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Shawn Achor

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Shawn Achor
Achor in 2017
Born (1978-03-09) March 9, 1978 (age 46)
EducationBA, Harvard University
MA, Harvard Divinity School
Occupation(s)happiness researcher, bestselling author, corporate speaker
Organization(s)GoodThink, Institute of Applied Positive Research
Known forPositive Psychology, finding success through happiness "happiness is a choice, happiness is an advantage, happiness spreads"
Notable workThe Happiness Advantage, The Orange Frog, Before Happiness

Shawn Achor (born March 9, 1978)[1] is an American author and speaker known for his advocacy of positive psychology.[2] He authored The Happiness Advantage[3] and founded GoodThink, Inc.[4]


Achor received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and a Master of Arts in Christian and Buddhist Ethics from Harvard Divinity School.


After college and divinity school, Achor worked as a freshman proctor and teaching assistant at Harvard University. He was one of the teaching assistants for Tal Ben-Shahar's popular "Happiness" course.

In 2007, Achor co-founded GoodThinkInc with his sister, Amy Blankson,[4] and then later co-founded The Institute for Applied Positive Research with his wife, Michelle Gielan. The company consists of researchers, speakers, and trainers who offer positive psychology-related services to improve work performance.[5]

Achor presented at TEDx, and his talk is listed as one of TED's 25 most popular[6] with more than with 20 million views online.[7] This book features research that Achor conducted with Ali Crum and Prof. Peter Salovey at Yale University at the large Swiss bank UBS, which was published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and provided evidence that changing one's mindset about stress changes the physical effects of stress.[8] His most recent book, Big Potential, was published in 2018 and expands his research beyond the individual by looking at how empowering others helps us all reach our fullest potential.[9] Achor also frequently writes for the Harvard Business Review, with more than thirty five articles in both the online and print versions of the journal.[10]

Achor launched a two-part online learning class with the Oprah Winfrey network in 2015 after being interviewed for two sessions of Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday television series in 2014.[11] Achor was named to Oprah's SuperSoul100 list of visionaries and influential leaders in 2016.[12]

Achor co-authored the children's book Ripple's Effect with his sister, Amy Blankson, as a way to bring positive psychology concepts to children.[13] The book was later bought by Source Books and renamed How to Make a Shark Smile.[14]


Alison Beard, in an article in the Harvard Business Review,[15] briefly describes several recent critiques of positive thinking, points out that Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, said that the feeling of happiness is only one element of a fulfilling life, and goes on to say "Where most of the happiness gurus go wrong is insisting that daily if not constant happiness is a means to long-term fulfillment. For some glass-half-full optimists, that may be true. They can “stumble on happiness” the way the field's most prominent researcher, Dan Gilbert, suggests; or gain “the happiness advantage” that the professor-turned-consultant Shawn Achor talks about; or “broadcast happiness,” as Michelle Gielan, Achor's wife and partner at the firm GoodThink, recommends in her new book. As I said, it apparently takes just a few simple tricks. But for the rest of us, that much cheer feels forced, so it's unlikely to help us mold meaningful relationships or craft the perfect career."

Poor Ash's Almanack [16] states "My much bigger disagreement is with Achor’s anti-defensive-pessimism stance: for all the good that Before Happiness did me (and believe me, it was a lot), abandoning defensive pessimism was a painful and emotionally damaging mistake. I explain my contrasting viewpoint pretty extensively in the notes, but simply put, I think Achor creates a false dichotomy between having a growth mindset and approaching the world with a “positive mental attitude” (as Gonzales might put it), and using a margin of safety to overcome loss aversion."


  1. ^ Frauenheim, Ed (September 12, 2013). "The Power of Positive Tinkering". Workforce.com. Achor, 35
  2. ^ Kaminer, Ariel (April 20, 2012). "Returning to College, Without the Beer". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Achor, Shawn (2010). The Happiness Advantage. Random House. ISBN 9780307591562.
  4. ^ a b Schawbel, Dan (October 9, 2013). "Shawn Achor: What You Need To Do Before Experiencing Happiness - Forbes". Forbes. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  5. ^ "About Us". Good Think, Inc. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  6. ^ "The most popular talks of all time". TED Talks.
  7. ^ "Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work". TED. May 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  8. ^ Crum, Alia, Peter Salovey, and Shawn Achor. "Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 104, no. 4 (2013): 716-733.
  9. ^ Shawn, Achor (2018). Big potential : how transforming the pursuit of success raises our achievement, happiness, and well-being (First ed.). New York. ISBN 9781524761530. OCLC 991370109.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ Achor, Shawn. "Harvard Business Review - Search Shawn Achor". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  11. ^ [1] (registration required)
  12. ^ "Meet the SuperSoul100: The World's Biggest Trailblazers in One Room". O Magazine. August 1, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  13. ^ Shawn Achor; Amy Blankson (2012). Ripple's Effect. Little Pickle Press. ISBN 978-0-9829938-7-3. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  14. ^ Shawn Achor; Amy Blankson (2020). How to Make a Shark Smile. Source Books. ISBN 978-1728225807. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  15. ^ Beard, Alison (July 2015). "The Happiness Backlash". Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School Publishing. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  16. ^ "SHAWN ACHOR'S "BEFORE HAPPINESS": BOOK REVIEW, NOTES + ANALYSIS". Poor Ash's Almanack. Retrieved May 10, 2019.

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