What makes a Good Life? Lessons from the longest Study on Happiness

Robert Waldinger is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the current Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development (part of that is the so-called Harvard Grant Study; see this post for prior coverage on Mappalicious).  It is a 75-year longitudinal study of 268 physically- and mentally-healthy Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939–1944. It has run in tandem with second study called The Glueck Study, which included another cohort of 456 disadvantaged inner-city youths from Boston.

In his TEDx talk, Waldinger shares his most important takeaways from that study on what keeps people happy and healthy – and it shouldn´t surprise you all that much:

Other People Matter!

 

P.S.

This presentation will also be posted as No. 46 on my topical list of Positive Psychology-infused TED talks.

From Penn with Love: The 3 Positive Psychology-Infused Books you need to read in 2016

Nico Rose - Angela Duckworth - Adam Grant2016 is going to be a really nice year for non-fiction aficionados. Below, you´ll find three upcoming books that were all written by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania: Angela Duckworth, Adam Grant, and Scott Barry Kaufman.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

by Adam Grant will be out on February 2, 2016. About the content:

How can we originate new ideas, policies and practices without risking it all? Adam Grant shows how to improve the world by championing novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battling conformity, and bucking outdated traditions. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt. Parents will learn how to nurture originality in children, and leaders will discover how to fight groupthink to build cultures that welcome dissent.

Here´s what Malcolm Gladwell has to say about the book: “Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favorite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.”

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth will be out on May 3, 2016. About the content:

Penn - Books - 2016Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments. Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. She takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance.

This is what Arianna Huffington thinks about the book: “At a time when our collective notion of success has shrunk to the point of being unrecognizable, Angela Duckworth arrives to restore it. With a mix of masterful storytelling and the latest science, she shows that perseverance and passion matter at least as much as talent and intelligence. And far from simply urging us to work harder for the sake of working harder, Grit offers a truly sane perspective: that true success comes when we devote ourselves to endeavors that give us joy and purpose.”

Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire will be out two days from now, on December 29, 2015. About the content:

The book offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Revealing the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, along with engaging examples of artists and innovators throughout history, the book shines a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking. Kaufman and Gregoire untangle a series of paradoxes – like mindfulness and daydreaming, seriousness and play, openness and sensitivity, and solitude and collaboration – to show that it is by embracing our own contradictions that we are able to tap into our deepest creativity.

What Martin Seligman has to say about the book: “Scott Barry Kaufman has just written the go-to book on creativity and genius. With Carolyn Gregoire, he puts together the newest scientific findings from the brain, from mental life and from the messy world of emotion to whiz us to the cutting edge of the highest human accomplishments.”

A Mappalicious Thank You to 2015

Every time a year draws to a close, people start saying something like “My, how time flies…”. Mostly, it is used in a slightly sniveling fashion – as if they might have missed something. I guess that´s why they show all those year-end retrospectives on TV. But then, they invite all these VIP and VEP (Very Exceptional People) – and at the end of the day, one´s own life might seem insignificant in comparison.

So in 2013, I´ve started to create my own personal year-end retrospectives to keep track of what really happened in the last 365 days. Ever since, I understand quite well where time went.

One year consists of 8760 hours!

Big Chunks

I´ve…

  • slept +2,400 hours (again, less than intended);
  • worked some 1,850 hours in my main job for Bertelsmann (weekends and holidays etc. are subtracted already);
  • travelled +110.000 km, visiting New York (several times), Boston, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco area, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, the South of France, and Lanzarote.

Speaking my Mind

I´ve…

Anything else (interviews, citations etc. can be found here on Pinterest.

Working with People

I…

  • gave 25 speeches/keynotes. On that note, I have to say I was scared for the first time in a very long while before giving a talk. I gave a dinner speech on Positive Psychology for 50 CFOs at a conference. Me, being a non-finance guy, talking about a “fluffy” psychology topic, for these high-profile business leaders. But it worked out quite well;
  • coached about 40 hours.

