Brandish your sword in the workplace

We’re always told that if we reach success we’ll be happy. Our currently featured book, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor proves that this formula is broken. This firmly held belief that we can’t be happy until we’ve reached success limits our potential to succeed because we withhold the very positive mindset we need to fuel our workplace performance. According to Achor and groundbreaking positive psychology research within the last decade, happiness is a precursor to success. We can work smarter and faster as well as enjoy better bottom line results if we allow ourselves, first, to be happy.

Now you are thinking about the colleague who always enters the room and has something critical to say about work or a project. Whether you have someone in the office who is like this or you are this person (!), everyone can benefit from a more positive mindset that will help them rebound more easily from setbacks and help them reach those elusive goals. Achor has researched and isolated seven principles that help you transform negative behaviors into habit-forming actions, positively affecting everything and everyone around you. Enjoy an excerpt from our interview with Shawn Achor and visit

CausePlanet: Your book dethrones society’s fundamental assumption that met goals mean happiness. Given that this broken formula has been reinforced for decades, what is the probability, in your opinion, that the reverse will be widely accepted in the near future?

Achor: I think that society is nearing a breaking point, which is usually when revolutions occur. We are seeing the highest rates of job dissatisfaction in the history of polling, and depression rates have doubled over the past decade. The companies, banks and schools that I have been working with are often the ones that were considered the bastions of the old guard of the success formula. And they have been the fastest to adopt these strategies, both because they realize the old formula doesn’t work, and because they want a formula that scientifically will help them move forward.

CausePlanet: The current pressure on the nonprofit sector to perform and fundraise despite the economic climate makes your principles especially timely. Which of the seven principles do you believe has the most immediate impact?

Achor: The Zorro Circle. The “Happiness Advantage” is the discovery that nearly every business outcome improves when our brain is positive, as opposed to stressed or neutral. When we think about all the tasks we have and the enormity of the goals we have set, it is easy for our brains to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt-out and discouraged. That is the limbic centers of the brain “emotionally hijacking” us right when we need our brains performing at our best. The Zorro Circle is a strategy where you set aspirational goals, but then focus your brain down to the smallest circle of action you know you can be successful in. Once you have succeeded fighting within that small circle, maybe a single donor or a mailing, then your brain sees a “win” which activates it to take another step, then another, eventually expanding that sphere of action outward in concentric circles. This is what I call in my research the “cascade of success.” Only by setting small, manageable, concrete goals can we help our brains avoid paralysis in the face of our challenges.

Watch Shawn Achor describe the Happiness Advantage or learn more about other great titles we recommend by following our blog, Twitter and Facebook.

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