Short Cuts to Happiness: Life-changing lessons from my barber (book review)

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What could be better than enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation with Tal Ben Shahar, the humble and brilliant international happiness expert? Something even more delightful is having the opportunity to climb up into the barber chair to take part in forty life-affirming conversations between Tal and Avi Peretz, his trusted barber for twenty years.

Tal in the Barber Chair

French philosopher Voltaire quipped “common sense is not so common.” Wise men and women know that their hairstylist does more than simply give them a perfect coiffure, coloring, or trim. The right stylist or barber acts as a trusted confidant, advisor and friend. Tal’s latest book recounts a two-year ambling conversation that he secretly transcribed after each memorable visit to Avi’s salon.

Avi is a generous person who exemplifies Chris Peterson’s adage, “Other people matter.” Each day customers eagerly congregate in Avi’s neighborhood salon nestled on a quiet street in Ramat Hasharon, a small suburb of Tel-Aviv. The consummate host, Avi has considered every sensory detail to make time in his shop truly relaxing and remarkable. Upon entering, customers experience a beautiful fragrant floral arrangement, while listening to a luscious play list of Brazilian jazz and pop songs. Good coffee flows freely, accompanied by juicy peaches or sweet grapes that Avi found in the next door market earlier that morning. The conversation is animated as everyone patiently waits for the highlight of their visit: Avi’s life-changing, common-sense conversations when it is their turns to sit in his barber chair.

In the Safe Harbor

A Safe Harbor

Avi envisions his salon as a safe harbor, a warm and welcome refuge for him and his customers. “No matter how chaotic or wild things get, this place is always there, lighting the way back to a stable shore. We all need a lighthouse in our life.”

Tal likens Avi and his shop to 20th Century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s observation that children playing in a certain radius of their mothers displayed higher creativity in their games than children who played further away. This “circle of creativity of sorts is a space in which children can take risks and try things out, fall down and stand up again, fail and succeed, because they feel secure and safe in the proximity of a person who loves them unconditionally.”

Choose by Click

Living in New York City, many people go to swanky salons that charge upwards of $250 or $400 for esoteric treatments but I’ve always chosen my hairstylist based on whether we click. Sure, my stylist has to be skilled with the scissors and blow drier but I’m searching for a soul connection.

Lisa and her hair stylist, 
Eddie Bangiyev at Le Posh Salon in Manhattan

According to Tal,

“We go to the hair salon or barber shop in search of some kind of change. We ask for anything from a minor trim to a major cut, a barely perceptible highlight to a transformational new color. Many of us, however, secretly or openly desire to go beyond external change, beyond altering the way or head looks from the outside. What we truly seek is internal change, – anything from a trim to a transformation of that which goes on inside our head.”

Tal likens Avi to Carl Rogers, considered the father of client-centered therapy. Rogers claimed that “empathetic understanding – simply the ability to be there for the other person is the key to the therapeutic process.” Each chapter conveys another Avi and Tal interaction in which Avi, once again, bestows the most fitting story or asks the right question. Exchanges with Avi provide insight or encouragement to take the next right action.

Life Changes

One morning Tal entered the salon to discover a cluster of women talking under four enormous bee-hive blow-driers that created a thunderous drone. Avi strolled over to Tal, gave him a big hug, and invited him to come back in a few hours when the shop would be quieter. Before Tal walked away, Avi handed him his cell and said, “Read this before you go. Every day my friend texts me some words to reflect upon. Here’s what he sent me today:”

Life changes,
And when life changes the rules change,
And when the rules change we need to write
a new rule book.
Today, be mindful. Maybe your life has
changed, and only you haven’t?”

Sometimes we can be transformed just from a simple statement from a trusted friend.

Tal Ben-Shahar, 
credit Judy Rand


Tal posits,

“Just as we go to the gym to strengthen our physical muscles, we go to our hair salon to strengthen our slowness muscles. In this way we can savor more of the beauty that lies within and without.”

This reminds me of the soaring words of Anais Nin: “What lies behind us and what lies in front of us are simple matters compared to what lies within us.”

Read this book to hang out with two radiant, loving master teachers who will connect you to your inner wisdom and joy.



Ben-Shahar, T. (2018). Short Cuts to Happiness: Life-Changing Lessons from My Barber. The Experiment Publishing Company.

