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Shifting realities can bring happiness

Alicia Mcelhaney McClatchy-Tribune

Many people’s picture of happiness includes the typical American dream – a loving family, kids, a pet, a great job and a large house. Many would admit that their picture of happiness is one based solely on success.

However, researchers at Harvard University and other top research facilities have found the key to happiness is not, like many believe, finding success, but rather, that happiness itself can lead to success.

Perhaps more interestingly, though, is that happiness was found to start with one’s view of reality.

Happiness researcher and Harvard University graduate, Shawn Achor’s new book, “Before Happiness” (Crown Business, $26), outlines this research and explains ways people can change their mindset in order to become happier, and thus more successful.

“The normal formula for happiness and success is backward,” Achor said. “If we raise levels of happiness in the present, we can then increase success.”

This is not Achor’s first time at writing a book on happiness. His first, entitled “The Happiness Advantage,” promised readers they could find success by first being happy.

His first book, though, did not cover the tools that one could use to first become happy. This is where “Before Happiness” comes in.

“Beliefs you hold change the way you act in the world. Before you have motivation, potential or emotion, your brain has already constructed your reality. This dictates whether or not you perceive change as possible,” Achor said.

“Before Happiness” lays out a plan for people to change their constructed reality into one that Achor calls “rationally positive” in five steps. These steps include choosing the most valuable reality, mapping a success route, finding what can accelerate that success, eliminating negative noise and transferring the positive reality to others.

While “Before Happiness” may seem a little too good to be true, the truth is that all of Achor’s methods are backed by research he completed both at Harvard and when he worked with major companies to increase success rates.

Achor’s findings lead him to realize that those who were more successful at implementing his techniques for success through happiness were people who he called positive geniuses.

“A positive genius takes things a step further than pessimism or optimism. We use the example of a glass half empty or a glass half full to explain this usually. The positive genius would not choose one of these, but would notice that there is also a pitcher of water on the table,” Achor said.

His book includes several unique exercises one can do in order to change their views from optimism or pessimism to those of a positive genius. Activities like eliminating a small percentage of media viewing or highlighting meaningful goals are included in hopes of helping someone change their reality.

“The biggest revelation is that change is possible,” Achor said.

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