Book Review- The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

 

In my last post I told you guys how I had set my goals for the year and have big plans to make great strides in many facets of my life. I put as much trackable and numeric emphasis on my goals so I can keep an eye on things and watch my progress. This has already paid dividends as I meet my small goals each week, check them off and get to experience the gratification of making headway. It is great to see I am making progress!

I also asked you guys what inspires you and what you aspire to do this year. Scott Williams commented that he plans to be even more purposeful with his goals and actions in 2018, focusing his efforts in ways to help other people. I think that is fantastic! Making strides to be better in whatever area of life that you choose to advance is great. If you can tie that to your desire to work with or help someone, it gives you additional motivation to meet your goals and achieve your dreams. Good job Scott!

One of my goals this year is to be better read and I have made good on that by spending 30 minutes every day reading. I have chosen to make the subject matter of the books I read something that enriches me in some way. Thus far the books I have read have been non-fiction and would fall in the self-help category, but I am not opposed to fiction. As one of my very good friends put it eloquently, many times fiction is more real than non-fiction, offering timeless lessons. I couldn’t agree more. We will have to see what books end up on my nightstand over the course of the year. I will certainly keep you informed.

As of late, I am reading a book by Shawn Achor titled The Happiness Advantage. Shawn grew up in Waco, TX. As a young man and high school student, Shawn expected to stay in Texas and applied to Harvard on a dare. Much to his surprise he was accepted. Upon going to Harvard to study psychology, he fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. He did his undergraduate, then decided to stay for his graduate studies, taking on teaching duties to pay his way through. He also proctored young students and had the opportunity to help some 1600 young men and women as they navigated the waters of an institution that would give them an education few get to experience.

There are few places where the very best and brightest from around the world gather. Add in the ancient buildings and a deep history as an educational institution, Achor explains Harvard as being a very special place that reminded him of Hogwarts. One would think that this magical atmosphere would be an academic heaven of sorts, where young bright minds would not just go to learn, but flourish. The reality he found was that despite the one of a kind education experience and promise of high success that such a prestigious degree as one can earn at Harvard offers, many students find themselves struggling with depression.

Why would these kids be depressed? Imagine the competitive nature of an institution where everyone is from the top of his or her high school class. Imagine being THAT kid in high school- top of your class, excellent academic marks, great expectations of yourself and exceeding the expectations of faculty and family. Then transport that kid to the beginning of their freshman year at Harvard. Immediately 50% of all those 1%’ers are below average. After a lifetime of being at the top, these kids now have to learn to deal with emotions that they don’t know how to process.

Watching these great young minds deal with the rigors of a highly competitive environment in which everyone is the best, Achor wanted to make a difference. Why shouldn’t these kids be happy? That question fueled his research and subsequent work, propelling him to make the conclusion that the old adage of “work hard to succeed” is bunk. Maybe some of you are rolling your eyes at that. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, let me explain.

I was taught from a very young age that the key to success was hard work. Work hard and one day you will find that you succeed. This comes with the overlying idea that as that hard work pays off, you will be happy. What Achor’s research found was the opposite- happy people become successful people. Chase happiness and you will likely find success.

The book goes on to give some basic principles and ideas to put into action and work toward finding happiness in your life. I must say, I don’t feel like I am short on happiness in any way, but it is always a good idea to make strides at improvement. Currently I am only about half way through the book, but I am confident in my recommendation.  If you are looking for a good read, pick it up! You can get it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

This year I will be going through books and am always looking for suggestions. I read The Magic of Thinking Big earlier this year. Do you have any suggested reads? Comment below!!!

 

Plans and Goals for 2018

2017 was a great year. Good and bad happened, but I have to label it great. I didn’t reach all my fitness goals in the last year. In fact, I didn’t reach many of my goals, but I still choose to say it was a great year. I rode part of Tunnel Hill Trail with my wife in May, toured from Chicago to the Missouri boot heel on our way to Memphis with my friend Nathan in June and rode the length of Tunnel Hill both directions with Nathan in October. I had a DNF at the Ozark Trail 100 mile MTB race and stopped 6 hours into the Wolf Creek 12HR MTB race. I ended the year with 1661 miles of cycling, well short of the totals of any of the last 6 years since I started riding a bike.

There have been times that I have found myself feeling dissatisfied with 2017, but I am choosing to look at it as a year of rest, recovery and reflection. Miles and fitness were low, weight was high,  but I really enjoyed the times I spent on the bike. That is worth a ton. I also spent a lot of time focusing on family and relationships with friends, which made me happy. I went back to school. I got intentional about finding peace within myself and working to avoid some of the pitfalls that have traditionally led me to depressive episodes. Goals met or no, some great things happened in 2017.

On the down side, my biggest problem as I look back at 2017 was a lack of focus. My goals in the past have been somewhat ambiguous and general. Things like “lose weight”, “make better choices eating” and “increase savings” are nice statements, but without actionable items and specific, quantifiable marks, the objectives had no teeth. I didn’t have something to break down to the month or week, so I didn’t keep track of what I was doing. When I got to the end of the year, I looked back at my goals in my journal and realized that if those things were actually important to me, I needed to make some changes.

When goal setting for this year, I got numeric and, in some instances, a bit crazy with what I want to accomplish. For 2018 I am going for trackable items and the end targets are BIG!

I set specific goals for the amount of weight I want to lose and in what timeframe I want that to happen. I outlined exactly how many miles I would like to ride at a minimum and what events I plan to do. I set a goal to start a morning routine of exercise, meditation, reading and studying Spanish. I could go on, but I think you get the point. In 2018 I will be tracking my progress and making adjustments so that I reach my goals or adjust expectations as need be. Instead of stopping at the end of the year, looking back and wishing I had done different, I am going to make those small adjustments needed to stay on course (or adjustments to the course itself) all along the way.

So what has happened so far? I’ve been doing Couch to 5K three days a week and yoga twice a week. I am down 7.9 lbs and making healthier choices with my eating habits. I’ve meditated for 10 minutes 13 of the 18 days so far this month, read for 30 minutes 12 days and practiced Spanish for about 20 minutes the last 15 days in a row.

I have many other pieces of the puzzle of my life that I am working on this year as well. I will graduate with my associates degree in May and I have set some aggressive goals for my work and income. I have specific items planned for volunteering, teaching, improving our finances, family trips, home maintenance and plans for our future. With all that, I believe that 2018 will be a fantastic year!

Have you set any goals for the coming year? I know it is mid-January and most people have stopped talking about their resolutions, but it isn’t too late to dream about what you want for 2018, make plans and make it happen. In fact, now may be the perfect time to take specific steps to make your 2018 amazing. What inspires you? What do you aspire to do or be? Leave a comment and let’s chat about it!