60 Shawn Achor Quotes on Happiness and Productivity

These Shawn Achor quotes will test your belief system and leave you pondering about concepts that will result in higher levels of optimism – and ultimately, success.

Share your favorite Shawn Achor quote with us in the comment section below.

Shawn Achor is a leading expert on positive psychology.

What is that exactly?

What is positive psychology?

It is the area of study that looks at how positivity, success, and human potential interrelate.

Through his writing, speaking, and teachings, he challenges common assumptions and uses scientifically validated research to affect positive change in the lives of those who listen.

Shawn has authored several books, including The Happiness Advantage, Ripple’s Effect, Before Happiness, and Resilience.

You can also find him on the TED Talks stage.

Shawn uses his words and stories to shake up our preconceived ideas about critical subjects, such as success and happiness.

He doesn’t give untested answers but drills down through years of studies to draw conclusions that inspire deeper thinking and successful living.

Be prepared to think and explore ideas that are tested and proven in real life.

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Look through our complete collection of inspirational quotes here.

Shawn Achor Quotes from his Ted Talk

1. “Happiness is an incredible competitive advantage.”- Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Happiness makes us feel better emotionally, do better, and even feel better physically. The competitive advantage comes from how you carry yourself, the opportunities you seek, and the ones you can go after because of your confidence and health!

2. “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Many people think that loving yourself and your life means that you have a belief that you don’t need to change anything. This is not true! Loving yourself means you recognize your weaknesses and will put in the work required to be your best self! Happiness comes from knowing that you can do this and live your best life! 

3. “Even the smallest shots of positivity can give someone a serious competitive edge.” – Shawn Achor

4. “Without action, knowledge is often meaningless.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: If you do not put the knowledge you have into practice or action, then nothing will change or improve. Life is moving constantly, and we need to use our skills to move closer to where we are meant to be. Having knowledge but doing nothing with it is like holding the plug to the lamp in your hand instead of plugging it in—you are just going to stay in the dark.

5. “Happiness is not just a mood—it’s a work ethic.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Happiness comes from developing discipline, creating routines, and building confidence. Each of these things is not the result of your mood but the amount of effort and work you put forth in getting where you want to be!

6. “Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.” – Shawn Achor

7. “Beliefs are so powerful because they dictate our efforts and actions.” – Shawn Achor

8. “Happiness asks us to be realistic about the present while maximizing our potential for the future.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Everyone has a different idea about what happiness is. The definition is not terribly helpful either, as it says “the state of being happy.” One of the best ways to be happy is to be realistic and live in the moment. Plan on how to improve your future and know what your goals are. Just don’t get caught up in expectations and let them steal your happiness.

9. “I defined happiness as ‘the joy we feel moving toward our potential.'” – Shawn Achor

10. “Happiness is the precursor to success.” – Shawn Achor

11. “The belief that we are just our genes is one of the most pernicious myths in modern culture — the insidious notion that people come into the world with a fixed set of abilities and that they, and their brains, cannot change.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: There is no denying that genetics play a role in who we are. However, human beings are more than their genetics. You can teach your brain new ways of thinking. You might not be naturally inclined toward a certain trait, but that doesn’t mean that you can not experience growth. Check out this article for more on how to change your mindset.

12. “You do not have to be your genes, your childhood, your environment. We can choose how our brain looks at the world.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Your genes, childhood, and environment help shape who you are. However, you are more than the sum of those parts. Maybe you didn’t win the genetic lottery. Your childhood might have been awful and traumatic. The environment you are in might not be ideal. However, you are also a human being who can choose your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. It will not be easy to overcome these obstacles and change, but it is possible! 

13. “For untold generations, we have been led to believe that happiness orbited around success. That if we work hard enough, we will be successful, and only if we are successful will we become happy. The opposite is true.” – Shawn Achor

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Everyday Application: We each have a unique definition of success and happiness. Sure, being successful might make people happy. However, happiness is found within. Having meaning and purpose in your life will also make you happy. Being grateful for the things you have will make you much happier than acquiring more things. Happiness is also a choice, so it really is up to you.

14. “When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Your mindset (which is fully within your control) is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. When something happens, you can choose how you react. A positive mood and mindset won’t make bad things magically disappear, but it will help you cope much better. Check out this article for more about why mindset matters.

