Top 7 Takeaways: Harvard’s Happiness Course

Why has Positive Psychology 1504 gone on to be the most popular course in the history of Harvard?

Just as when leaders receive a big promotion or nail a big deal they’ve been working on for months on end, when a high school senior receives admission to Harvard, their first thoughts are often “my life is set!”

Within a few weeks, they settle back into normalcy and early in their freshman year, they realize for the first time they are not in the top 1% of their class. The vast majority think they must be in the bottom 10%, and fall into despondency. In fact, in 2003, 80% of Harvard students faced mental health problems.

So in 2006, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar brought over 1,400 Harvard students to joyful tears in his ground breaking ‘Psychology of Leadership’ and ‘Positive Psychology’ courses. I completed the same 22 lectures and was equally moved.

My top 7 take-aways from this famed Harvard Happiness course:

  1. Curiosity and asking questions are traits that differentiate the most successful from the successful.
  2. Learn to fail or fail to learn.
  3. Being perfect is not a positive
  4. Behavioral Change following Cognitive Change = Lasting Change.
  5. Why in my Happiness Book Club, we are discussing the steps we have taken as a result of reading the assigned book. It is not enough to be inspired. Must have a bias for action. Why having cohorts and coaches help in getting lasting results.
  6. Instead of trying to impress, express yourself and let people know you.
  7. Positive Psychology broadens idea generation; need pain to bring creativity. Never let a good crisis go to waste: need good + bad to be great!

I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment or share with your network. Please check out related posts: Asking Life’s QuestionsWhy Study Happiness?

About Grace Ueng

Ueng is a speakercoach & consultant. After working for Bain & Company and Fortune 500 companies in marketing roles, she served on management teams of five technology ventures before founding Savvy Growth. A graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, she is author of “Project Peak.” Follow on Twitter @savvygrace.

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