The Happiness Advantage in School

Most people assume that if they strive very hard to achieve success in school and at work, and if they succeed in making a lot of money, and having a prestigious job, and marrying and raising a family, they’ll be happy.

At Living Wisdom School, we practice a completely different approach. Since our first school opened in the early 1970s, we’ve realized that children do better in school when we teach them how to be happy at the start. It’s one reason our school rules begin with “Choose Happiness!”

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage
Shawn Achor’s book is based on his research with hundreds of Harvard students and successful business leaders.

Shawn Achor’s book is based on his research with hundreds of Harvard students and successful business leaders.

Naturally, this approach raises questions for parents, even though our students do very well in standardized testing, and in high school and college.

In fact, there’s scientific evidence that putting happiness first works very well on the job and in school.

If we’ve aroused your curiosity, we invite you to watch the following fascinating 12-minute TED Talk with Shawn Achor, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Advantage. (You can also read the transcript.)

And here’s a bombshell article, Be More Successful: New Harvard Research Reveals a Fun Way to Do It, that was posted on the popular Barking Up the Wrong Tree website (120,000 subscribers). It’s based on an interview with Shawn Achor who summarizes his research that kids who learn to be happy do a lot better in school than those who burn themselves out with fact-cramming and studying to the test.

(For your interest, we present Shawn’s bio below.)

In this talk, given at the Dalai Lama Center, Shawn shares his findings on The Happiness Advantage for Children. (7 minutes)

Shawn Achor Bio

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard.

Shawn has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review. His TED talk is one of the most popular all time, with over 4 million views, and his lecture on PBS has been seen by millions.

Shawn teaches in the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School and collaborates on research with Yale and Columbia University.

Shawn graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. For seven years, he served as an Officer of Harvard, living in Harvard Yard and counseling students through the stresses of their first year. Though he now travels extensively, Shawn continues to conduct original research on happiness and organizational achievement in collaboration with Yale University and the Institute for Applied Positive Research.

In 2007, Shawn founded Good Think to share his findings with the world. Shawn has since lectured or researched in 51 countries, talking to CEOs in China, school children in South Africa, doctors in Dubai, and farmers in Zimbabwe.

He has spoken to the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, doctors at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and worked with the U.S. Department of Health to promote happiness. In 2012, Shawn helped lead the Everyday Matters campaign with the National MS Society and Genzyme, to show how happiness remains a choice for those struggling with chronic illness.


School Rules & Brochure

Our School Rules express our belief that children are more likely to excel academically if we, as educators, can bring the whole child into the process of learning: body, heart, will, mind, and soul. A detailed explanation of the rules follows the image. (Also see the brief school brochure below.)

LWS rules 8.5x11

Living Wisdom School of Palo Alto School Rules

  1. Enjoy yourself. Discover that true happiness includes the happiness of others on their long journey to awareness of the unity of all things.
  1. Practice kindness. Learn to practice kindness with one another and to recognize that in doing so you help create a loving and safe atmosphere.
  1. Choose happiness. Learn that you have the power to choose how you will respond to life’s challenges. Learn to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Learn to control your moods and raise your energy to meet difficulties that arise.
  1. Be a loving friend to everyone—both children and teachers. Play together across the grades. Enjoy helping younger children. Share your knowledge and receive it from others—both students and teachers.
  1. Laugh often. Laughter and lively exchanges in the classroom help to make learning a joyful process.
  1. Be a life-long learner. Discover the love and joy of learning for its own sake.
  1. Trust yourself. Learn to consult your own knowledge and intuition rather than to succumb to peer pressure as you confront life’s challenges.
  1. Use your will to create good energy. Prize perseverance and courage in the face of challenges. Embrace life moment to moment in the lessons learned, songs sung, plays performed, etc.
  1. Find the joy within. Become aware that happiness resides within, not without. Learn to use the breath to center and calm yourself. Look to the lives of saints and sages of all religions as models in your search for true happiness.

Living Wisdom School of Palo Alto Brochure

(click for larger view)