Billy Belief

This is the content of the book Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. The content is the information that impacted me the most. Read more of the 7 principles of the Happiness Advantage. Also get to know how you can be a happy person to reap the benefits.

Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage

“Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.” – Shawn Achor

As my friend Jess says it, “Success orbits around happiness, not the other way round.”

Happiness is a state of the mind, a state of the feeling, a state of the deep sensation without any pre-condition. I truly agree with Shawn when he mentioned that Happiness is not a by-product of success.

Is it true that in order to achieve happiness, it is associated after the glorious success? Thus, the billboard says, “When I am successful, I’ll be happy”. It is the other way around as he said.

My hands are up in the air in agreement with his thought. Happiness is the essential. Once we are in a good state of happiness or the positive state of mind of all the good thing; the success, the clarity of mind and the motivation comes involuntarily.

Happiness is NOT the end result of each of the action that we do. It is just pure – “Happiness”.

What if Happiness is the mark behind success? It is always unachievable. Because once we achieved the sales target, once we achieved the big house that we want, once we had the sufficient money that we need; the bar is raised even higher. Happiness is just unreachable with this bar raised higher and higher as we give a “better” definition to success.

Shawn’s explained, “How happiness and positive mindset can both cure or create illness”.

He explained the experiment with poison ivy on several extreme allergy volunteers. There is 2 different experiments.

Experiment #1

The volunteers are being told that poison ivy will be wipe on their right hand. But in fact, the so-call poison ivy is plain water. The objective of the experiment is to show the reaction of the volunteers toward the “poison”.

The result: some of the volunteers show symptoms of poison such as rashes and pain on the right hand even though nothing poisonous is being applied.

Experiment #2

The volunteer is being wiped with real poison ivy on the left hand (blindfolded). But they are told that it is plain water.

The result shows only 2 people are reacting to the poison. But the rest is fine.

That experiments spark the thought that over thinking (especially negativity) can be harmful to our body. Overthinking and over-projecting can create the illusion of a certain illness. Sound like the Matrix. Yes! It is the matrix in real life. Our body just can’t differentiate the reality and perceived reality.

The positive state-of-mind with faith alone, heals.

The good news! There are ways to rewire your brain to create long lasting positive change. In just 2-min every day for 21-day (apparently 21 days is the magic number to get a habit to stick)

  1. 3 Gratitudes – written gratitude exercise the brain to retain positive scanning pattern when we see the world, not for negativity, but positivity first

  2. Journaling – one positive experience you had in 24-hours allows your brain to “relive” it.

  3. Exercise – trains your mind on the behaviour. And the endorphins.

  4. Meditation – focus on one task on hand.

  5. Random Act of kindness – makes us feel better and others to feel better as well. Just simple bless 3 people whole-heartedly and wish them well, will do.

Principle #2: The Fulcrum and the Lever

Positive and Negative Fulcrum

The fulcrum as a mindset had clarified my thought on internalizing this concept. The concept I’m thinking about all the time. Shawn had clearly illustrated it in a few great stories.

His analogy is to imagine the weight of positivity and the weight of negativity in our mind being balance on a seesaw. You know seesaw when both sides are of equal weight, it will balance. If one side is heavier than the other, the heavier side will be lower than the lighter one. However, the “support system” of a seesaw is the fulcrum right in the middle.

At any time, the weight of positivity and negativity is varied. If we can adjust the fulcrum, we might adjust how both of this aspect balance up. Simple concept!

The fulcrum is an exact representation of our MINDSET. It is not the quantity of positivity in any of our life situation. Even, some human is not born perfectly complete. By changing the fulcrum of our life, it would shift the focus of our mindset as well. The more time we dwell in focusing toward the positive side of the fulcrum, the way we internalize the situation changes in a significant way.

No matter where we are at life, the mindset is playing a bigger role than the situation (negative or positive) itself. The life situation can’t be changed, the mindset.

Principle #3: The Tetris Effect

“Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals.” – Shawn Achor

The analogy of the Tetris effect based on famous an experiment where volunteers are paid to play Tetris all day long. Isn’t it sound like a great deal, game + money. Beware, the Tetris effect comes with its price to pay. At the end of the experiment, these volunteers have a bad side effect that follows them for a few days. They see Tetris whenever wherever they go. The building, signboard and even the toilet door look like Tetris. The “shadow” of the game stays a long time in their mind.

The astonishing result of these experiment shows that the repetition of behaviour bleach toward our daily life. By being negative all the time comes with a cost that you might not be aware of.

Have you ever experience when there are bright light flashes on you, you see a temporary white or black spot in your eye. Yes. Even the eye retains the Tetris effect.

Due to the repetition of the activity or behaviour, it sticks on you. Play more positive Tetris in your mind. The positivity sticks.

One good way to cultivate the Tetris effect is to write a list of 3 good things that happened throughout the day, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24-hours for any potential positives. The positivity can be a huge or small; such as small laughter with friends, accomplishment at work, beautiful weather or even a glimmer of hope for the future.