Ackerman, C. (2017). Client-centered therapy + Carl Rogers’ #1 person-centered techniquePositive Psychology Program.

Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Playing and Reality.. Routledge Classics, Volume 86.

Image Credits:
Pictures of Tal Ben-Shahar and Avi Peretz used with permission from The Experiment publishers.
Picture of Lisa and her hair dresser, Eddie Bangiyev, at Le Posh Salon in Manhattan, used with permission from Lisa Buksbaum.

Understanding Your Children’s Strengths

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Yesterday I introduced The Strengths Switch by Dr. Lea Waters. Today I want to highlight the distinctions she makes among different kinds of strengths, learned behaviors, and weaknesses. People can become very proficient at learned behaviors, but without the energy and enjoyment associated with strengths. To understand the differences, let’s look at three dimensions for evaluating possible strengths:

  • Performance: being good at something. Watch for times when your children show above-age levels of achievement, rapid learning, and repeated patterns of success.
  • Energy: feeling good while doing it. Strengths are self-reinforcing. The more we use them, the more energized we become.
  • High use: choosing to do it. Watch for what your children choose to do in their spare time, how often they engage in these activities, how they speak about these activities.

Different Kinds of Strengths

Using these dimensions helps parents distinguish among different kinds of strengths, as shown in the figure below.

Take a closer look at strengths

Core Strengths are our go-to strengths. They fuel high levels of performance and energy and use.

Think about your child. Imagine her without one of her core strengths. For example, my son Jonathan is social. It is impossible to imagine Jonathan being himself without his sense of humor or loyalty to his friends. My son Josh is empathetic and kind. It’s impossible to imagine Josh without thinking of his thoughtfulness. What are the core strengths that are the essence of your children? What are the core strengths that make you the person you have become?

Growth Strengths energize us and offer the potential for good performance, but use is typically low to medium. You may see only glimpses of them, but they can shine if they are developed. You may notice that when your child is using a growth strength she is energized and showing early signs of good performance. According to Dr. Waters, these strengths are fascinating because they don’t initially look like strengths, but they can blossom quickly once they are discovered.

Learning about strengths at Independent School 528

You can encourage your child to use her growth strengths by:

  • Noticing the strength she’s drawing upon
  • Pointing out how her performance is improving
  • Letting her know you see the positive energy she’s exuding when she’s using the strength
  • Offering low pressure opportunities to use that strength
  • Praising her when she chooses to use it on her own accord

Learned Behaviors need to be taught, often to meet requirements of parents or school. Therefore, motivation to perform learned behaviors comes from the desire to please others, operate successfully in the world, or to gain external rewards. They are not intrinsically motivating. Your child can excel in these areas, but they do not give energy.

But What About Weaknesses?

Weaknesses also exist. Weaknesses are features that are disadvantages or flaws that prevent us from being effective at something. We can be weak in certain skills, abilities, talents, or character traits. We all have weaknesses. When my sons were young, I always showed them when I made a mistake in order to model the fact that no one is perfect and that it’s okay to not be great at everything. Today my husband and I often reach out to them for technical support when we reach the limits of our ability to deal with the machines in our home.

Dr. Waters stresses that strength-based parenting doesn’t mean ignoring your child’s weaknesses, but it does allow you to approach them from a healthier and more productive perspective. When the focus is first and foremost on strengths, everyone can be more genuine and less defensive when communicating about weaknesses. Three essential messages to give your child about weaknesses:

  • Just as everyone has strengths, everyone has weaknesses.
  • Having weaknesses doesn’t mean you’re unworthy.
  • Avoid the trap of spending too much time focusing on your weaknesses.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Each day you have the opportunity to practice strengths-based parenting. You will learn from your progress, and you’ll constantly be given new real-life opportunities to become a master electrician, flipping the switch.

Go to the Strength Switch website for free resources, a blog reflecting on putting the strengths switch into action, and information about the 5-week online course.

Lea was the emcee for the Soaringwords Opening night celebration at the 
Canadian Positive Psychology Conference in 2015 at Niagara on the Lake. 
Here she is in the middle of the dancers.



Waters, L. (2017). The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish. New York: Avery.

Waters, L. (2018, Jan. 2). Working with Weakness: 3 Ways to Effectively Confront Your Child’s Weak Spots. Lea Waters’ blog.

