Pleasure is wild and sweet. She likes purple flowers. She loves the sun and the wind and the night sky. She carries a silver bowl full of liquid moonlight. She has a cat named Midnight with stars on his paws.
Many people mistrust Pleasure and even more misunderstand her. For a long time I could hardly stand to be in the same room with her. I went to sleep early to avoid her. I thought she was a gossip and a flirt and she drank too much. In school we learned that she was dangerous and I was sure that she would distract me from my work. I didn’t realise she could nurture me.
As I have changed, Pleasure has changed. I have learned to value her friendship.
This delightful description comes from a gem of a book, called The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler, which I recently discovered thanks to a recommendation by Brené Brown. We often deny ourselves the small simple pleasures in life which could give us a quick happiness boost if we gave ourselves permission to have some fun on a regular basis. This video clip by Gretchen Rubin is a great introduction to Happiness Experiment No 16: Find more ways to introduce small moments of pleasure in your life.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “
Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910
Dr. Brené Brown was interviewed recently on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday show. You can watch a small excerpt of the show in the video below and can access the full interview here. In the interview the two women examine Brené’s motivation to write her most recent book Daring Greatly whose title was inspired by the Theodore Roosevelt quote above. In this very frank interview these two inspiring women share several “Aha Moments” as they realise how much common ground they have on life lessons they have learned. The interview merits watching more than once to grasp the importance of Dr Brown’s research findings on vulnerability, courage, shame and authenticity. Having shared her own fears and vulnerabilities in public, Dr Brown’s TED talk went viral hitting over 8 millions views on You Tube. Brené’s conversation with Oprah examines why we are afraid to be vulnerable and why being willing to show our weaknesses and vulnerabilities can actually be our greatest strength and lead to a life of gratitude and joy which is lived wholeheartedly.
It’s the time of year when Best of… lists proliferate, so not to be outdone I have decided to create my own. This is a very personal list of books which have helped me on my happiness journey, the majority of the books were newly published this year but some were just new to me. I have listed them in no particular order of preference as I think all are of merit and it would be difficult to choose one over another. It is very difficult to narrow the list down to just 20 as there are many more I could have included, but in the true spirit of Best of… list making I have been strict with myself. Please let me know if there are any wonderful new books which have escaped my attention and which you think I should have included on this list. Which books would your top 20 include?
Susan Cain’s TED talk entitled The Power of Introverts and her book Quiet have taken the world by storm in 2012 becoming an international best seller and voted No 1 on the list of best business books by Fast Company.
“Any time people come together in a meeting, we’re not necessarily getting the best ideas, we’re just getting the ideas of the best talkers.”
Watch Susan’s TED talk below and check out her website here.
I was fortunate to attend the UK launch event for Brené Brown’s latest book Daring Greatly which was organised by The School of Life at Conway Hall in London. The book is a fascinating follow on to her work on vulnerability and Brené was just as inspiring in person as she appeared in her now famous TED talks. If you would like to learn more about Brené Brown’s research you can check out her website here.
Brené Brown talking about her new book Daring Greatly
This is a fascinating book on how to change habits. Many books have been written on this subject but this is one of the best ones I have read. You can watch Charles being interviewed about his book here:
One of my favourite quotes (you may be aware by now that I am a bit of a quote geek) is this one:
“In the power to change yourself is the power to change the world around you.” Anwar Sadat.
This very readable book by John-Paul Flintoff shows you how to do both by helping you to avoid sinking in overwhelm and to think of small practical changes you can implement to make the world a better place. Below is a short video clip in which John-Paul talks about his book. If you would like to watch the full length video from The School of Life click here.
I attended the Meaning conference in Brighton this year and one of the speakers was psychologist Karen Pine who co-wrote Flex with her husband Ben Fletcher. Flex is a really interesting read and contains many innovative ideas for changing behaviour. You can watch Karen’s talk here:
It has always fascinated me why some people appear to be incurable optimists no matter what life throws at them whilst some are hardened pessimists despite the many positive things in their life. Elaine Fox‘s book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain gives a fascinating scientific explanatation for our differences in outlook and illustrates how we can change our disposition.
This book Philosophy for Life is a brilliant introduction to how philosophy can improve our lives and has convinced me that philosophy needs to be part of our happiness toolkit. It has been no 1 in Amazon.co.uk’s philosophy chart, a Guardian Books bestseller and has been published in 15 countries. Even if you think that philosophy is not your bag I urge you to try it.
I have recently become a huge fan of Jonathan Field’s blog and in particular of his Good Life Project website in which he conducts interviews with some remarkable people. The video below features Jonathan Fields talking about his book Uncertainty and how he gave up a corporate career as a lawyer to set up a yoga studio, signing a lease in New York a day before the terrorist attack on the city. Jonathan’s book explores how we deal with uncertainty and how we can learn not only to embrace it but to thrive with it – it is a fascinating read.
Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project has become a world wide best seller. Her follow up book Happier at Home uses the same principle of trying out a new happiness theory on a month by month basis but this time the focus is specifically on the home. The success of Gretchen’s books are based on the fact that she is willing to put happiness theories to test and to recount her own personal experiences of what has worked for her and what hasn’t. She does not claim that what works for her will work for everyone but her personal narrative strikes a chord with many people.
I attended a 5×15 event this year and psychotherapist Philippa Perry gave one of the talks. She talked a lot of sense and her book How To Stay Sane does too. If you would like to watch a video of Philippa talking at a School of Life event click here.
