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Tal Ben-Shahar, Choose the Life You Want

tal-ben-shaharSo today I’m talking with Tal Ben-Shahar, who is an expert on the topic of happiness. He wrote Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, which was a New York Times bestseller, and he was also a star lecturer on positive psychology and the psychology of leadership at Harvard University. Tal has a new book called Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness, and I’m really excited to be talking with him about the book and what it takes to live a happy life.

In this interview, Tal and I discuss:

  • The science of happiness
  • Why it’s important to balance immediate happiness with future happiness
  • Why reminders are necessary to reap the benefits of awareness
  • How technology can increase happiness
  • The plus side of having “darker” emotions
  • How unrealistic expectations can lead to unhappiness

(Scroll down for more in-depth podcast notes.)

Listen to my interview with Tal Ben-Shahar.

0:01:43: Michael asks Tal why happiness has become such a hot topic of conversation. Tal suggests that it’s both because people have more time to examine their own happiness and because there is now a science of happiness, which goes beyond self-help and offers a more objective understanding of what it takes to be happy.

0:04:35: Michael points out that Tal’s first book explored the importance of big life decisions in finding happiness, whereas his new book is more about small choices and finding happiness in the moment. He asks Tal which comes first, the big choices or the small choices, to which Tal responds that they’re both important.

0:06:22: Given that Tal’s new book outlines 101 ways to create happiness, Michael asks how people can narrow the list down to a more manageable starting point. Tal says the key is small, “bite-sized” commitments, and that people should start with what peaks their interest.

0:07:44: Michael asks Tal what works for him personally in creating a road to happiness. Tal says two things: reminding himself to appreciate and making the choice to “move it” – to be physically active.

0:10:00: Pointing out that difficult circumstances can make it hard to be appreciative, Michael asks Tal how people can maintain their awareness to appreciate. Tal suggests that people wear reminder bracelets. He and Michael discuss how useful apps can be in setting up regular reminders and turning habits into rituals.

0:13:20: Michael wonders what advice Tal has on balancing the tension between present and future benefits. Tal says it’s possible to have both, and that people need to remember that happiness is about being able to reconcile present and future desires, even if it isn’t always easy.

0:017:30: Tal and Michael explore the role “darker” emotions, such as anger or sadness, play on the road to happiness. Tal points out that only two kinds of people never experience painful emotions: those who are psychopathic and those who are dead.

0:20:13: Tal compares consciousness of the mind to an immune system, explaining that it doesn’t rule out all negativity, but keeps people from having darker emotions as often and helps them return to happiness more promptly. He notes that realistic expectations are crucial; unrealistic expectations will lead to disappointment and unhappiness.

0:22:02: Michael concludes by asking where listeners can learn more about Tal and the pursuit of happiness, and Tal provides the website TalBenShahar.com.

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