Debate Magazine

The Science of Academic Improvement (from the Archives)

By Stevemiranda

Here’s a glimpse into what the scientific community is telling us about happiness and productivity, drawn from research at Harvard University by Shawn Achor. His book is called The Happiness Advantage.

  • “Most people believe that success leads to happiness, but that formula is backwards. The truth is that happiness is the precursor to success. When you raise your happiness, you raise your success rates and increase productivity. The best part is that this isn’t just a motivational speech—it’s science. This is how our brains work.”
  • “When people get stressed, they tend to divide themselves from those around them, including family, friends and co-workers. But the most successful people take the opposite approach. Instead of turning inward, they actually hold tighter to their social support. . . . Decades of research have revealed that social support may be the single greatest contributor to our personal happiness. Not only are these people happier, but they are more productive, engaged, energetic and resilient.”
  • “Unhappy people get stuck in negative thinking patterns, both personally and professionally—their brains are searching for more reasons to fail and be miserable.” Achor recommends spending time each day expressing gratitude for the good things in your life. “Focusing on the good isn’t just about overcoming our inner grump to see the glass half full. It’s about opening our minds to the ideas and opportunities that will help us be more productive, effective and successful at work and in life.”

Education reformers want us to embrace tougher standards, academic rigor, and no-nonsense accountability. Scientists, on the other hand, are telling us the opposite. The data reveals that we can improve academic performance by creating a school environment that is joyful, building a caring community, and elevating in our consciousness the good things that are happening in our lives.

(Join the discussion at Get updates at

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog