To my parents, both teachers, who have dedicated their lives to the belief that we can all shine brighter
This section has been the most fun part of writing this book. I am humbled and excited knowing that every word in this book has been shaped by the people in my life. I hope I have written in such a way that you can still hear their voices.
Thank you to my mentor, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. I remember meeting him at a café in Harvard Square to discuss a new class on happiness. I found him to be a kind, mild, and unimposing man. Little did I know this humble stranger would soon transform Harvard, and my life in the process. It took him only one tall coffee to reorient my entire world, helping me see how my study of religious ethics at the divinity school paralleled the questions asked in the science of positive psychology. He encouraged my growth and forgave my failings. Knowing him is one of my daily gratitudes; for without him, I would not be in this field nor be writing this book today.
Thank you to Elizabeth Peterson, one of my former students from the Positive Psychology class at Harvard, who later came to join my company. She, like Tal, is a loyal guardian of positive psychology, believing that it must not only remain a science, but must also be lived. Liz has painstakingly edited every word of this book for a year, and has in the midst of this challenge remained a true friend.
Thank you to my mother, a high school English teacher and now college freshmen advisor at Baylor University, and to my father, a professor of psychology also at Baylor, who gave me the twin gift of a love for learning and a love for teaching. I am grateful to my sister, Amy, and brother, Bobo, who have kept the fires burning bright enough to remind me that I still had a home as I traveled nonstop for two years through forty countries.
I have been blessed with a network of friends too large to name here, but a special thank you to the following people whose friendship and encouragement have be integral to my happiness and success over the past year: Angie Koban, Alia Crum, Laura Babbitt and Mike Lampert, Jessica Glazer, Max Weisbuch and Amanda Youmans, Judy and Russ Miller and Caroline Sami, Caleb Merkl, Olivia Shabb, and Brent Furl.
If you have never written an acknowledgement page, try taking an afternoon to do it. I have just found that you cannot help but be happy and humbled being reminded that we are loved and that we do nothing alone.
I look forward to the new friendships and community this book creates.
If you observe the people around you, you’ll find most individuals follow a formula that has been subtly or not so subtly taught to them by their schools, their company, their parents, or society. That is: If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy.
This pattern of belief explains what most often motivates us in life. We think: If I just get that raise, or hit that next sales target, I’ll be happy. If I can just get that next good grade, I’ll be happy. If I lose that five pounds, I’ll be happy. And so on. Success first, happiness second.
The only problem is that this formula is broken.
If success causes happiness, then every employee who gets a promotion, every student who receives an acceptance letter, everyone who has ever accomplished a goal of any kind should be happy. But with each victory, our goalposts of success keep getting pushed further and further out, so that happiness gets pushed over the horizon.
Even more important, the formula is broken because it is backward.
The relationship between success and happiness works the other way around.
Happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement—giving us the competitive edge that I call the Happiness Advantage.
Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, and productive, which drives performance upward.
In this book, you will learn not only why the Happiness Advantage is so powerful, but how you can use it on a daily basis to increase your success at work.