Book Summary of Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success

Many people may not think of happiness as being a prerequisite for success. Usually you think of happiness as be a result of success, not a cause of it. In fact, happiness in correlated to a higher success rate. But how do you get to a place of happiness if you aren’t already successful? In Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor explains what comes before happiness and how to achieve the happiness that you need in order to be successful.

The book draws heavily on Achor’s extensive research, but it also provides some compelling anecdotes along the way. Although the book creates a bit of its own jargon, it is all quite adequately explained. Essentially, he says that happiness is not blind optimism, but rather it is the ability to focus on the positives of a situation in spite of the negatives. That positivity that Achor says precedes happiness is something that is actually achievable, and Achor provides certain tips and processes for developing that positivity. That is, this isn’t just a documenting of general principles – the book also contains concrete advice based on research.

Achor explains finding happiness as a five-step process:

Focus on the most valuable reality.

That is, learn to focus on the reality that is most helpful to you – and usually that means focusing on the positives. You can still acknowledge the negatives without dwelling on them and focusing primarily on them.

Map your success.

Set your goals in life around the things that matter to you most. For instance, the thing that is most important to you might not be your career, so your idea of success wouldn’t be career-focused in this case. It’s important to judge your success by the right goals – and not by what you think the right goals are.

Find the X-spot.

Achor explains how “success accelerants” can help propel you more quickly toward your goals.

Learn noise-canceling.

That is, learn to focus on the positive and not the negative.

Positive inception.

Transfer your positivity to the people around you. If you’re in a leadership position, this step can be particularly valuable both for helping you achieve success and for helping the company achieve success.

Although it stands on its own just fine, Before Happiness was written as the follow-up to another book, The Happiness Advantage. So if you find that you like this book, Achor’s other New York Times bestseller might be a good read for you as well.