Shawn Achor: Biography highlights
Happiness speaker Shawn Achor teaches the most popular class at Harvard – positive psychology.
Full biography of Shawn Achor
Achor has earned over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at the university and is the CEO of Good Think, Inc. On stage, he shows us emphatically that it’s possible to change not only our happiness, but also, and consequently, the way we view education, business, and personal growth.
He is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success.
His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular all time with over 4 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. Shawn teaches for the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School, and collaborates on research with Yale and Columbia University.
In 2007, Shawn founded GoodThinkInc to share his research with the world. Subsequently, Shawn has lectured or researched in more than 50 countries, speaking to CEOs in China, school children in South Africa, doctors in Dubai, and farmers in Zimbabwe. He has spoken to the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, doctors at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and worked with the U.S. Department of Health to promote happiness.
In 2013, Shawn helped lead the Everyday Matters campaign with the National MS Society and Genzyme to show how happiness remains a choice for those struggling with a chronic illness. Shawn graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics.
For seven years, Shawn also served as an Officer of Harvard, living in Harvard Yard and counseling students through the stresses of their first year. Though he now travels extensively for his work, Shawn continues to conduct original psychology research on happiness and organizational achievement in collaboration with Yale University and the Institute for Applied Positive Research.
Shawn is the author of New York Times best-selling books The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness as well as Ripple’s Effect and The Orange Frog. He is featured in PBS’s The Happiness Advantage with Shawn Achor special.
Watch Shawn in action
Our expectations for Shawn's talk at our recent H.R. Conference was quite high, given what I had seen of his TED talk and having read much of The Happiness Advantage = and all those expectations were exceeded! While I knew the content would be powerful and anticipated the delivery would be engaging, I underestimated the positive impact it would have on the audience beyond the conference. The attendees have been quite energized and have begun taking actions to be happier and more grateful in their own lives. Further, while the learning will be applicable at our workplace, I think the attendees felt he impact was transferable to all aspects of their lives (and their families).'
Johnson & Johnson
'We can't thank Shawn enough for making this year's Johnson & Johnson OCMO Leadership Team meeting such a success. His presentation was a highlight of our event. Our meeting objectives focused on audience engagement, leadership skills, structured networking and fun - Shawn helped us achieve all of these and then some. I've already witnessed my colleagues engaging in the happiness habits, and I'm practicing them myself!'
Corning Credit Union
'Shawn Achor is a talented and engaging speaker. He has the ability to reach his audience through a unique combination of humor and real life experiences intertwined with results from his extensive research on happiness that brings credibility and validity to his message, which should resonate with an y individual or company that values continuous improvement and strives for peak performance. I highly recommend Shawn Achor as both a speaker and a n author. I am happier as a result of Shawn's positive influence on my life and family.'
'An amazing event! It was such fun and so stimulating to have Shawn at Facebook! As we strive to help the world become more open and connected, remaining positive and grateful for meaningful and productive relationships is essential! Shawn's ideas and research is very insightful to us as we think about our mission. Thank you!'
Shawn's speaking topics
The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance
Most companies and schools follow this formula: if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy. This formula is scientifically backward. A decade of research shows that training your brain to be positive at work first actually fuels greater success second. In fact, 75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way. By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Shawn discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. Based on his book of the same, Shawn explains what positive psychology is, how much we can change, and practical applications for reaping the Happiness Advantage in the midst of change and challenge.
The Ripple Effect: How to Make Positive Change Easier
Common sense is not common action. This is because information does not necessarily cause transformation because we require a certain level of “activation energy” to start a change. Shawn’s research in the field of positive psychology has revealed how changes in our own brain due to mindset and behavior can have a ripple effect to a team and an entire organization. This positive ripple effect can create a more productive, positive work culture making positive change easier. Audiences will learn about the latest scientific research on mirror neurons and mental priming to explain how positivity and negativity spread, case studies on how to become a lightning rod for change, and findings on how a positive ripple effect profoundly affects an organization’s ability to transition and change.
Positive Genius: The Key to Raising Success, Spreading Happiness & Sustaining Positive Change
In this exciting talk, Shawn takes the audience to the cutting edge of positive psychology and neuroscience to clearly demonstrate how one can become a “positive genius”: one who can continually architect successful, positive realities based upon true facts then transfer those realities to others. Using his signature humor, new case studies and interactive experiments that engage the audience, Shawn makes this research come alive. Shawn illuminates new research he did in collaboration with Yale published in the top psychology journal in 2013 showing step by step how a leader can change their mindset about stress to increase productivity by 30% and lower health problems and fatigue by 23%. Audiences leave with five clear, practical takeaways, which can immediately start to transform their life, raising both happiness and success rates. In this program, participants will learn how to navigate multiple realities at work, cancel internal and external noise, add vantage points to planning, use success accelerants to speed goal completion and use meaning markers to spread positive genius throughout a team, family and an entire organization.
Positive Leadership: Restoring a Culture of Confidence
Confidence, trust and job satisfaction are at historic lows. When the economic collapse began, the world’s largest banks called in Shawn to research how to restore confidence and forward progress. While many managers succumb to helplessness, with their teams and clients quickly following suit, Shawn researched those who maintained high levels of success and leadership during the challenge. He found that our brains create confidence based on the belief that our behavior matters to the outcome we desire. To develop this trust, we must create “wins” for our brain necessary to overcome learned helplessness and must train our brains for rational optimism. Based on the science of positive psychology and case studies of working with companies in the midst of an economic collapse, Shawn provides practical applications for raising the belief that individual behavior matters and helping leaders to keep teams motivated and engaged.
Rethinking the Formula for Success: The Power of Positive Education
At schools and companies alike, we are sometimes taught to think: “if I work harder, then I will be successful, and then I will be happy.” This formula–which undergirds much of our educational and professional world–is scientifically backwards. Shawn explains how positive brains reap a unique advantage raising nearly every educational and business outcome–but only if we get the formula right. By demonstrating how happiness is a choice, we can help students not only cultivate positive habits and mindsets, but achieve higher levels of success as a result. Shawn’s study on 1600 Harvard students and his seven years as a Freshmen Proctor gave him a unique window into the thinking of success-driven and sometimes overwhelmed students. His subsequent work at schools and companies in 51 different countries now reveals how very simple changes to our mindset and habits can result in positive changes that cascade to others around us. Using his new research which made the cover of Harvard Business Review, interactive experiments, and humorous stories, Shawn shows how we can bring this research to life for our schools and for ourselves.