Before Happiness Summary

1-Line Summary: Before Happiness by Shawn Achor discusses how you can choose the best reality for yourself and achieve both happiness and success in your life.


Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change
  • Crown Business
  • Hardcover Book
  • Achor, Shawn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 09/10/2013 (Publication Date) - Currency (Publisher)

Last update on 2022-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

Before Happiness Summary [PDF]

Looking for happiness?

This book might help.

In this book summary, you will learn how you can choose and create the best reality for yourself. And thus live a content life.

So without wasting any time, let’s get started!

Lesson #1: There could be multiple alternate realities depending on your point of view.

Our mind is such that it can imagine lots of scenarios and possibilities.

But unfortunately, due to our conditioning, we often limit ourselves and tend to think only based on our preconceived notions.

Although it makes thinking easier, it is pretty problematic.

Why is this a problem?

It’s a problem because when you only see through your preconceived notions, you tend to see only one side of the reality.

If reality were a coin, you would only see one side of it.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you buy a lottery ticket and eventually win it.

Would it be a great thing or bad?

You might say, “What could be wrong with winning a lottery?

Well, if you thought this way, you missed the point.

Don’t worry if you didn’t notice the problem.

Winning a lottery might be a quick win. But it also gives you a false idea that life is a game of bets. You get the idea that luck is dominant over hard work.

Are you getting the point here?

The same act of winning a lottery can be both a win and a loss depending on how you see and interpret the reality.

The author discusses the same thing in the first chapter.

He talks about how limited our perception is.

We often fail to see multiple realities. And even if we manage to see them, we tend to choose the wrong one. Not realizing this at that moment.

The reality could be either positive or negative. Or sometimes it could be both.

But you have to decide what reality would suit you the best in achieving your goals.

Again, the above statement could be dangerous.

That’s because some people only see a reality that best fits their selfish goals.

Don’t do that!

If possible, try to see the reality as it is.

Don’t let your ego get in the way while doing so. (It’s hard!)

Although the book doesn’t put much focus on this, you should keep this in your mind.

But again, one can’t blame the author as the book focuses more on getting happiness.

So yeah, if you want to become happy, you can choose the reality that you think may help you get rid of stress and become satisfied.

For example, the author says that stress can be both good and bad. It depends on how you see it.

And there is a lot of research that reveals that a bit of stress is good.

You should avoid too much stress though.

You can understand this point by this example:

When we exercise our body is under stress. But that little stress helps us stay fit and helps us live longer.

So from one standpoint, it’s a good thing.

But if you have a bone injury, that same stress could be harmful.

This means that you have to judge your reality without any bias.

The author recommends that you take input from multiple sources.

For example, if you want to know if a particular thing is right or wrong, you can hear the opinions of the right people and try to make an unbiased judgment.

But still, it doesn’t guarantee anything.

The best way is to pick a reality that helps you best achieve your goals and happiness overall.

Surprisingly, most people don’t even bother to even understand the possibility of an alternate reality.

Again, you should be clear about why you are accepting a certain reality.

I recommend that you keep checking from time to time if your reality is working in your favor or not.

This requires a sound understanding of the fundamentals of life, though.

Try reading philosophy or spirituality books: Check the book summaries.

Lesson #2: Design the mental map that would guide you and help you reach success faster. (as if it were some kind of destination)

We all have some kind of map in our minds that we use when forced to make a choice.

For instance, if you are lost in a jungle and see three ways diverging in front of you.

One is narrower and has only a few footprints.

The second is wider but is grassy.

The third one looks old, and most walked upon.

Which one will you choose?

There is no correct answer.

Every individual would pick the one based on what he thinks is right.

And what we feel is right or wrong is determined by our mental maps.

Unfortunately, for many people, those maps are designed by circumstances.

Their beliefs and opinions are often decided by society.

The idea here is to create our own mental maps by prioritizing things that give meaning to our lives.

To make your journey smoother, you must know about things that you will never compromise on and at the same time those that give meaning to your life.

Once you identify those key things, try to align your life around them.

It’s like designing a map and putting your markers on it so that they lead you in the right direction or in the direction you want to move.

Your map might be different from your friends, though.

So don’t bother comparing it with your friends.

The goal is to make your life meaningful by consciously deciding and prioritizing your goals.

You will find that your reality will shape according to your focus.

If your focus is on the wrong goals, you may find yourself lost.

So pay attention when you decide what you value the most.

Personally, I value my freedom most.

If I were to design such a map, I would create it in such a way that it would give me freedom from most of the sufferings in life like mental confusion, unwanted stress, etc.

Lesson #3: By thinking and seeing yourself achieving your goals, you increase the likelihood of actually achieving them.

The author talks about marathons.

When the players are near the finish line and see that their goal is so close, it produced a strange chemical reaction in the brain.

Suddenly, they feel a rush within their body and mind.

What does this tell?

It means that when you can see your goal close to you, your brain helps you in achieving it.

In short:

If you are working for a goal, don’t think that it’s hard.

Think that you have almost achieved it, and you just need a few steps to achieve it.

Often people focus on how hard the circumstances are and imagine multiple scenarios where they would fail.

As a result, they decrease their chances of achieving their goals. And never work to fulfill their dreams.

But if you are smart, you wouldn’t do that.

You would see your goal clearly in front of your eyes. And use all of your energies to move closer to it.

Another important thing is:

You have to see your goal first.

The author talks about how easier it is to hit a target if it’s big and closer.

Likewise, you have to have big goals first. And visualize them clearly.

If your goal is too big, then then the key to moving closer to your goals fast is to break them up.

