Shawn Achor Shares the Single Greatest Predictor of Success, Happiness and Longevity

Shawn Achor speaks during OPENING KEYNOTE SESSION during the 2018 Texas Conference For Women at Austin Convention Center on November 9, 2018

Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between success and happiness, told 7,500 women at this month’s 2018 Texas Conference for Women that his latest research “validates the entire reason you’re here today.”

“Social connection, which is created by being here, is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness and the greatest long-term predictor of success,” Achor said. “What we have just found out is that it is also as predictive of how long you will live as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking.”

Achor’s new findings build on his prior research that revealed:

  • Success doesn’t make us happier, but happiness makes us more successful, and
  • Participating in the Conferences for Women increases your likelihood of getting a promotion and earning a raise within a year.

Achor is The New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, and the 2018 book, Big Potential. He is also the CEO of Good Think Inc., which explores the connection between human potential, success and happiness. His TED talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Talk,” is also one of the 25 most popular of all time.

In Austin, Achor noted that people often misunderstand happiness and optimism—noting that optimism will not stop reality from impinging upon our lives; and sugarcoating the present will not help us fix problems that need to be fixed, such as inequality and discrimination. That, he said, would be irrational optimism.

But rational optimism helps us overcome challenges and contribute to positive change.

“Rational optimism starts with realism but maintains the belief that eventually my behavior will matter if linked to the right people. Rational optimism seems to be the very approach the brought you here today, and what I want to show you is how powerful getting people together like this actually is,” he said.

In one of his most striking examples, Achor said that if you look at a mountain by yourself, your brain will perceive it as 10 to 20 percent steeper than if you look at it while standing next to a friend who is going to climb it with you.

Social connection, he said, is likewise key to helping us achieve equal pay for equal work, overcome depression and anxiety, and meet other challenges.

In his 2018 Harvard Business Review article, “Do Women’s Networking Events Move the Needle on Equality, Achor studied some of the concrete outcomes of participating in the Conferences for Women.

“It turns out that your likelihood of getting a promotion doubled and likelihood of getting a pay increase of more than 10 percent tripled within a year,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee but it significantly increases your likelihood of doing so.”

In short, Achor told those gathered for the 19th annual Texas Conference for Women: “The more you surround yourself with people like this, it turns out those opportunities change your response to that world.”


Editor’s Note: The Conferences for Women are working to expand access to important topics like this for women. Please consider helping—and spreading social connection—by sharing this article on social media.