I have previously enjoyed reading and putting in to practice the teachings of Richard Wiseman’s previous books such as The Luck Factor and 59 Seconds so I was pleased when the publication of a new book was announced. This short video introduces the “As if” principle which is covered in the book. Rip it Up is a very entertaining and practical read with some useful tips for making changes in your life.
Screw Work Let’s Play is a brilliant book which encourages people to take their ideas seriously and to focus on getting paid for “playing” rather than working. Reading this book and taking part in the 30 Day Challenge which John Williams runs together with coach Selina Barker helped me to “give birth” to The Happiness Experiment blog which I have been writing since I started the challenge in May. If you have any ideas lurking away and would like to bring them to fruition I recommend that you give this book a try. In the video below John Williams interviews Selina Barker about her own very exciting “play project”.
Positive psychology teaches us that people who are part of religious communities are more likely to be happier than people who are not. However if you hold no particular religious belief what should you do? Alain de Botton’s book Religion for Atheists has the answer: cherry pick the best aspects of religion and introduce them in to your life. The RSA talk below gives you an insight in to his thinking. It’s an interesting, well argued book and his ideas are worth considering.
Michael J. Fox is one of life’s irrepressible optimists as described in Elaine Fox’s Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain. This autobiography is a very uplifting read in which Michael J. Fox recounts why despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at the very young age of 29 he thinks he is the luckiest person in the world. His interview in the video below tells you more but I urge you to buy and read his book.
In this book the top 100 researchers from all over the world share what they know about happiness. This book is a great resource with articles on a broad range of happiness related topics. The book has been sent to 52 world leaders by the head of the European Union – I hope they read it and take head.
Video of Leo Bormans giving a talk at an Action for Happiness event. Video by Sunny Times
I attended the TEDX Observer event in London this year and Tali Sharot was one of the speakers at the event. Her book on why we are wired to look on the bright side of life makes very interesting reading. If you would like to watch her fascinating TED talk here it is:
This book is a really great primer in positive psychology covering 20 key concepts and with real life examples. It is one of the best and most easily accessible introductions to positive psychology around and a very practical book. If you would like to learn more about the author check out her website here.
Learning to appreciate and work with your strengths rather than focusing primarily on your weeknesses is one of the most important lessons I have learned from positive psychology this year. This book by Tom Rath teaches you how to recognise your strengths using a simple test online. It is worth taking the test and the results might surprise you. The video below featuring Tom Rath is a great illustration of the strengths theory.
This book by Chris Guillebeau is basically the story of how you can choose to live exactly the life you want. If you don’t believe this is possible read Chris’ fascinating book and be prepared to change your mind. Watch the interview with Chris below to learn more:
While I was carrying out some research on resilience I came across The Bounce Back book written by Karen Salmansohn after she had been subjected to an assault. It includes all the practical lessons she had to learn and apply in her own life to recover from her attack and is a really useful book on the subject of resilience. Her interview with Jonathan Fields in the video below talks about the many positive psychology projects she has become involved in – her story is very inspiring.
My list could continue but I will end it here. Please let me know if I have missed out any really great books from 2012 and I will add them to my reading list for next year. I appreciate that not everyone has the time to sit down and read these books so I have included video clips of the authors where these are available so you can learn about them at your leisure. Enjoy!
Brené Brown talking about her new book Daring Greatly.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” US President Teddy Roosevelt
This quote, taken from a speech by US President Teddy Roosevelt, is the inspiration behind the title of Brené Brown’s new book Daring Greatly. I was fortunate to be at the UK launch of her latest book on Monday night at Conway Hall in London which took place at an event organised by the School of Life.
The sell-out event took the form of a conversation between Brené Brown and Roman Krznaric, a founding faculty member of the School of Life. Roman had prepared many questions to put to Brené but as she is such a wonderful story teller, conversation flowed very easily and Roman ran out of time to ask all the questions he had prepared. One of the endearing features of listening to Brené talk is the fact that she is very willing to share her own vulnerabilty and to share stories from her own personal life and experiences. She openly admitted at the beginning of the conversation that as a Texan she was nervous about talking to a crowd of British people famous for their stiff upper lip, but as the conversation unfolded her genuine charm, sense of humour and honesty disarmed the audience and culminated in a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of the evening.
So who is Brené Brown and what is so special about her? Here is the bio from her own website:
Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.
Brené is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, and has appeared in The Washington Post,Psychology Today, and many other national media outlets.
In 2007, Brené developed Connections, a psychoeducational shame resilience curriculum that is being facilitated across the nation by mental health and addiction professionals. The Connections Certification process was launched in 2012.
Brené lives in Houston with her husband, Steve, and their two children.
This bio gives you the basic facts but does not convey how well Brené connects with an audience (even a British one) and leaves everyone feeling inspired and uplifited. Her natural warmth and honesty shine through and as her conversation is backed up by over a decade of serious research in her field she is definitely someone worth listening to. The topics of shame, worthiness and vulnerability are not easy ones and many would prefer to sweep such concepts under the carpet. By giving voice to these topics and to previously unspoken experiences through her own unique blend of humour, research and storytelling, Brené demonstrates the importance of recognising feelings of shame and unworthiness and of accepting that we are not alone in having these feelings from time to time. Equally, she argues, it is by being willing to show our vulnerabilty that we are able to experience life to the full rather than building a wall to avoid feelings of discomfort.
Brené has subtitled her new book Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. She explains in her book why expressing our vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but of courage and may be one of the most daring acts we can make.
Brené Brown talking at TEDx Houston 201O: The Power of Vulnerability
Here are some quotes from Daring Greatly:
“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”
“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”
“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow — that’s vulnerability.”
“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.”