How to Increase Productivity: 7 Principles of the Happiness Advantage

I’ve written before about how the growth mindset can increase productivity, enhance networking success, and give a variety of other business aspects a crucial boost

Along these lines, I’d like to introduce a concept known as the Happiness Advantage, which was developed by New York Times best-selling author Shawn Achor.

In a nutshell, hard evidence suggests that happiness begets success. 

Pretty simple, right?

If you’d like to understand how to increase productivity, well-being, and growth then read on to discover the 7 principles of the Happiness Advantage and how they can work for you.

7 Principles of The Happiness Advantage

Martin Seligman is credited as the father of Positive Psychology and its efforts to scientifically explore human potential. But in the business world, Shawn Achor is most known for bringing Positive Psychology to the forefront of our minds.

Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, puts a definitive emphasis on personal growth, and describes 7 principles for achieving increased well-being. 

1 The Happiness Advantage

To achieve success, allow yourself to be driven by habits that encourage happiness. 

  • Meditate: “Research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.”
  • Exercise: “Physical activity can boost mood and enhance our work performance…by improving motivation and feelings of mastery, reducing stress and anxiety, and helping us get into flow—that ‘locked in’ feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.”

(note: be prepared to laugh, because Shawn is hilarious!)


2 The Fulcrum and the Lever

It’s no surprise that our performance will change when our habits and thought processes change, since negative routines and fixed mindsets adversely impact our ability to push through our comfort zones and grow into our best selves. 

  • Find Meaning: “You can have the best job in the world, but if you can’t find the meaning in it, you won’t enjoy it, whether you are a movie maker or an NFL playmaker.”
  • Be Mindful: “What we expect from people (and from ourselves) manifests itself in the words we use, and those words can have a powerful effect on end results.”
Shawn Achor: Mapping a Route to Success | Oprah Online 

3 The Tetris Effect

At first glance, this principal appears to be similar to the Fulcrum and the Lever above. But it’s not. Instead, this principle is about training our brains to scan for and recognize positive options so that we develop pattern recognition toward the positive.

  • Repurpose Thoughts: “Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals.”
  • Scan for Happiness: “When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism.”
Shawn Achor: The Tetris Effect 

4 Falling-Up 

Failure is an opportunity for growth. If you really want to know how to increase productivity at work, start by handling failure and stress in healthy ways then look at the results of your labor over time.

  • Unexpected Success: “Every second of our own experience has to be measured through a relative and subjective brain. In other words, ‘reality’ is merely our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on where and how we are observing it.”
  • Be Kind: “A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.”
Shawn Achor: Happiness Is Not a Passive Phenomenon

5 The Zorro Circle 

If big goals are all we try to achieve, we risk becoming overwhelmed and deflated. When we start with small goals, we maintain a sense of control and truly drive our own success. 

  • Set Goals: “Anticipating future rewards can actually light up the pleasure centers in your brain much as the actual reward will.”
  • Start Small: “Small successes can add up to major achievements.”
Shawn Achor: The Huge Difference Happiness Can Make 

6 The 20-Second Rule

Habits develop from our thoughts and actions. Likewise, when we change our thinking and actions, our habits follow suit. For most of us, it typically takes more than 20 seconds to make a dent in our negative habits, but the strategy can be universally applied: The more we can lower (or even eliminate) the minimum quantity of energy we use to begin a negative habit, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.

  • Set Goals: “When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.”
  • Be Productive: “By adding 20 seconds to my day, I gained back 3 hours.”
Shawn Achor: Happiness as a Competitive Advantage 

7 Social Investment 

Possibly the most important of the 7 principles, investing in your social network is proven to be a critical component of success in both work and health. It can literally add years to your life. The most successful people respond to adversity by turning to their social networks, which make them more productive, engaged, energetic, and resilient.

  • The Team Journey: “Scientific research has shown that the more team members are encouraged to socialize and interact face-to-face, the more engaged they feel, the more energy they have, and the longer they can stay focused on a task.”
  • Yes, You Can: “Strong social support can stave off depression, and even extend our lives, due to the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin, which is released when we make a social connection.”


If you’d like to dig deeper, Achor’s Onsite and Virtual Training Opportunities are considered to be some of the most successful corporate training programs on the planet. 

Additionally, Achor’s team worked with Happify to create The Happiness Advantage: Fuel Your Success at Work where you’ll find exercises that bring the lessons of the book to your everyday life.

Happiness actually raises an individual’s intelligence and success rate.” 

Shawn Achor