15. “The most accurate term for happiness… is the one Aristotle used: eudaimonia, which translates not directly to ‘happiness’ but to ‘human flourishing’.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: The definition of flourish is to “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way.” When we grow and develop using healthy methods and are intentional with our choices, our happiness increases. Maybe you aren’t quite flourishing yet because you have been busy trying to survive. Check out this article to learn about how to move from surviving to thriving.

16. “Happiness is not all about yellow smiley faces and rainbows. For me, happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential.” – Shawn Achor

17. “Happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving. The wealth of data found that happiness causes success and achievement, not the opposite.” – Shawn Achor

You will also enjoy our article on happiness quotes

Inspiring Shawn Achor Quotes about Happiness

18. “If all you strive for is diminishing the bad, you’ll only attain the average and you’ll miss out entirely on the opportunity to exceed the average.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Shoot for the best and biggest thing you can imagine. Getting anywhere near there will help diminish the bad, but just think how far past average you might go! There is so much more to life if we are brave enough to put ourselves out there and risk a few failed attempts.

19. “A quick burst of positive emotions doesn’t just broaden our cognitive capacity; it also provides a quick and powerful antidote to stress and anxiety, which in turn improves our focus and our ability to function at our best level.” – Shawn Achor

20. “Research shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Meditation can be a powerful force. Just how does it work, though? Well, studies have found that meditation makes the amygdala smaller. This part of the brain controls your fear and anxiety responses. It also leads to certain parts of the brain becoming thicker, making it easier to cope when times are hard or stressful.

21. “So how do the scientists define happiness? Essentially, as the experience of positive emotions — pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose.” – Shawn Achor

22. “You can eliminate depression without making someone happy. You can cure anxiety without teaching someone optimism. You can return someone to work without improving their job performance.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: The point here is that the focus can not be just on eliminating the negative emotions we feel. Achor states that “If all you strive for is diminishing the bad, you’ll only attain the average and you’ll miss out entirely on the opportunity to exceed the average.” You are meant to be more than average.

23. “Happiness gives us a real chemical edge on the competition. How? Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.” – Shawn Achor

24. “Positive emotions help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on.” – Shawn Achor

25. “Money can buy happiness, but only if used to DO things as opposed to simply HAVE things.” – Shawn Achor

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Everyday Application: Having a house full of expensive things will not make you happier. Buying a boat and spending the weekends with your family on the lake or river while laughing, swimming, and listening to music will probably make you happier. Experiences and spending time with loved ones increase the number of endorphins your brain releases. Staring at your latest expensive gadget will not.

26. “The fastest way to disengage an employee is to tell him his work is meaningful only because of the paycheck.” – Shawn Achor

27. “By changing the fulcrum of our mindset and lengthening our lever of possibility, we change what is possible. It’s not the weight of the world that determines what we can accomplish. It is our fulcrum and lever.” – Shawn Achor

28. “In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, announced that it was finally time to shift the traditional approach to psychology and start to focus more on the positive side of the curve. That we needed to study what works, not just what is broken.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: This was great news for the psychology community, but anyone can benefit from shifting their mindset like this. Instead of lamenting about all the things wrong in your life, talk about what is working. Be grateful for the positive things in your life. This doesn’t mean you pretend the negative stuff doesn’t exist. It just means that you do not have to devote all of your physical and mental energy to it!

29. “When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Focusing on the positive and reaping the rewards of happiness, gratitude, and optimism will change your life. Sure, it might sound a little out there, but it is true. When you are grateful and optimistic, it is easier to be happy. When you are happy, it is easier to be grateful and optimistic. These things can be found within yourself and won’t cost a thing.

30. “The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.” – Shawn Achor

31. “When we reconnect ourselves with the pleasure of the ‘means,’ as opposed to only focusing on the ‘ends,’ we adopt a mindset more conducive not only to enjoyment, but to better results.” – Shawn Achor

More Quotes by Shawn Achor about Productivity

32. “The more you believe in your own ability to succeed, the more likely it is that you will.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Believing in yourself is a crucial step in being successful. First off, believing you can do something will help you stay motivated when times are tough, and they will be tough. If you don’t have a belief in yourself, then why would you keep going? Check out this article for more reasons it is important to believe in yourself.

