with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar
Get ready to head BACK TO CLASS with Dr Tal Ben Shahar with all the great discussion and NONE of the papers. MAPP Alumni will be hosting an hour practitioner dialogue with Tal on Happiness Studies. Tal has shared (below) an excerpt from a new book he is working on to start the discussion. Gather your thoughts and take your seat, class starts noon EST April 12.
Helen Keller wrote: "To me the only satisfactory definition of happiness is wholeness." Following in the footsteps of Helen Keller, we define happiness as the experience of wholeperson wellbeing. To further compress the definition I synthesize the two terms wholeperson and wellbeing into one: wholebeing. This leaves us with the definition of happiness as "the experience of wholebeing." We introduce a definition not for the purpose of superseding all other existing definitions. We have no desire, nor is there a need, to enter into arguments with those who choose to define happiness differently. The purpose of a definition is to operationalize the concept so that it can be used to pursue a full and fulfilling life. In other words, the definition doesn't capture some universal and absolute truth about the nature of happiness, but is rather a pragmatic, useful construct.
To lead a genuinely happy life, to enjoy a deep and lasting sense of wellbeing, it is necessary to embrace the whole self, looking at the wellbeing of individuals, groups, and society across the five elements that together constitute the whole person:
Taken together, these elements make up the acronym SPIRE. The various connotations of the word spire reflect the essence of the wholebeing approach. A spire is the highest point or summit; the wholebeing approach is about helping us fulfill our potential by finding and becoming our highest self. A spire is also a sprout; the term is used to refer to the shoot of a plant that breaks ground, pulling the rest of the plant behind it. Likewise, the wholebeing approach is about breaking through the boundaries and limitations that hold us back so that our entire selves can flourish. Finally, spire is the breath, the life force; the wholebeing approach can inspire us and make us come alive.
To experience wholebeing-to live life to its fullest and fulfill our potential for deep and lasting happiness-we cannot thrive in some of the dimensions while neglecting the rest. The five elements are interconnected and affect one other. According to Plato, considered the father of Western philosophy, "The part can never be well unless the whole is well." Just as a sore toe affects our overall physical feeling far beyond its relative size, and a gentle caress can send pleasant sensations through our entire body, so each of the SPIRE dimensions significantly impacts our overall wellbeing-our wholebeing. And it is when we cultivate each of the SPIRE elements that we reach our highest point, the spire of our being, and lead an inspired life.
Tal Ben-Shahar is the co-founder and Chief Content Officer of the Happiness Studies Academy. He taught two of the largest course in Harvard University’s history on “Positive Psychology” and the “The Psychology of Leadership.”
Tal consults and lectures around the world to executives in multi-national corporations, the general public, and at-risk populations. Topics include leadership, education, ethics, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, and mindfulness. He is the author of the international best sellers Happier, Being Happy, Choose the Life You Want, and The Joy of Leadership, which have been translated into more than 25 languages. He is also the co-founder of Potentialife and Happier.TV.
An avid sportsman, Tal won the U.S. Intercollegiate and Israeli National squash championships. Today, for exercise, he swims, dances, and practices yoga. He obtained his PhD in Organizational Behavior and BA in Philosophy and Psychology from Harvard.
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Registration for the general public costs $25.