Waters, L. (2018, Jan. 16). 4 Ways to Put Strength-Based Discipline into Practice. Lea Waters’ blog. Includes a discussion of dialing up or dialing down strengths.

The picture of core strengths, growth strengths, learned behaviors, and weaknesses is used courtesy of Dr. Lea Waters.

The Strength Switch: Practice Acting On Your Child’s Strengths (Book Review)

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The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish by Dr. Lea Waters, PhD, Professor and Founding Director of Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Melbourne.

What if you could make a small shift in your parenting style that would yield enormous results for your child… and for you?

If you’re like most people, you want to raise emotionally and intellectually healthy children. But today there’s so much pressure to have our children and grandchildren excel in EVERY aspect of their tender lives.

Dr. Lea Waters

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, parents can post every trophy and accomplishment on social media. Today’s children are the most documented generation of all time. Being bombarded with daily photo and video montages showcasing the accolades and adventures of other peoples’ seemingly perfect children tends to accentuate the tendency to focus on what’s wrong with our children and then try to fix it.

Lea Water’s break-through strength-based parenting approach changes that around. First it helps you see what is right about your children. Then it helps you nurture and cultivate their innate strengths and talents.

Sounds great. How do I do this?

Start with observation. If your daughter is really interested in music and loves to sing along with every song on the radio, perhaps you want to encourage her to join a chorus at her school, pick up an instrument, or start writing her own lyrics. If your son is likes to read more than he enjoys playing sports, perhaps you want to introduce him to some age-appropriate book series that pique his interests instead of pushing him to compete in sports that he does not enjoy.

Thus the strength-based parenting approach involves two simple steps: First see your child’s strengths. Then build upon them.

Dr. Waters notes three strength-based parenting styles:

Parents love to share strengths

  • Strengths Communicators: Parents who naturally use conversation with their kids to highlight strengths and talk about opportunities to use strengths for better outcomes.
  • Strengths Activators: Parents who coach their children to practice their strengths when hands-on opportunities arise.
  • Strengths Creators: Parents who are big-picture thinkers that can strategically create strengths-based opportunities for their kids.

Parents tend to use a blend of all three approaches with a dominant style based on the parent’s own strengths. To find your own dominant style, take the Strengths-Parenting Style Survey as part of Dr. Water’s online strength-based parenting course.

Use the Strengths Switch to Short-circuit Negative Thoughts

At the end of the day, chances are, your energy is depleted from hours of work, significant responsibilities, and caring for your children. When you’re hungry, angry, and tired it’s easy to become irritable. Dr. Waters offers the strength switch as a simple but powerful tool to help you shift from focusing on your children’s weaknesses to focusing on their strengths. The strength switch acts like a circuit breaker, which is defined by Wikipedia as an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by excess current that typically results from an overload or short circuit. The circuit breaker interrupts current flow after a fault is detected.

Most of us can appreciate how negative thoughts and emotions can short-circuit our sense of balance. So thinking about this metaphor sounds good on paper, but how do you practice strength-based parenting in the moment when negative emotions start to overwhelm? Dr. Waters has a step-by-step guide for the strength switch briefly summarized here:

Where was the bike left out?

  • Observe your child’s action. For now, let’s assume your child did not put his bicycle away. It’s blocking the front door of your apartment so you have to move it in order to get inside your home.
  • Take a nanosecond to remember that just because you aren’t seeing your child’s strengths in that moment, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.
  • Pause for a moment: be mindful when the knee-jerk negative default feelings and thoughts start to take over. Taking a pause helps you get between your thoughts and feelings and a negative reaction.
  • Take a couple of deep breaths. Each time you breath out, you reduce stress hormones and calm your body.
  • Insert the thought, “The strengths are here, but they’re hiding. Let me switch over to find them.”
  • Take a few minutes to allow yourself to settle down. Perhaps you want to hang up your coat, or change out of your work clothes. Maybe you want to listen to your favorite song before speaking to your son.
  • Say what you mean, but not in a way that is mean. Children, especially very young ones, cannot distinguish subtle emotions such as irony or sarcasm. It’s best to say what you want in a neutral and loving way, not letting anger or frustration seep into your voice.

    Say something such as, “I see that you cleaned your room and made your bed this morning before you went to school. That’s great. I had a bit of trouble getting into the house today when I got home because your bike was blocking the door. When you come home from school tomorrow, I’d like you to remember to park your bike on the side of the house.

