Best-selling author Shawn Achor says happiness is a choice

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A New York Times best-selling author stressed at the Highland Park United Methodist Church on Monday, Oct. 8 that a person’s decision to make small positive changes in their daily life can improve their happiness.

“Big potential is what we achieve when we actually interact with the entire ecosystem of potential around us,” Shawn Achor said.

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Shawn Achor's book "Big Potential" Photo credit: Kristen Romano

Achor shared his studies on happiness, gratitude, privilege, depression and optimism along with his own personal experiences.

“Happiness could be a choice,” Achor said.

Achor had the audience engage in a smile experiment. Each audience member found a partner. One person would smile largely while the other would try to keep a straight face. The majority of people trying to keep a straight face would end up smiling. Achor said this experiment indicates smiles spread just like negativity does.

“Negativity, stress, uncertainty and anxiety we can pick up like second-hand smoke,” Achor said.

Achor suggested people can change others for the better and even an act as small as a smile can make a difference. He stressed small daily acts of kindness and the practice of gratitude can change your life and the lives of others as well.

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Shawn Achor speaking on the stage at HPUMC Photo credit: Kristen Romano

Achor also stressed the benefits and power of happiness.

“While success does not create happiness, happiness actually dramatically raises the success rates for people,” Achor said.

Achor has traveled to over 50 countries to share his happiness findings, and his TED talk is one of the most viewed of all time. An HPUMC minister said Achor’s message adds positivity to the church environment.

“We’re bringing in people that we believe have a particularly unique message for members and members of the community,” said Highland Park minister John Fiedler.

The HPUMC executive pastor said Achor lives by his findings.

“The work that he does and the work that he writes about is not just something that is professional for him,” HPUMC executive pastor Matt Tuggle said. “It’s not just words on a page but it’s something that he lives and something he embodies.”

Nearly 1,200 people attended Achor’s lecture, which was a part of the Mark Craig Leadership Network Speaker Series at HPUMC. People were seated inside Wesley Hall and an overflow section was utilized in a different part of the church.

People like HPUMC regular Courtney Smith believe change is possible and small changes can have a large effect after listening to Achor’s lecture.

“I found tonight’s message to be incredibly poignant and something that could be utilized in both a micro and macro level,” Courtney Smith said.

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