Before my column here at INC.com, my portfolio of celebrity conversations was thin. But after a few pieces including high profile entrepreneurs I began to understand what to expect.

The publicist for the entrepreneur will share key speaking points. Nothing about the conversation is deep or profound. You get the story and you move on.

None of this transpired during my recent, and fascinating conversation with Shawn Achor. He was charming, humble to a fault, and well, normal.

We chatted about our children and how he had just watched a home demolition with his little boy. Who was apparently thrilled by the spectacle.

I shared that Shawn's work had a profound effect on my life, and I thanked him. Then we got to the good stuff.

For the uninformed, Shawn's best selling book The Happiness Advantage shares Shawn's research about Happiness. The "Cliff's Notes" of the book are in his entertaining May 2011 TED talk titled "The happy secret to better work." His talk has been viewed a staggering 14,271,522 times.

To get to the core of Shawn's thesis in his TED talk you can scroll to 6:16 of his talk when he says:

"What we're finding it that It's not necessarily reality which shapes us, it's the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality, and if we can change the lens not only can we change your happiness we can change ever single educational and business outcome at the same time."

I wanted to learn more about how we can all become happier, and I shared with Shawn that so many in our culture struggle with happiness. Don't we all want to be smarter, and richer so we can then be happy? What Shawn told me is that it's "Not about being rich or smart. It's about being smarter with our happiness."

But does it work? Shawn's team at his company GoodThink, Inc. have ensured that positive psychology no longer lives in the grey area of qualitative assumptions. They are creating a bedrock foundation of data that proves how we can become happier. And the quantitative results are profound.

Shawn told me "the truth that science is revealing is that small positive changes can change the trajectory of our life."

Here are five small changes you can make to be happier. And they're all free:

Taking the time to feel grateful for what you have puts you in a positive state of mind. "Gratitude functions to nurture social relationships through its encouragement of reciprocal, pro-social behavior between a benefactor and recipient."

2. Journaling (Slatecher & Pennebaker, 2006)

"Writing about emotional experiences is associated with a host of positive outcomes."

3. Exercise (Babyak et. al. 2000)

"16 weeks of aerobic exercise training was comparable to that of standard pharmacotherapy." So get off the meds, and get moving!

4. Meditation (Dweck, 2007)

"In her brilliant book, Mindset, Dweck shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we approach our goals."

5. Random Acts of Kindness (Lyubomirsky, 2005)

"Short-term increases in happiness were found, but only for participants who practiced the five acts of kindness all in a single day."

Wrapping it up:

Shawn told me that he knew his research would have a profound effect business was when he spoke to a group of executives overseas. It was at the peak of the economic implosion.

A senior leader introduced him to a group saying "we don't have bonuses, but we have this guy from America to tell you about happiness."

Just fifteen minutes into that speech, he shared how his team had quantified their happiness research. Now he had their attention.

Shawn shared that "we are using the world as a laboratory." Our company is doing "in personal training, developing happiness APPS, and constructing digital intervention."

They're not only working with corporations, they're now working with schools.

Shawn told me, after their work with one of the "poorest schools in Iowa, students are now scoring 17-21 on their ACT's have 95% attendance and they're now one of the top 150 places to work in Iowa."

I heard joy Shawn's voice as he described a happiness ripple effect."By sharing these free skills and habits to happiness, they can spread pretty easily and effect real change."

What do you think? Can we cause a ripple effect of happiness by following Shawn's 5 simple steps?

Published on: Oct 31, 2016
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