Everything You Need To Know About The Happiness Advantage

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Shawn Achor wrote The Happiness Advantage, a book that came out in 2010. The book details the author's take on psychological principles, overall success, and work performance. Achor's take on the Happiness Advantage theorizes that past theories of happiness have not been accurate. Achor believes that happiness leads to success, not the other way around.

Countless people have spent decades trying to understand happiness and what is involved in achieving this emotion or state of being. Some believe that contentment may be found once they have reached a specific goal, such as wealth, prestige, or fame. However, the Happiness Advantage rejects this notion and states that, due to discoveries in positive psychology, the relationship between happiness and success works opposite to what most people believe. 

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Understanding the principles of happiness

There are layers to The Happiness Advantage. One of the primary focuses of this book is understanding the principles of happiness, including the following. 

"You are responsible for your own happiness" 

The first principle of happiness in the book is the idea that individuals can be responsible for their own happiness. Some people may believe that happiness is an entity that will come to them if they have a particular lifestyle, net worth, status, or item. However, Achor believes happiness comes from within. In addition, Achor states that happiness may not be a mood or emotion, as emotions are fleeting. To him, happiness is a state of living. 

Individuals serious about experiencing genuine happiness may achieve it by taking responsibility for their actions. Reaching for the stars, working to achieve goals, and understanding that each person can change may be stepping stones to this state. 

"Positivity is key" 

Another factor mentioned in The Happiness Advantage involves the brain and how each person exercises and utilizes it. Whether or not an individual views the world through a positive or negative lens may impact the manner of the perception and the quality of their actions. Looking for the upsides while releasing the downsides is another part of the Happiness Advantage. Achor states that like attracts like, positive energy attracts positive energy, and negative energy attracts negative energy.

"You have the choice to grow" 

How one handles setbacks or failures is also a critical concept in The Happiness Advantage. No matter how optimistic one may be, life may throw surprises at you. There can be various unexpected experiences in life that may cause stress. Achor believes that individuals have one of two choices when this occurs. They can sink into a state of self-pity and succumb to negative emotions or look for lessons and the opportunity to personally evolve.

"You can determine the significance of your decisions" 

Another paramount principle in The Happiness Advantage is the weight and significance one attributes to one's decisions, actions, and conduct. The happiest and most accomplished individuals may understand that their choices indicate their forthcoming results.

In some cases, life gets challenging, and it may be tempting to fault other people, situations, or environmental factors for one's actions. However, someone looking for happiness may benefit from understanding that their behaviors and choices are what cause their results. A lack of responsibility or self-accountability is considered the "enemy of happiness" in this book. 

Beware of minding what is average

Paying attention and documenting events can be a typical pattern amongst human beings. Despite the regularity and commonness of minding average occurrences, The Happiness Advantage affirms that people who frequently observe and act upon the average are setting themselves up to be average, even if they do not initially realize it. In some circles, the preceding phenomenon is "the error of the average."

Instead of minding what happens to be average, Achor believes individuals should focus their energy on exceptionality and excellence. Individuals set a high bar for themselves by documenting the highest common denominators. Although success does not guarantee happiness, working to achieve goals can be a critical factor, according to The Happiness Advantage. 

Achor also warns against focusing on what is below average. Individuals who focus on matters of failure may set themselves up for failure, even if they struggle to realize it. Achor states that knowing what not to do shouldn't be the central focus of anyone's perspective. Instead, they may follow the "law of attraction" or " manifestation."

The law of attraction affirms that what people focus on is what they inherently attract into their lives. Therefore, as people strive for happiness daily, Achor states they should focus on elements, matters, and individuals above average or above what they think they can achieve. 

Learn how to "fall up"

While "falling up" sounds inherently contradictory, The Happiness Advantage sheds light on this phenomenon. According to the book, falling up entails using stressors, defeats, and setbacks to become happier and more successful. 

One of the few guarantees of life is that challenges can occur. However, everyone can let these situations defeat them (fall) or use setbacks as opportunities to learn, grow, and rise above (fall up). Falling up contributes to happiness because it reinforces the notion that each person's actions and behaviors engender contentment, not external factors.

One may discover that recovery is faster when using one's stressors or defeats to fall up. Wallowing in self-pity and sorrow may worsen and extend moments of pain. However, be wary that suppressing emotions is different from growing from them. Studies show that ignoring your emotions for "logic" or "moving forward" can cause physical illness and mental health challenges. 

General tips for happiness

Throughout The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor provides steps each person can take to boost the quality of contentment and success in their lives, including the following. 

Practice meditation

Some may be uncomfortable with meditation because it involves sitting still and letting go of distractions and preoccupations. This process can be challenging for those used to having a full schedule. However, countless studies have affirmed the positive offshoots of meditation, including but not limited to decreased stress, calmness, contentment, heightened empathy, a more robust immune system, and a larger hippocampus region of the brain

Find events to look forward to

Another manner of increasing happiness involves having events to look forward to. For example, you might plan a vacation, a date with a significant other, a martial arts class, or time for hobbies. Look for ways to get excited in your daily life. This process may help you grow from setbacks and balance your work-life balance, potentially increasing happiness. 

Treat others with kindness

Treating other people with kindness may put positive energy into your environment. Being impolite or unkind to others can reduce happiness. According to the book, the negative energy expelled by these actions may come back to you. To treat others kindly, consider volunteering, complimenting a stranger, or spending time in a coworking space to meet new people. 

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Attend therapy 

A robust support system may make a significant difference when attempting to find happiness, especially when living with a mental health challenge. Speaking to a therapist can be a healthy way to find support in these cases. 

Online therapy for support with happiness

If you face barriers to in-person therapy, online platforms like BetterHelp offer guidance. You don't have to have a mental illness or diagnosis to receive guidance, and counseling can be an effective way to increase moments of joy in your life despite any challenges you're experiencing. Online therapy may offer convenience and affordability, as you can meet with a therapist on your schedule at a lower cost. 

Studies back up the effectiveness of online therapy. One review of 17 studies found that internet-based interventions were often more effective than in-person therapy for mental health conditions like depression, a common cause of profound sadness and apathy. 


The Happiness Advantage is a layered book that individuals may benefit from reading—Shawn Achor details solutions for people who aspire to experience and reap happiness and success. Simultaneously, life can be difficult, and sometimes falling up, striving towards goals, and staying positive in times of hardship can be easier said than done. 

If you're struggling to follow the tips in Achor's book or want a more personalized perspective on happiness, consider contacting a licensed therapist for further guidance and support.

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