 Personal Stuff

  • bought a house and moved in in March;
  • said “I love you” +365 times (not every day, but several times on some of the days);
  • cuddled with my son approx. 300,000 times;
  • read some 95 good-night stories (definitely not enough, please refer to kilometers travelled);
  • had approx. 700 cappuccinos and 4.5 kg Chicken Tikka;
  • been to 5 heavy metal concerts (not enough).

 It´s been a good year…

The Flop 10 Positive Psychology Articles on Mappalicious for 2015

Two days ago, I posted a top 10 list of the most-read articles on Mappalicious for 2015. Just for fun, today I also had a look at those articles that attracted the smallest audiences. I´ve attended a seminar on improv comedy this year where I learned that “failure is sexy”. Therefore, the following ten posts made me a lot sexier.

But to be honest, once again, my readers are probably right. Most of the posts are short ones, e.g., a copy/paste of some adage or quote. Still, I find some pretty good stuff on that list, by way of example the piece on Twitter, or the one on callings. Enjoy!

Flop_10

Odysseus, Luke Skywalker, and the Quick Fix

OdysseusAfter the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus could not find the way home for a minute or so. But then, a magic compass fell from the sky which brought him back to Ithaca in no time and without any trouble.

The end.

This is how Homer´s legendary Odyssey would have to be written in our time. Pity! One of the truly great pieces of literature goes down the drain.

The Hero’s Journey as a short trip?

The Odyssey is the prototype of a Hero’s Journey, a distinctive narrative structure in which a hero, reluctantly at first, embarks on a long and perilous journey, is confronted with trials and tribulations on the way, only to succeed in the end, oftentimes after being severely wounded. During that journey, he meets one or several (supernatural) mentors and discovers a (magic) elixir which helps him to fight his enemies. After winning the battle against the final enemy, he returns to the world from which he came. He has gained power and knowledge, and even wisdom – and is typically granted a long and prosperous life.

These kinds of stories exist in every corner of the world, and all cultures. Another important example is the Indian national epic Ramayana. But even today, many successful books and movies are based on this storyline. For example, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the original Star Wars-Trilogy are archetypal Hero’s Journeys.

There´s one distinctive feature that all these stories have in common: They tell the story of an inward journey, the protagonist´s way to find himself. The ultimate goal is purification of the hero´s character, it´s about the process of growing up and maturing. Yet, for the purpose of vividness, in literature and film, all places and characters are depicted as being part of the external word. But the story is not all about defeating exterior enemies. The whole voyage is a rite of passage, the ultimate objective is to accept the tasks and responsibities for which one is destined for.

The process of maturation happens by means of all kinds of trials and conflicts: Odysseus has to come to terms with prototypical human frailties such as being unable to resist temptation. Frodo´s task is to rid himself of greed and to recognize his own power and self-efficacy. Luke Skywalker has to learn how to transform the undesirable parts of his personality, those that he shares (to some extent) with his “Dark Father” (arrogance, anger, violence etc.). Generally speaking, the task of the hero is to learn how to integrate his shadow, as C. G. Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology, has named it.

We have (no) time

The point is: apart from the narrative structure, all these stories share the following aspect: The travelling lasts for several months, often years. Odysseus was lost at sea for a decade after the Trojan War. Frodo and Luke (assumedly) travelled for months and years before reaching Mordor and Endor. Why? Because maturation, growing up, finding ourselves: it just takes a lot of time.

Against this background, I am critical of most modern varieties of “personality development” (in the broad sense). These days, everything is to happen super-quickly. Faster and higher is the motto, but – at best – without any effort:

  • A man has low self-esteem? A couple of positive affirmations will do.
  • A woman wants to generate a stable income by becoming self-employed? She can just “order” her customers directly from the universe via visualization.
  • A boy cannot concentrate properly at school? Just give him some Ritalin.

Brave new world. Let us return to my version of the Odyssey:

After the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus could not find the way home for a minute or so. But then, a magic compass fell from the sky which brought him back to Ithaca in not time and without any trouble.

Nobody would desire to read a book or watch a movie based on this plot. We´d say: “The story was dull and lifeless, and totally implausible. Oh, and the protagonist was flat and faceless, I could not relate to him.”

But in real life, it´s supposed work this way?