Happier, Harvard, H…

Had trouble coming up with a title for the first time. In reality, I probably had too many titles in mind.

Anyways, Thanks to Jon Stewart for interviewing this guy, Tal Ben Shahar , and thanks to Harvard University for allowing his entire course to be videotaped. Thanks to Amazon.com for the 32% discount and the prompt shipping.

Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

Well, I ordered the book and I watched the first lecture. I was left with that old “X-Files feeling.” My wife and I used to rent a weekend’s worth of episodes (4-6) on a Friday night and then at the end of the first episode we would start the “just one more” chant until we had ploughed through them all very late that same night.

It was a great one-hour, opening lecture: after 15 minutes I even went back and started taking notes (it was THAT good).

So, if you’re still reading, here are the highlights imho:

The three phases in the history of modern psychology are:

  1. Behaviorism
  2. Psycho-Analysis
  3. Humanism

It is through the third phase that “The Science of Happiness” has become very popular.

Grandparents of this field: Abraham Maslow (1906-1970) and Karen Horney (1885-1952)

Parents of this field: Martin Seligman, Ellen Langer, Philip Stone

Tal explains that his course is more about TRANSFORMATION than INFORMATION, offering a few quotes:

“The soul grows by subtraction, not addition” (Thoreau)

“In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is acquired; in pursuit of wisdom everyday something is dropped.” (Lao Tzu)

Tal reiterates that Knowledge comes from Information;

Wisdom comes from Transformation.

He relates his approach to the course in relation to his beliefs about education, quoting Maslow, “… [the] goal of education is… helping the person become the best that he is able to become” (Maslow)

“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.” (Neil Postman)

Tal tells a story based on research about some intelligent graduating class surveyed 20 years later. The graduates were all successful. What separated success from super successful were two things:

  1. They believed in themselves and their ability to succeed
  2. They always asked questions, wanting to know more

The problem with self-help pop psychology books is that they are full of a lot of charisma but little rigor. On the other hand, he states that academia is full of vigourous testing, proving, analyzing but often totally inaccessible (academic articles are read by an average of 7 people – his quote)

His course purports to be full of rigorous fun

There were many other good things happening in the first lecture, but this is what I got from it. I heartily recommend taking a peek if you’re into the pedagogical potential in positive thinking.



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