Dr Tal Ben-Shahar – Harvard Open Courses 1504 – Positive Psychology 6

The session explores how we can create positive situation/environment by applying beliefs,  realistic optimism and self-esteem.

Tal states that many self-help books are over-promise and under-deliver and points out the misunderstanding of the power of the mind. “Believe, you will achieve; conceive, and it will be conceived… However… it has to come with a lot of hard work and persistence, a lot of failure and learning from that failure.”

Tal’s talking about the notion of consistency or congruence helps me understand my behaviours a lot. “The mind does not like when there is a discrepancy between what is inside and what is outside. The mind likes when where is consistency, congruence between the two, and if there is not congruence…. then we experience a sense of dissidence, then we experience disease…. very often we do everything that we can to get the two on par again, .We often do one of these things (1) update schema (2) ignore or discard the external information that does not match our schema (3) actively seek confirmation, (4) creating a new reality.

I have a good lough by Tal’s humor on the example of unrealistic optimism. Positive is not The Secrete, it’s only a part of the secrete. The secrete of success is optimism, passion and hard work.

To increase the base level of happiness, to raise self-esteem is to cope as opposed to avoid. To risk failure, to try, to deal things that are important to you.

Interesting research findings:

  • The Iceberg Principle – seen and unseen
  • The Self-Help movement started in the 20th century.
  • Self-esteem has high correlation with well-being; very low level of correlation between the location where people live and well-being or between material affluence and well-being.
  • The Placebo Effect – mind and body, a person’s expectations
  • Learn to fail, or fail to learn. There is no other way to succeed.
  • People who learn to interpret things more positively actually live longer.
  • The Stockdale paradox – finding the tension, reconciling the tension – reality optimism

People and their work:

  • Ap Dijksterhuis and Ad Van Knippensberg – priming and behaviour
  • Napoleon Hill’s book Thinking and Grow Rich
  • Henry Ford – whether you think you can or can’t, you are right
  • Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking
  • Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret – the law of attraction
  • Albert Bandura – self-efficacy
  • Lewis A.Curry – 56% of success in athletes is determined by their levels of hope
  • John Carter – the distinction between extraordinarily successful HBS graduates and the successful HBS graduates on two things: (1) really believe in themselves and having the sense of confidence (2) always asking questions and keep the state of curiosity.
  • Nathaniel Branden – self-esteem
  • Herbert Benson’s book Timeless Healing and his research about the power of the mind.
  • Thomas Edison – 1097 patents – hard work and motivation
  • Dean Simonton – the most successful failed the most times
  • Martin Seligman – optimism and pessimism
  • Karen Reivich’s book The Resilience Factors
  • Richard Wiseman’s book The Luck Factor
  • William James’ formula for self-esteem – high expectation is likely to hurt our self-esteem. This formula is wrong!
  • Daniel Guilbert – the base level of happiness
  • Daryl Bem – self perception theory – we derive conclusion about ourselves in the same way we derive conclusion about others.
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