It is a training for the mind to turn on the positive radar.

“The best way to kick-start this is to start making a daily list of the good things in your job, your career, and your life.” – Shawn Achor.

Principle #4: Falling up

The profound concept that clicks for me is the optimistic explanation style; a part of counterfact. A counterfact is an alternate scenario our brains create to help us evaluate and make sense of what really happened.

Optimistic explanation

Optimistic explanation style is one’s interpretation of past history in a positive manner. Even though, all perception of history is an assumption in general.

The perfect example from Shawn is the interview of the victims of a bank robbery. In the bank robbery, 3 men were shot in the process and were sent to the hospital. All 3 men survived from the injury.

The first man responded to the interviewer that, he could avoid this if he was to choose to go to the bank the day before the incident. His predicament is a stroke of bad luck for him.

The second man responded that why on earth that out of so many people in the bank, he is being shot. Why not the person at the counter or the other patrons. He interpreted that this “bad luck situation” happens to him.

The last man responded that he is really lucky to be alive. The bullet might be in his head instead of the hand. This man felt blessed that he survived the incident.

All the responses from them are no doubt true for their standpoint. They are a post-interpretation of the situation itself. All 3 victims had chosen their personal explanation to give logic to the situation happened to them. It is only one man that choose to envision a positive evaluation for the situation. He was able to cope with the incident better and get on his feet faster.


Another description by Shawn is that people tend to use the counterfact as a future prediction. Did you have experience when we have a judgement on a certain decision? Such as you have had a rejection from a pretty girl to go out for a date once. Then you conclude that all pretty girls have a certain requirement which is not what you have had. Ask yourself is it true in your current logic mind? Exactly. It is just the pre-assumption crafted to become your belief. Not all pretty girls reject you, just your conterfact which can create an artificial barrier for you.

How we choose to explain the nature of past events—has a crucial impact on our happiness and future success.

Internalize this:

“Things do not necessarily happen for the best, but some people are able to make the best out of things that happen.”—Tal Ben-Shahar

Principle #5: The Zorro Circle


Circle of Zorro concept from Shawn resonated with my thought. The point mentioned is to start big changes, small. The changes might be the habit of getting your exercise done or even to start execution on your big project goal. Everything starts easier from a small domain that the brain perceives achievable.

There is once when I decided to have regular exercise. To start with the exercise, start small and grow bigger. My small that time was defined as 1 push up every day. Yes. Only one push up. Then increase 1 more push up each every week. Eventually, it adds up to 53 push up a day by end of the year. This habit creation is much more achievable. I don’t feel any barrier to stay on this habit now. It is achievable.

In short, start your domain of expertise small. Tackling a small area of the zone that is deemed possible, this zone has less friction. Then widen the circle and cover more. It allows you to focus on a small manageable task and have great control of it. Finally, you feel contended on the small results that you had achieved.

Internalize this:

“Small successes can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand.” – Shawn Achor

Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule

Two concept that I get out of this is ONE the 20-seconds rule and TWO The activation energy

This concept had embedded in my thought for at least 3-year. This concept is to create the path of less resistance to create a good habit and dispose of the bad one.

We need to make is really easy to create a good habit. Of course. Humans can be fuel purely with willpower and motivation. How long willpower burns? Those are really small sparks of fuel that burn off very fast. Therefore, humans need to intelligently use the small burst of willpower to create automated habits.

The 20-seconds rule defines we can increase the success rate in doing a certain activity by getting it started within 20 seconds. If it took less than 20 seconds, you felt it is easier to do it.

For example, you can put on your exercise attire the night before, place your shoe in front of the door instead of in the cupboard or pre-make your healthy meal before sleeping. As a comparison, straight after you wake up – you spend a bit of your willpower to choose the colour of shirt to wear, opening up your cupboard, pick up the shoe. By the time you “think” of the task to do, you wear off your willpower and perhaps goes back to sleep instead of going for a jog.

The 20 seconds rule in general is to reduce the activation energy. The reduction of activation energy equal to less willpower spend.

In contrary, disposal of a bad habit is to make that habit as hard as possible to do. In my personal example, I had purposely placed my handphone in a different room where it is harder to get, installed an annoying application that blocks certain application at a certain time of the day. It works!

Principle #7: Social Investment

Social investment mentioned that humans require to live as a community. The community that supports and interact with each other. Yet influence and bring up each another to the next level.

“The Ripple Effect”, focuses on the importance of positive emotions. The happier we feel in a specific environment – let’s say, at home – the happier the rest of the family members will be. Why is it so?

Because positive emotions are contagious.

Yes! it is contagious in a good way. You tend to be more positive when mingling with positive people. You tend to be smarter when mingling with the smart people.

Now is the time to invest your time in getting to know a new connection. Probably much more time in strengthening the existing good connection that we had.

Suddenly this quote popped up in my mind,

“You are the average of the five persons you are most around with”.

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