When we activate the strength switch, it can produce radically different results. Flipping the switch, we experience a sense of control by actively choosing where to put our selective attention. Where attention goes, energy flows. Imagine how liberating it is to choose to focus on the positive instead of harping on the negatives. Reinforcing your child’s strengths gives you both a powerful foundation of good will and trust. This fertile ground is a much better place to address areas that need fine-tuning.

Sharing smiles and encouragement, even in the midst of medical challenges








Practice the Strength Switch
Think of a situation from the past couple of weeks where your negative feelings escalated and you lost your cool with your child, causing both of you to feel crummy about the situation. In a couple of sentences write down what happened simply re-telling the facts.

Now close your eyes and breathe out and re-imagine the scene. See yourself taking a pause, and see yourself remembering that your child has strengths, even though you temporarily are focusing on something that is out of balance. Now, write down a new ending to this story where you flipped the strength switch and approached the situation from a place of love and patience, recognizing the good in the child before addressing the situation that needs an adjustment.

Reread your notes. See how taking a few moments to recalibrate your thoughts, feelings, and actions can make an enormous difference in the outcome: Happier parent. Happier child, motivated to remember to use her strengths in the future.

Click here, to explore the distinction Dr. Waters makes between strengths and learned behaviors.

Positive psychology books

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SeligmanPerhaps you’ve noticed that positive psychology seems to be everywhere. This relatively new field was started by Dr. Martin Seligman in 1998 she he declared at the opening session at the American Psychology Association (APA) that he was going to launch a new branch of psychology to study “what is right with people” (what enhances well-being, what makes us flourish, what makes us human) instead of simply focusing on the traditional, diagnostic model that centers around “what is wrong with people” and how to “treat or medicate” problems.

Soaringwords is an organization built on a Positive Psychology framework, beginning with its mission – to lessen the impact of serious illness by connecting ill children and their families to a community of compassionate volunteers who inspire them to “Never give up!”

In 2012-2013, Lisa Buksbaum, Soaringwords’ CEO & Founder, studied with Dr. Seligman. She received a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, her undergraduate alma mater.  Her master’s thesis was an empirical research study with hundreds of hospitalized children to measure the impact of a positive psychology intervention (the receiving and making of a SoaringSuperhero artwork and message) to enhance patient well-being. Read the thesis here. The conclusions included the creation of a new positive psychology construct called S-O-A-R which means that when patients are invited to do something Somatic they experience heightened Altruism and Agency, Resilience and Reciprocity.

Here you will find the latest and greatest positive psychology books by the leading experts in the field today.

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being By Martin E. P. Seligman
Internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman presents his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life — for individuals, for communities, and for nations. In a fascinating evolution of thought and practice, Flourish refines what Positive Psychology is all about.

You will be able to experience the most popular (empirically validated) positive psychology interventions such as the Gratitude Visit; What –Went-Well Exercise; Signature Strengths Exercise; and Three Good Things. Scientific studies of many of these positive interventions have resulted in short and long-term increases in well-being.

Authentic Happiness
Authentic Happiness, By
Martin E. P. Seligman
Drawing on groundbreaking psychological research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession’s paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions.

This book provides lots of tools that you can use immediately such as Satisfaction About the Past survey; Optimism about the Future survey; and Happiness in the Present. Dr. Seligman provides many easy to use tools as Savoring and Mindfulness.  Marty includes a chapter on Character Strengths and Virtues and how to use your Signature Strengths. The third part of the book focuses on Mansions of Life: Work and Personal Satisfaction; Love; Raising Children; Meaning and Purpose.

love 2.0
Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, By Barbara Fredrickson
We all know love matters, but in this groundbreaking book positive emotions expert Barbara Fredrickson shows us how much it matters to giving us micro-moments of connection. Even more than happiness and optimism, love holds the key to improving our mental and physical health as well as lengthening our lives.

Watch a conversation with Barbara Fredrickson and Soaringwords’ Founder Lisa Buksbaum talking about how Love 2.0 can transform your life… and it’s not what you think! 

Positivity, By Barbara Fredrickson
World renowned researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson gives you the lab-tested tools necessary to create a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life through a process she calls “the upward spiral.”

