The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
goodreads.com rating: 4.13
my verdict: good!
Recommendation is a powerful tool in choosing books to read. The title of this book sounds so banal that you can instantly say that this must be a good-for-nothing self-help book that disguises itself as a psychology book. To tell the truth, the book title couldn't be anything else. This book actually says about the advantages of being happy. However, it is also true that I wouldn't have picked up this book if it were not for the recommendation of someone (and goodreads.com's high rating of course).
There are seven principles with the happiness advantage (even though they are not systemically interwoven like those seven habits of Stephen Covey).
1. The Happiness Advantage: capitalize on positivity to improve productivity/life.
2. The Fulcrum and the Lever: adjust your mindset (the fulcrum) so as to attain the most power (the lever).
3. The Tetris Effect: you are the lucky guy! Everything will turn out best for you!
4. Falling Up: Eureka, you fell! Now it's time to get up even stronger!
5. The Zorro Circle: start out small. Retain your core circle of control (i.e. the internal locus of control) whatever happens to you.
6. The 20-Second Rule: reroute the path of least resistance. Eliminate the 20-second obstacle to good habits. Build 20-or-more-second obstacle to your bad habits.
7. Social Investment: invest in friends, peers, and family so that you have a social support network when needed.
(Almost) Every item on the list is actionable. But I'd like to recommend the item number 6, that is, the 20-second rule, to people like me who get heavily challenged in terms of willpower on daily basis.
For example, you know daily exercise is great, but what if it takes 5 minutes in the morning to get ready and walk out the door to go jogging? Shawn says he went to bed in gym clothes so that he could automatically dash out of the bed to go jogging in the morning. For me, I found myself eating less potato chips when I put it in the pantry with a door, instead of right beside the coffee machine where I can see it (and grab it) more easily. So, for a good habit that you want to build on yourself, remove any obstacle that might discourage you from doing it habitually. For a bad habit that you want to shake off, build many obstacles so that it takes a lot of time and effort to do it. In other words, put your good habits on the path of least resistance.
Have I said that I like this book because it contains many actionable items? I will recommend some from the book.
1. Choose a day of the week. This is your good-deed day. Do five good things to others throughout the day. Of course, you will count each of them as you do it and feel great.
2. To have or to be? Spend money on experiences, rather than on stuffs. (This reminds me of the good book, The Story of Stuffs.)
3. Do you think you are doing petty things to earn living? That petty stuff most probably will lead to something greater in the bigger picture. Write down the petty thing you do not like, and draw an arrow. Then write down what that leads to. If that still does not satisfy you, draw another arrow and at the end of it write down what is accomplished by that. In most of the cases, your petty daily chore is a building block for a lot greater thing that you can be proud of.
4. Set an alarm at, let's say, 11 o'clock in the morning. When that sets off, begin writing down three good things that happened yesterday. Now your mind is set on the positive side.
5. When you get really stressed out, draw a table and divide the causes of your stress into two groups - those you can control and those you can't. Forget about those things you can't control. Focus on the little things you can tackle easily (the Zorro Circle). You will get improvement.
6. Clear obstacles to your good habits. Build obstacles to your bad habits.
7. Many people (including me!) spend energy and willpower in making small decisions that does not make any difference after all. Set up a simple rule and use it for quick decisions. Pizza or spaghetti? Toss a coin. You want to have one more cup of coffee? Set up the daily limit.
8. Make eye contacts. Look at people's eyes when they speak to you.
Wow, that's already quite a long list. At the end of the book, Shawn says about a man who thinks he is already doing all of these, while his wife isn't. Shawn told the man that he had heard the opposite from his wife a while ago. What I mean is, people (again including me) think they are doing things while they aren't. Let's start actually doing those good things. :)