This book sounded a little too 'self helpy' for my liking however I really enjoyed Shawn's scientific style, he does a nice job of explaining his points and providing simple overviews of the research that backs them up.
The central argument of the book is that success doesn't make people happy. Being happy makes people successful. It's a profound inversion to popular logic.
Shawn coins a number of phrases to explain his research:
- The Tetris Effect - Shawn talks about how the brain will optimise it's structure for the tasks ahead of it. E.G. a person who becomes blind will then become better at hearing as their brain re-wires. With some interesting examples Shawn discusses how positive happy people train their brains to be more receptive to patterns and possibilities. Meaning when opportunities arise they can spot them, where as others may miss them.
- The Zorro Circle - With some painful references to Antonio Banderas this phrase explains the cumulative effect of wins. When we complete an objective, our brain gets a dopamine hit, creating a positive feedback loop. Starting with small wins and building up ensures regular chemical motivation. This principle could be applied in the short term, e.g. going for a morning run setting you up for a day where you feel on top of things; or the long term, e.g. becoming a master in one small area before using the reputation to launch you into another larger area.
- Social Investment - I think Shawn could have come up with a more catchy phrase for this principle. Essentially spending time with people we love makes us happy and inspires us to do more.
If you don't have time to read the book there is a pretty good ted talk that covers most of the principles from The Happiness Advantage!