You’ll discover:

  • What positivity is, and why it needs to be heartfelt to be effective
  • The ten sometimes surprising forms of positivity
  • Why positivity is more important than happiness
  • How positivity can enhance relationships, work, and health, and how it relieves depression, broadens minds, and builds lives
  • A discussion of the “negativity bias” how people are pre-disposed to negative things and how an approximate 3-to-1 “positivity ratio” is a key tipping point to enable you to experience more positivity in your life
  • That your own sources of positivity are unique and how to tap into them
  • How to calculate your current positivity ratio, track it, and improve it

 With Positivity, you’ll learn to see new possibilities, bounce back from setbacks, connect with others, and become the best version of yourself.

 Making Hope Happen
Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others, By Shane J. Lopez, PH.D. 
How do some people make good things happen and bounce back from setbacks? Why do they lead happier, healthier, more productive lives? It’s because they have hope—not because of luck, or intelligence, or money. So, what exactly is hope and how can you get it, too?

Using discoveries from the largest study of hopeful people ever conducted, world-renowned expert on the psychology of hope Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., reveals that hope is not just an emotion but an essential life tool. Hope is also a leading indicator of success in relationships, academics, career, and business. With Making Hope Happen you can measure your level of hope and learn how to create and share it.

In this newest evolution of positive psychology, Dr. Lopez provides strategies for building a high-hope mind-set and shares uplifting stories of real people—parents, educators, entrepreneurs, young and old people with health challenges, and civic leaders— who create hope and who change their own lives as well as their schools, workplaces, and communities.

Making Hope Happen is for people who believe that the future can be better than the past or the present and who are looking for a way to make it so. The message is clear: Hope matters. Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned. Hope is contagious.

Watch a conversation with Shane Lopez and Soaringwords’ Founder Lisa Buksbaum talking about how Hope is an active process that you can learn how to use to elevate your life … rather than just sitting around and passively wishing for things to happen.

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, By Tal Ben-Shahar
Can You Learn to Be Happy?
YES . . . according to the teacher of Harvard University’s most popular and life-changing course. One out of every five Harvard students has lined up to hear Tal Ben-Shahar’s insightful and inspiring lectures on that ever-elusive state: HAPPINESS.

Grounded in the revolutionary “positive psychology” movement, Ben-Shahar ingeniously combines scientific studies, scholarly research, self-help advice, and spiritual enlightenment. He weaves them together into a set of principles that you can apply to your daily life. Once you open your heart and mind to Happier ’s thoughts, you will feel more fulfilled, more connected . . . and, yes, HAPPIER.

 Stumbling on Happiness
Stumbling on Happiness, By Dan Gilbert
In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. Vividly bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. With penetrating insight and sparkling prose, Gilbert explains why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.

The How of Happiness
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, By Sonja Lyubomirsky
You see here a different kind of happiness book. The How of Happiness is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elements of happiness based on years of groundbreaking scientific research. It is also a practical, empowering, and easy-to-follow workbook, incorporating happiness strategies, exercises in new ways of thinking, and quizzes for understanding our individuality. Dr. Lyubomirsky does all of this in an effort to help us realize our innate potential for joy and ways to sustain it in our lives. Drawing upon years of pioneering research with thousands of men and women, The How of Happiness is both a powerful contribution to the field of positive psychology and a gift to people who have sought to take their happiness into their own hands.

The Myths of Happiness
The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does, By Sonja Lyubomirsky
In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky isolates the major turning points of adult life, looking to both successes (marriage, children, wealth) and challenges (divorce, financial ruin, illness) to reveal that our misconceptions about the impact of such events is perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term well-being.

By unpacking these myths, you will be liberated from negative thoughts that make you think that everyone else is experiencing a different reality than you are.

Happiness-A History
Happiness: A History, 
By Darrin M. McMahon
Today, human beings tend to think of happiness as a natural right. But they haven’t always felt this way. For the ancient Greeks, happiness meant virtue. For the Romans, it implied prosperity and divine favor. For Christians, happiness was synonymous with God. Throughout history, happiness has been equated regularly with the highest human calling, the most perfect human state. Yet it’s only within the past two hundred years that human beings have begun to think of happiness as not just an earthly possibility but also as an earthly entitlement, even an obligation. In this sweeping new book, historian Darrin M. McMahon argues that our modern belief in happiness is the product of a dramatic revolution in human expectations carried out since the eighteenth century.

