Powered by the Mensa Foundation

The Happy Secret to Better Work

Watch this TED Talk, then answer the questions below. You can also download a PDF version of this Ted Connection.


Was Shawn Achor’s little sister really a baby unicorn (as he convinced her)? In this funny talk, the CEO of Good Think Inc., discusses his research into positive psychology and argues that happiness inspires us to be more productive.

Think About It

  1. Achor discusses “positive psychology” — what is this?
  2. What is “the cult of the average,” and do you agree that it exists?
  3. Achor says much of the nightly news is negative and can lead to something called “medical school syndrome.” What is that and do you agree with him? Why or why not?
  4. If you were attending Harvard, would you have a list of things to worry about? What might be on that list? After listening to this talk, how do you think you could reframe those same things to be more positive?
  5. What percent of your long-term happiness could Achor predict if he knew about your external world? Expound on why he can only predict that percent.
  6. If “the absence of disease isn’t health,” then what is?
  7. What is the problem with “changing the goal post of what success looks like”? Do you agree with this theory? Expound on your answer with examples.
  8. What does it take to get to the “happiness advantage”? What are the three levels that rise?
  9. Why do you think your brain is 31 percent more productive at “positive” than at “neutral or stressed”? Share a time when you can think of this happening for you.
  10. What are the two functions of dopamine? Why do you think these functions are important?
  11. How many days in a row does it take to rewire your brain for a new habit?
  12. Do you think you would be able to rewire your brain to look at the world more positively? Can you identify three people with whom you could try it? How would you measure your success?
The Happiness Advantage slide

Do It

  • Try one of the recommended ways to retrain your brain.
  • Join the happiness movement.

Read About It

  • Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being, by Shawn Achor
  • The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, by Shawn Achor

Surf It