. Mental illness and psychology were basically synonyms, with the medical disciplines fetishising when brains go wrong over applying its understandings in a more balanced, life-affirming way. Positive psychology restores that balance, acknowledging that there's a lot we can do in weeding our own mental garden in a manner that means we live as happy a life as possible. In fact, the premise of Shawn's wonderful book is that - happiness doesn't follow success, it is the other way round. We are, Achor says (and he backs his assertions up with buckets of evidence and examples) more likely to be successful when we are positive and happy - up to 30% more successful - because brains in a positive state are more imaginative, responsive and flexible.
The book contains 7 basic principles which Achor calls the Happiness Advantage. He is a persuasive and entertaining writer and public speaker, his TED talk is here and as you can see his work is gaining a lot of attention (12 million hits and counting). The principles range from considering our everyday interactions with people through to re-setting our negative defaults to sift the environment for positive things that if our moods instead of simply worrying about what might or mightn't happen in the future. I have a copy of this book and also an audio-copy which I use in work and with some of the people I support.
The book is replete with fantastic insights and ideas. The 7 principles being;
1. The Happiness Advantage - Being happy gives you an edge or an advantage in terms of achieving success so happiness should be our focus, not success. Achor calls this the Copernican revolution in psychology, happiness leading to success instead of the mistaken beliefs we have about success making us happy.
2. The Fulcrum and the Lever - Re-calibrating our mental responses toward the positive will move our internal psychological fulcrum giving us much greater leverage with a brain singing with positive neurotransmitters rather than one paralysed by negativity, doubt and worry.
3. The Tetris Effect - Basically, this is neuroplasticity (the tendency of the human brain to change and adapt neural networks dependent on what we are doing) in action, we are what we repeatedly do. If we play Tetris for long enough everything block-like in the real-world can appeal to our Tetris habituated brain as a shape within the remit of the game and we can find ourselves trying to fit blocks together out in the real-world, blocks made of fences, walls, buildings or bricks just we happen to be passing. If we tip of brains response towards the positive we will see opportunity and creativity where before we might have seen challenge and stress. (On this point Kelly McGonigal in her wonderful TED talk makes a similar point.)
4. Falling Up - This is a fascinating chapter all about how we can reset our daily to defaults to maximise our happiness experiences, such pearls of wisdom here. Quick happiness wins we can all build into our daily experience to lift our subjective experience toward the positive.
5. The Zorro Circle - This is about being very clear and focused about what you want to achieve everyday and ensuring you do your very best by building the skills which enable you to achieve those daily goals.
6. The 20 Second Rule - This takes forward the examples from Principle 4 and gives many examples of how we can prime our default responses to ensure we overcome any inertia around changing bad habits, for example, if we want to jog first thing in the morning, go to bed wearing Gym clothes.
7 - Social Investment - As social animals this principle acknowledges the importance of making strong, supportive connections with others (colleagues and friends) in ensuring we maximise our happiness.
All in all one of the best development, self-help books I've read in a while. Heartily recommended and I will be spending several years implementing its suggestions in terms of leading and managing successful teams at my work-place and convincing colleagues to do the same.
***** (Five Stars)