The Happiness Hypothesis
The Happiness Hypothesis, By Jonathan Haidt
Jonathan Haidt skillfully combines two genres — philosophical wisdom and scientific research — delighting the reader with surprising insights. He explains, for example, why we have such difficulty controlling ourselves and sticking to our plans; and why no achievement brings lasting happiness. However, a few changes in your life can have profound effects, and why even confirmed atheists experience spiritual elevation. In a stunning final chapter, Haidt addresses the grand question “How can I live a meaningful life?” offering an original answer that draws on the rich inspiration of both philosophy and science.

How to Be a Positive Leader
How to be a Positive Leader, 
By Jane Dutton
Corrosive work relationships are like black holes that swallow up energy that people need to do their jobs. In contrast, high-quality relationships generate and sustain energy, equipping people to do work and do it well.

Grounded in solid research, this book uses energy as a measurement to describe the power of positive and negative connections in people’s experience at work. Author Jane Dutton provides three pathways for turning negative connections into positive ones that create and sustain employee resilience and flexibility, facilitate the speed and quality of learning, and build individual commitment and cooperation.

Through compelling and illustrative stories, Energize Your Workplace offers managers, executives, and human resource professionals the resources they need to build high-quality connections in the workplace.

Watch a conversation with Jane Dutton and Soaringwords’ Founder Lisa Buksbaum talking about how High Quality Connections can infuse each day with meaning and well-being, even in the midst of serious illness and other setbacks. Learn how strangers and hospital employees, other patients and family members can provide High Quality Connections that last for a few seconds and have a lasting impact.

Give and Take
Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, 
By Adam M. Grant Ph.D.
For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate in the role of a “taker”, a “matcher”, or a “giver”. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Read here New York Times Magazine feature article on Adam Grant.

 A Primer in Positive Psychology
A Primer in Positive Psychology, By Christopher Peterson
Positive psychology is the scientific study of “what goes right in life,” from birth to death and at all stops in between. It is a newly launched approach within psychology that takes seriously the “examination of that which makes life most worth living.” Everyone’s life has peaks and valleys, and positive psychology does not deny the valleys.

This book is extremely user-friendly and used in most introductory courses on positive psychology at the University level. Dr. Peterson’s warmth and sense of humor radiate on every page. This is a terrific “starter-book” for an overview of the field.

Pursuing the Good Life
Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology, 
By Christopher Peterson
In Pursuing the Good Life, one of the founders of positive psychology, Christopher Peterson, offers one hundred bite-sized reflections exploring the many sides of this exciting new field. With the humor, warmth, and wisdom that made him an award-winning teacher, Peterson takes readers on a lively tour of “the sunny side of the psychological street.” What are the roles played by positive emotions and happiness, by strengths of character, by optimism, and by good relationships with others? How can we pursue “the good life” in families, workplaces, schools, and sports, no matter who we are or where we live? With titles such as “You May Now Kiss the Bride–And Would You Like Fries With That?” and “How Can You Tell If Someone from France is Happy?” Peterson good-humoredly explores these questions and many others, including such diverse topics as the difference between employment and work, the value of doing the right thing, and why books matter, among other subjects.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, By Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals both personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.

The Resilience Factor
The Resilience Factor: Seven Essential Skills For Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles, By Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté
The science in The Resilience Factor takes an extraordinary leap from the research introduced in the bestselling Learned Optimism a decade ago. Just as hundreds of thousands of people were transformed by “flexible optimism,” readers of this book will flourish, thanks to their enhanced ability to overcome obstacles of any kind. Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté are seasoned resilience coaches and, through practical methods and vivid anecdotes, they prove that resilience is not just an ability that we’re born with and need to survive, but a skill that anyone can learn and improve in order to thrive.

This book is overflowing with practical exercises for you to build your resilience and practice it with important people in your life.

Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, By Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff
This book is about savoring life—the capacity to attend to the joys, pleasures, and other positive feelings that we experience in our lives. The authors enhance our understanding of what savoring is and the conditions under which it occurs. Savoring provides a new theoretical model for conceptualizing and understanding the psychology of enjoyment and the processes through which people manage positive emotions. The authors review their quantitative research on savoring, as well as the research of others, and provide measurement instruments with scoring instructions for assessing and studying savoring.

