The Happiness Advantage. Why Being Happier Brings Success
I was asked recently to compile a list of the most insightful and useful books that I have read. When I had finished and emailed the list off, it struck me that sharing the list with the world at large could be helpful. Furthermore I felt compelled to expand on why each book is particularly useful.
What follows is a series of (provisionally) eleven books blogs outlining how they have had a big impact on my life and self-development. I have added honest, straight-from-the-heart comment. If that resonates with you, please leave a comment at the bottom and share your thoughts.
1. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
I’ll be honest, the first time I heard about this book I thought “here we go, another happy clappy self-development book telling us all to ‘think positive’, seen it all before.” Something compelled me to buy the book though. From the moment I turned the first page, I could hardly put it down. The philosophy of the whole book is to ‘think different’ and fits very well with my preference to ‘swim against the fishes’ common amongst right brain thinkers.
The basic premise of the book is that by teaching ourselves to be happier, more good things will happen to us. The book regularly refers to studies that have been done to prove several of the specific theories. One of my favourite is “bright spots”. Shawn claims that by looking for the good things in any given situation, we can create leverage with the happiness advantage and he calls this technique “bright spots”. This is similar to the “every cloud has a silver lining saying that has been around for centuries.
Look For The Bright Spots
I recently watched Grand Designs on Channel4; the subject of the show was Jon, a chap who had recently been to Afghanistan and had lost both his legs and one arm as well as suffering from PTSD. Amazingly he and his wife spoke regularly about the good that had come of the situation. He even said at one point that he wouldn’t change things, given a free choice. The devastating injuries that he had suffered had changed him from a young and relatively irresponsible person into a responsible husband, father and project manager for his ‘Grand Design’. He commented that he had managed to sleep for a while night (PTSD wearing off) which is a privilege most of us take for granted. This chap and his wife are great examples of people who are good at finding the bright spots. It is Series 9, Episode 6 of Grand Designs and can be viewed online: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/grand-designs/on-demand/46761-003
Shawn explains in the book that using the bright spot technique is a skill that can be taught. He suggest many ways that this can be achieved, the one that I picked was to keep a gratitude journal. I know what you’re thinking – Happiness Advantage.. hmm not quite sure; gratitude journal: this chap’s absolutely nuts. Well, I tried it anyway, starting on 4th January 2013 I have written down 3 things that I am grateful for every single (working) day. I made it easy for myself to remember by shaping the path: I kept a ringbound notebook in my drawer at work, set an Outlook reminder every day to fill it in and refused to start the day’s work without ticking off that item on the calendar.
Keep a Gratitude Journal (I know, but run with me on this)
Some days it has been very challenging to find 3 things that I am grateful for and it’s these days that filling in the gratitude journal is particularly important. When I’ve been right up against it and have had plenty of justifiable reasons to feel angry or upset, the course of my day has been changed, just a bit, but filling in the 3 things in the gratitude journal. When I’ve been on top of the world, its been an easier task and particularly recently, I’ve found that some days I have 4 or 5 things to put in. I’ve also noticed myself commenting throughout the day – “that must be the gratitude journal effect” or “that would be a really good thing to put in the journal tomorrow”. This is the effect of navigating our reticular activator to positive things. More about that part of the brain in my review of the number 2 book on the list: The Jelly Effect by Andy Bounds. Essentially the reticular activator is the part of our brain that spots things we are looking out for subconsciously. For example if you bought a grey Volkswagen Passat, it is likely that you would suddenly start to notice every grey VW Passat on the road.
You may find this Zenhabits blog post on gratitude of interest too: http://zenhabits.net/grateful/
Relevance to Utility Warehouse Partners
You might be wondering why I am writing this book review in a blog aimed at helping and recruiting Utility Warehouse Partners. Well, one of the most important lessons we are taught on getting started training at Utility Warehouse is: look for happy, smiley people. It sounds corny and it works – by having a relentlessly positive personality and looking for other happy people, I am certain that my Utility Warehouse business has been more successful. The lady above me in Utility Warehouse: Sarah Riley has about the most bulletproof, positive personality that I have ever encountered. Just yesterday she was telling me about how positive it was that her heart operation to insert another stent had been delayed – and she meant it. Sarah is hugely supportive and a genuine inspiration from within Utility Warehouse.
You can see Shawn himself explain the premise of the book here:
There are many, many other useful, interesting and inspirational ideas and techniques within Shawn Achor’s book. I’m about to read it again so I’ll post a follow up to this blog with new insights. I rate it as the number 1 book to read to help you get the best out of life.. and your Utility Warehouse business of course!
You can buy The Happiness Advantage in softback or on your Kindle at Amazon:
Read it? Comment and leave me a message – I read them all.
Update Nov 2013: Fitness
I have just had my first personal training session with Andy King, personal trainer based in Folkestone. I realised after the session that fitness and physical exercise is an important piece in the happiness jigsaw. Exercise releases endorphins in the body to make us feel good and literally makes the experience addictive, creating a virtuous circle. My first session with Andy has been superb and I am now about to sign up to his twice a week bootcamp in the leas in Folkestone. Thank you for a great time Andy! You can find out more about him at:
The Happiness Advantage. Why Being Happier Brings Success by Jonathan Hamilton