29 August 2007

What Happy Harvard Students Know

Last year, Harvard student's made Tal Ben-Shahar's happiness class the most popular on campus. And for good reason. His course (from what I got online before Harvard took down (or changed?) the link) synthesized some of the best and most important information about what research has revealed and confirmed about happiness. Here are a few quotes from his final lecture - some points to ponder.

There are some commitments you can make to happiness: Practice gratitude and experiencing nature, and make exercise and socializing regular parts of life.

The questions we ask determine the kind of quest that we take. What gives me meaning, pleasure, and strength?

“Self concept is destiny.” What we believe about ourselves is what becomes true. The mind wants there to be a match between the inside and the outside – we bring either positive or negative reality into being to match what we have in our mind. We see ourselves in a particular way and from that we conclude certain things about ourselves. “This is a person who believes in himself.”

“Learn to fail or fail to learn.” The most successful people in science and arts are people who have failed the most.

Our happiness is not contingent on our status or state of our bank account but on our state of mind. I don’t believe that everything works for the best but I do believe that there are people who make the best of what happens. We don’t have control about what happens but we do have control over what we make it mean and what we do about it.

Give yourself the permission to be human. This class is more about reality psychology than happiness psychology.

Post-peak experience order is the opposite of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is more likely after you have written about a peak event. This is particularly important for males.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Life is too short to be in a hurry.
- Thoreau

Movies end where love begins. It’s like saying, I have found my calling, its teaching. So that’s it. I don’t need to do any more. Don’t need to prepare for lectures or anything.

Exercise, sleep, and hugs are the wonder drugs. We compromise on the ultimate currency when we are short on these things.

You need to differentiate yourself. How? Determine what you really, really want to do with your life, and then do it. Be respectful and then assertive.

People who enjoy lasting change introduce change immediately. We underestimate our capacity to effect change because we underestimate the growth of an exponential function.

5 comments:

LSD said...

Apparently Harvard doesn't want you learning about happiness unless you pay for the class. You freeloader, you.

ThomasLB said...

I can't imagine taking a course in happiness. That's the sort of thing people could figure out for themselves, if they would just sit still for a moment and think about it.

This sounds to me like they're treating happiness like a commodity: "Give me a triple mocha Happiness with nuts, and make it to go."

ThomasLB said...

I stumbled across this article today, and it's sort of on the same topic: How To Have An Interesting Life.

exskindiver said...

ron i like this.
in fact, i like it so much that i am going to copy it.
right now.

Ron Davison said...

Scott,
Indeed - everyone knows that a predecessor to happiness is tuition.

Thomas,
I guess I think happiness is more worthy of study than most things. I rather applaud the whole positive psychology movement. And by the way, thanks for the tip for the other article - I will read it.

xSD,
You're going to copy this? Somehow that makes me happy.