The Science of Well Being
The Science of Well-Being, 
By Felicia Huppert, Nick Baylis, and Barry Keverne
How much do we know about what makes people thrive and societies flourish? While a vast body of research has been dedicated to understanding social problems and psychological disorders, we know remarkably little about the positive aspects of life, the things that make life worth living. This volume brings together the latest findings on the causes and consequences of human happiness and well-being. The book covers a wide variety of disciplines, encompassing evolutionary biology, positive psychology, economics and social science, neuroscience and peace studies. Contributors to the volume include some of the most distinguished scholars in the field: social scientist Robert Putnam, evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse, psychologist Howard Gardner, economist Robert Frank, the founder of the Positive Psychology movement Martin Seligman, and the economic psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.

Spiritual Evolution
Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired for Faith, Hope and Love, 
By George Vaillant
In our current era of holy terror and divisiveness and dogma between different religious factions, often “passionate faith” has come to seem like a present danger. Contemporary writers such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have been happy to throw the baby out with the bathwater and declare that the danger is in religion itself.

According to George E. Vaillant, M.D., “man is great.” In Spiritual Evolution, Dr. Vaillant lays out a brilliant defense not of organized religion but of man’s inherent spirituality. Our spirituality, he shows, resides in our uniquely human brain design and in our innate capacity for emotions like love, hope, joy, forgiveness, and compassion, which are selected for by evolution and located in a different part of the brain than dogmatic religious belief. Evolution has made us spiritual creatures over time, he argues, and we are destined to become even more so. Spiritual Evolution makes the scientific case for spirituality as a positive force in human evolution, and he predicts for our species an even more loving future.

Vaillant traces this positive force in three different kinds of “evolution”: the natural selection of genes over millennia, of course, but also the cultural evolution within recorded history of ideas about the value of human life, and the development of spirituality within the lifetime of each individual. For thirty-five years, Dr. Vaillant directed Harvard’s famous longitudinal study of adult development, which has followed hundreds of men over seven decades of life. The study has yielded important insights into human spirituality, and Dr. Vaillant has drawn on these and on a range of psychological research, behavioral studies, and neuroscience, and on history, anecdote, and quotation to produce a book that is at once a work of scientific argument and a lyrical meditation on what it means to be human.

Spiritual Evolution is a life’s work, and it will restore our belief in faith as an essential human striving.

Learned Optimism
Learned Optimism, 
By Martin E. P. Seligman
In this national bestseller, Martin E.P. Seligman shows you how to chart a new approach to living with “flexible optimism.”

The Optimistic Child
The Optimistic Child, 
By Martin E. P. Seligman
The Optimistic Child offers parents and teachers the tools developed in this study to teach children of all ages life skills that transform helplessness into mastery and bolster self-esteem.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 
By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The exhaustive case studies, controlled experiments and innumerable references to historical figures, philosophers and scientists through the ages prove Csikszentmihalyi’s point that flow is a singularly productive and desirable state.

Character Strengths and Virtues
Character Strengths and Virtues, By Christopher Peterson
The handbook of character strengths and virtues is the first progress report from a prestigious group of researchers who have undertaken the systematic classification and measurement of widely valued positive traits.

Before Happiness
Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, 
By Shawn Achor
In his international bestseller, The Happiness Advantage, Harvard trained researcher Shawn Achor described why happiness is the precursor to greater success. This book is about what comes before both.  Because before we can be happy or successful, we need to first develop the ability to see that positive change is possible. Only once we learn to see the world through a more positive lens can we summon all our motivation, emotion, and intelligence to achieve our personal and professional goals.

The Happiness Advantage
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, By Shawn Achor
Our most commonly held formula for success is broken. Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. We believe that “If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds,” then happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. In other words, it works!

Making Hope Happen with
Dr. Shane Lopez

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Hope matters. The author of Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others shares important tools.

Just because you may be grappling with serious illness in your family, you still can have HOPE.  How do some people deal with and bounce back from setbacks? Why do they lead happier and healthier lives? It’s because they have hope. So, what exactly is hope and how can you develop it, too? Using discoveries from the largest study of hopeful people ever conducted, world-renowned expert on the psychology of hope, Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D.,  shares strategies for building a high-hope mindset. He tells uplifting stories of real people who are Making Hope Happen in their lives. The message is clear: Hope matters. Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned. Hope is contagious.