The Habit Society

⚡️ Success first, happiness second?

To: Society Members

Good Morning!

This Monday is largely inspired by Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. We’ll be staying on the theme of happiness for a few weeks. Surprisingly, there’s a lot to be said about it.


Success First, Happiness Second

Some things have been etched inside our brains from a pretty young age. We’re told, “Just work hard to become successful and then you’ll be happy.” Some thoughts we’re all guilty of: When I get my next raise, then I’ll be happy; Once I can finally buy that house, then I’ll be happy; Once I’m able to run 10k, then I’ll be happy.

But why does happiness have to take the back seat all the time? Once we look at the facts, it’s actually pretty backward that we’re not allowing ourselves to be happy before reaching these milestones. Evidence shows that if we don’t allow ourselves to be happy before the big win, ironically, the odds of ever getting there really slim down. Happiness literally powers performance and achievement.

Let’s look at the link between success and happiness through the eyes of Harvard students. Harvard, a school that couldn’t be filled with more “successful” people, simultaneously suffers from extremely high depression rates: 80% of students report having felt depressed at least once during the year. Clearly, success happiness. So, why do we keep getting this wrong?

Our brains are hardwired to do best when they are happy. For example, Achor explains that “students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers.” Fostering a positive brain leads to increased motivation, efficiency, resilience, creativity, productivity, and all of those other buzzwords we love. Shawn Achor calls it The Happiness Advantage, the theory that having a happier brain gives you a competitive edge. We can be successful and happy? Pretty sure that’s what you call a win-win.

Happy Brain

Happy Go Lucky

We all know some people who seem like they’re always happy. And of course, being happy isn’t as easy for some people. But, what Achor notes is that “happiness is not just a moodit’s a work ethic”. We can all become happier if we work hard enough.

Train Your Brain

Just knowing all this isn’t enough. We actually have to take action in order to train our brains. And, no, it’s not too late. Even into late adulthood, our brains are able to change.


Raising Your Baseline Happiness

Firstly, focus on the day-to-day. What small things can you do to increase your baseline happiness? It’s not about the big life events, but about how you experience each day.

Whatever you do choose to do, it’s important to remember that it’s gotta be the right fit for you. Just because Samantha promises that yoga is her best way to unwind, yoga might just increase your stress levels if you think of all the things you can’t do and all that silence. When you make a habit of doing something that makes you happy consistently, this has been shown to permanently raise your baseline happiness.

Here are some examples to inspire you:

1. Meditate… This is one of the most powerful happiness interventions. It doesn’t need to be too complex; all it requires is 5 minutes a day of breathing. Achor explains how regular meditation has been shown to “permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.” Want to know more about meditation and how you can get started? Check out our full newsletter on it.

2. Find something to look forward to… A lot of us may intuitively know this already but the simple act of anticipating future rewards actually turns on the brain pleasure centers just as much as the actual reward will.

3. Commit conscious acts of kindness… This is another one that a lot of us can attest to anecdotally, but it’s actually been shown to decrease stress and have a really positive impact on mental health. Important to note: Think about the act as you’re doing it⁠—don’t just think back at it.

4. Infuse positivity into your surroundings… Some ideas include decorating your office, going outside on a sunny day, limiting news on TV (all too real these days).

5. Exercise… We all know about the famous endorphins but there’s more. It improves motivation and feelings of mastery, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps to get into a flow state. It’s also been shown to be more successful than anti-depressants in long-term studies.

6. Spend money (but not on stuff)… Spend it on experiences, charity, and on friends.

7. Exercise a signature strength… Practice stuff that you’re good at like baking, giving advice, or taking care of the elderly. And, even more fulfilling than exercising a skill is when you exercise strength of character. Achor makes it a point to learn something new every day to fulfill his love of learning.

Diving Into the Business World
Busy Bee

This trend can be seen at a lot of large, successful companies. Patagonia has a surfing policy; Google keeps scooters in the hallway, video games in the break room, and gourmet chefs in the cafeteria; and Toyota implemented strength-based training. They’ve all been incredibly successful. For all you managers out there, the changes don’t need to be huge. They can be paying for gym memberships, having an on-site daycare, or providing health benefits. These have all been shown to increase profit at the end of the day. And on a smaller scale, you can provide frequent recognition and encouragement which increases productivity by 31%, and doesn’t cost a dime. A quick note about recognition is that it must be specific and deliberate to have its full impact.


1. Pick one thing (from our list or not) to do every day that makes you happy.

2. Think about one thing you’ve told yourself that you’ll be happy once you attain. Try switching this mindset. Allow yourself to be happy now and throughout. Enjoy the process. Science says that this will actually help you achieve it, so why not?


The mind is its own place, and itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

– John Milton


Every time you share your unique referral link, it definitely puts a smile on our faces. Plus, you’re doing something for a friend, and we now know what that can do for your own happiness. It’s really a win, win, win situation!


Deep Dive

Want to dive further into Achor’s brain? Definitely pick up The Happiness Advantage. It’s informative, but most importantly, super applicable.



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