33. “According to the Roman poet Ovid, the sculptor Pygmalion could look at a piece of marble and see the sculpture trapped inside of it.” – Shawn Achor

34. “The Pygmalion Effect is when our belief in another person’s potential brings that potential to life.” – Shawn Achor

35. “We want to push the limits of possibility as far as they can go, not limit them in the way too many discouraging bosses, parents, teachers, or media stories tell us they should be limited.” – Shawn Achor

36. “You can study gravity forever without ever knowing how to fly.” – Shawn Achor

37. “When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, they feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.” – Shawn Achor

38. “Simply believing we can fly won’t set us aloft. Yet if we don’t believe, we have no chance of ever making it off the ground.” – Shawn Achor

39. “As science has shown, when we believe we can do more and achieve more (or when others believe it for us), that is often the precise reason we DO achieve more.” – Shawn Achor

40. “Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals.” – Shawn Achor

41. “It’s hard to find happiness after success if the goalposts of success keep changing.” – Shawn Achor

42. “As you might have guessed, it turns out that there is no such thing—in a scientific sense, at least—as luck. The only difference (and it is a big one) is whether or not people think that they are lucky—in essence, whether they expect good or bad things to happen to them.” – Shawn Achor

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43. “Successful people see adversity as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block.” – Shawn Achor

44. “You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body.” – Shawn Achor

45. “The most successful decisions come when we are thinking clearly and creatively enough to recognize all the paths available to us, and accurately predict where that path will lead. The problem is that when we are stressed or in crisis, many people miss the most important path of all: the path up.” – Shawn Achor

46. “The people who can most successfully get themselves up off the mat are those who define themselves not by what has happened to them, but by what they can make out of what has happened. These are the people who actually use adversity to find the path forward. They speak not just of ‘bouncing back,’ but of ‘bouncing forward’.” – Shawn Achor

47. “The greatest competitive advantage in our modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” – Shawn Achor

48. “It’s not reality that shapes us. Rather, it is 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 every single educational and business outcome at the same time.” – Shawn Achor

49. “Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed.” – Shawn Achor

50. “Mindfulness is a key cornerstone of creating a positive mind.” – Shawn Achor

More Shawn Achor quotes and sayings

51. “Our daily decisions and habits have a huge impact upon both our levels of happiness and success.” – Shawn Achor

52. “The research says that being successful doesn’t automatically make you happier, but being happier – being more positive – makes you more successful.” – Shawn Achor

53. “Traveling the world can be an amazing – and even better – a happy experience. You just have to do it the right way.” – Shawn Achor

54. “We not only need to work happy, we need to work at being happy.” – Shawn Achor

55. “Joy makes us want to invest more deeply in the people around us. It makes us want to learn more about our communities. It makes us want to be able to find ways of being able to make this a better external world for all of us.” – Shawn Achor

56. “Scientifically, happiness is a choice. It is a choice about where your single processor brain will devote its finite resources as you process the world.” – Shawn Achor

57. “Happiness is about learning how to cultivate the mindset and behaviors that have been empirically proven to fuel greater success and fulfillment.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Ok, so what are these behaviors that move us toward success and fulfillment? This means doing things like being organized, grateful, kind, and focusing on the positive. Check out this article about the behaviors of successful people.

58. “Only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: If you are looking for ways to do your best at work, then try improving these three areas first. Look for something to be grateful for and optimistic about. Spend time with people who are in a similar place in their lives or are already where you want to be. Finally, accept that things are going to happen and think about what they can teach you instead of why they are happening.

59. “We become more successful when we are happier and more positive.” – Shawn Achor

60. “Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances.” – Shawn Achor

Everyday Application: Many people have the misconception that positive psychology is about faking it or seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. It is not. It is about seeing the world for how it is, like recognizing that nothing is permanent and we can make it through our struggles. It is acknowledging that our experiences are teaching us something. It is about reminding yourself of everything that is good, so you can rally enough to survive the bad things when they happen.

Did you learn something new from these Shawn Achor quotes?

If you are looking to increase true happiness, find a greater sense of meaning, raise your success levels, and create positive change, Shawn’s wisdom and insights are for you.

How many times do we settle for beliefs that are unfounded in truth?

Hopefully, these powerful Shawn Achor quotes have taught you a thing—or two—about true happiness and positivity today.

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  1. Kate

    August 17, 2019 at 2:52 PM

    These positive quotes are a gift. Thank you 💘.

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