Before Happiness

Summary Written by Hélène Egan
"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

The Big Idea

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

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.

Join our newsletter

Sign up for the very best book summaries right to your inbox.
We care about your data in our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Insight #2

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.

Read the book

Get Before Happiness on Amazon.

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular all time with over 4 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. Shawn teaches for the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School, and collaborates on research with Yale and Columbia University.

Subscribe to digest
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.