Before Happiness

"No matter how high your IQ, your emotional intelligence, or your ability to relate to others, if you can’t learn to change your reality, you’ll never be truly inspired. … Let your new reality seep into your subconscious. Once you do you’ll find yourself capable of the kind of inspiration necessary for true greatness."

- Before Happiness, page 231

What gives a person the deep down knowledge that happiness is possible, even in the face of huge obstacles? In his previous book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor discussed how happiness is a precursor to success. Happy people are successful – not the other way around. After writing that book, he began to search even deeper. What comes before happiness? It’s a person’s reality. Does the person live in a reality where happiness is possible? It turns out that some people do, and others (in the exact same circumstances) do not live in the same reality.

In this book, Before Happiness, Achor takes the reader through a five-step process for raising our levels of success and happiness by changing our reality to a positive one. He teaches how raising our level of positive genius will raise our rates of success and happiness.

The five steps are:

  1. Choose the most valuable reality. Teach your brain to perceive possibility, to become a positive genius.
  2. Map your meaning markers. Pay attention to those things that you consider valuable and important in your life, those things that you have an emotional connection to.
  3. Find the X-spot. The spots and moments that help you believe success is close, possible, and worthwhile.
  4. Cancel the noise. Get rid of the external and internal distractions.
  5. Create positive inception. Transfer your positive reality to others around you.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

A Case for Change

"Positive geniuses know that to see things others miss we must step back and take a departure from the way we have lived life up to this moment."
- Before Happiness, page 227

Achor’s research, and this book, is a strong reminder that yes, it’s up to us to create our happiness, and it’s all about choices. Also, we have the ability (and I would add, responsibility) to spread that to others. He calls this Positive Inception.

Creating a happy life, a happy work environment, a happy team, a happy family doesn’t happen by accident.  Research shows us that people who make deliberate choices to notice and to make the changes that move them in the right direction are indeed creating happier ways. It’s about seeing what is possible, and knowing that happiness can be in your reality.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Meaning Markers

"No matter what goal or challenge you set for yourself, if you want to be able to channel your full range of intelligences toward achieving it, your personal meaning markers should be points on your mental path."
- Before Happiness, page 65

Getting to what is truly meaningful (Meaning Markers) and mapping your success route feels quite actionable, doesn’t it? How do we go from wanting success, and desiring a particular outcome, to achieving it? Achor suggests a few ways:

  1. Highlight your true meaning markers. What’s really important to you? Time with your family? More money? Sense of community? Recognition? When you know what you are striving towards, your route to that success becomes more clear.
  2. Reorient your mental map. What if you are not looking at the best map as you follow your route to success? If you and only you are the center of that map, then all responsibility for success, and for the journey, rests with you.  What if you reoriented your map to include others, like your team, your partner, your children, and others in the community? Doing this can “….unlock the brains’ resources and open up a much broader range of possibilities.”
  3. Map success routes before escape routes. Determine if the paths of your route are steering you away from failure, or really towards success.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Positive Inception

"Positive inception is not just about spreading happiness but about helping others see the reality in which success (and happiness) is possible."
- Before Happiness, page 184

Achor describes how to help others tap into their resources.  He gives us three strategies for doing so.

  1. Franchise success: “… the technique of getting others to replicate a positive cognitive or behavioural pattern that continually leads to success. The great news when it comes to success franchising is that any success that can be observed can also be repeated.”
  2. Rewrite the Social Script (make it positive): Social scripts are the unwritten rules that govern how we behave – the way we choose to populate elevators (not lying down in the elevator!), we eat from our own plates, not from that of strangers, we don’t talk on the phone in the bathroom are all examples. Achor teaches us that we can alter the social scripts of those around us by choosing how we behave. Essentially, we can lead the way to redefining the social script. If that’s true, then why not rewrite the social script to one that includes positivity, happiness and success? We are going for positive inception here!! According to Achor, whoever speaks first in a conversation leads the way for how that conversation will unfold. He introduces us to the Power Lead. When we are first to speak, and we lead with a positive topic, we cut off the opportunity for someone else to lead in with gossip, complaining and negativity. Just imagine if all business meetings started with a Power Lead like such as “here are the successes we’ve created this week… our team is outstanding and here’s why!”
  3. Create a Shared Narrative (and make it meaningful): this is essentially about “we are all in this together”.  Of course, we can all be in a horrible, negative, boring, uninspiring and hard place together.  Or, we can find the meaningful, emotional story in our shared experience that helps us see that we are all strong, capable, creative people.

Shawn Achor has found the balance between presenting us with a whole lot of science about happiness and sharing stories that make that science real. And, he’s funny too! His strategies in this book give the reader tangible ways to implement some of the experiments he conducted with success. Achor shares his humour and his passion for this topic, and seems committed to helping each of us make our world a little, or a lot, better by creating more happiness.

What role do you currently play when it comes to positive inception? What role would you like to play? What steps are you willing to take to spread more happiness around you? Bonus question: What will that do for you? What will it give to your relationships?

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Hélène Egan

ABOUT Hélène Egan

I help professionals be great presenters so that they can get their message across, engage their audiences, and have fun doing it. As a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, I blend my one on one coaching practice with professional facilitation and teaching...
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