It reduces the perceived amount of effort required. And thus you find it easier.

Put another way, you trick your brain into thinking that your goal is easy when it’s actually harder.

If you always think about how hard things are in life, then you will always have a negative outlook on life.

On the flip side, if you think about possibilities, you will always have an optimistic outlook toward life.

Remember, there are multiple realities based on how you see a situation.

Sometimes, things look harder. But often, they are not as hard as we think they are.

So when you visualize your goals clearly, your brain perceives them as a possibility.

Unless you see yourself achieving a goal, you won’t work to achieve it.

Mostly, it’s the mental blocks that stop us from achieving those goals. Physically, you may be capable of achieving a particular goal.

But since you don’t have the belief to support your idea, you feel that it’s impossible.

Even if you feel that you are a loser, think about your victories.

There must be something where you have performed better than others.

It doesn’t mean that you have to keep comparing yourself with others all the time.

This is to remind yourself that you have the potential.

If you have won even 1 game out of 10 games of life, you shouldn’t have second thoughts about your potential to achieve big things in life.

Often it’s not the biggest brains with IQs and EQs that win in life, it’s often those who are willing to learn the game of life despite having failures.

The mind can be a tricky thing to deal with.

But since now you know how to make the impossible possible, don’t hold yourself back.

Start moving closer to your goals.

Lesson #4: Get rid of all the noise around and within you.

First, let’s define NOISE.

Noise is anything unwanted or unnecessary in your life.

Whatever stops you from moving closer to your targets is noise.

Noise can be anywhere.

It’s within you. It’s around you. It’s outside you.

The noise outside you are circumstances that are unfavorable to you.

You can’t run away from it.

Either you face it or minimize it.

Realize that with every problem, there are solutions too.

So don’t fool yourself into thinking that you had no options.

Yes, there are no options if you don’t want to find them.

At the same time, there are plenty of options if you shift your mindset and start focusing on the solutions while keeping the problem in mind.

But what about internal noise?

It’s a bit harder to deal with.

These days, most noise is internal. That’s why you find people confused and see them making wrong choices.

Sometimes, you make a problem bigger in your mind and it saps away all your will.

Other times, you are bombarded by a marketing campaign that makes you think and feel sad.

For example, a post on social media can make you feel how boring your life is — when it’s not.

It’s all noise!

A cute pic of your friends having fun at a beach has nothing to do with you. It’s not the whole thing. They are just sharing a particular moment of their life.

Most people never see the bigger picture and thus end up creating internal noise.

The worst thing about noise is:

It not only hurts your mind, but also prevents you from achieving growth in life.

Therefore, while moving forward, you must also try to decrease the amount of noise in your life.

Noise could come through any means.

It may be your toxic friends, it may be a post on Instagram, a greedy relative, etc.

Limit the amount of crap you take in.

You don’t need to like every YouTube video just because a person with a handsome face is saying so.

You don’t need another digital marketing course — just because some guru has figured out a secret about the digital algorithms.

But the truth is:

You are going to take some crap in any way. (No matter how hard you try)

So why not take good crap in?

Stop taking bad advice from people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Unsubscribe what you don’t want in your life.

By subscribing to crap, you are welcoming noise in your life.

Our senses are such that they want some input all the time. (Especially, if it provides instant gratification.)

You don’t need all the information in the world. You don’t have to watch all the videos that Youtube recommends on your home feed.

Be selective about your inputs. This is the only key to reducing noise in your life.

And to do that efficiently, you must be clear about what you want from your life.

Many forces are trying to get your attention. It’s a valuable asset.

You might not value it. But multi-billion dollar businesses surely do.

Don’t waste your attention.

Put it to good use.


About the author of this book

The author of this book is:

Shawn Achor

He is one of the world’s leading experts on happiness and success according to his website.

He is also the author of New York Times bestselling books:

  • The Happiness Advantage
  • Big Potential

I recommend that you check these books out as well if you want to learn more on the subject of ‘Happiness.’

Learn more about the author here


Before Happiness Review

Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change
  • Crown Business
  • Hardcover Book
  • Achor, Shawn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 09/10/2013 (Publication Date) - Currency (Publisher)

Last update on 2022-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

Here is my honest opinion about this book…

Is this book worth your time?

I wasn’t much impressed by the ideas discussed in this book.

If you’ve read enough about self-help, it’s the same old boring concept:

Set a goal. Believe in yourself. Take action.

I liked the first chapter where the author talked about multiple realities. It sounded cool at first. But soon I realized that I already know about this.

Maybe I got biased.

The author has also given practical tips at the end of each lesson. (Thumbs up for that!)

The book has too many stories and research.

You may find those stories a bit boring.

Overall it’s a decent book.

Book Rating: 6/10

Why the name “Beyond Happiness”?

If you are a curious person like me, you might have wondered why such a name.

Well, then, let me satisfy your curiosity.

The author has also written a book about happiness.

Its name is “The Happiness Advantage.”

In that book, he talked about happiness. (Obviously!)

Later, he realized that there was something more than happiness.

Got it? From there he thought about this book.

And he is right. Happiness is not something you will always have.

If you believe that any person can live on this planet without having sadness, you are imagining a just world.

And yes, you can’t go beyond happiness without understanding what happiness is.


Now it’s your turn

I hope you enjoyed this summary and learned a lot of cool lessons.

Don’t forget to join my weekly email newsletter to stay updated with all the future book summaries.

Also, go check this book out so that you understand all the concepts.

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Shami Manohar


The Brain Behind This Website

I'm Shami Manohar, the Founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more. My mission is to educate and empower every individual through proper knowledge that works in real life.

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