What Keeps Tal Ben-Shahar Up At Night
Tal Ben-Shahar is an author and lecturer at Harvard University. He currently teaches the largest course at Harvard on "Positive Psychology" and the third largest on "The Psychology of Leadership"--with a total of over 1,400 students.
Tal consults and lectures around the world to executives in multi-national corporation, the general public, and at-risk populations. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, mindfulness, and leadership.
An avid sportsman, Tal won the U.S. Intercollegiate and Israeli National squash championships. He obtained his PhD in Organizational Behavior and BA in Philosophy and Psychology from Harvard.
Question: What keeps you up at night?
Tal Ben-Shahar: Education, that's our future. This is where I'm putting most of my time into thinking about how we can introduce, whether it's in the public school system or in the private schools, better teaching; how we can cultivate more wellbeing, more of a sense of purpose, because many students are experiencing what Victor Frankl called an existential vacuum, meaninglessness. So how to introduce a sense of purpose, how to introduce more happiness. And these things are of course related. And how to introduce more ambition and more flourishing in the general sense of the word into schools.
Question: Should classes like your Harvard course on happiness be taught to kids?
Tal Ben-Shahar: I think we should introduce a happiness curriculum from kindergarten all the way up to the age of 120. Why? Because happiness is a journey. The earlier we start, the better; however, also if we start at a late stage, we can still teach a lot, we can still learn a lot.
Recorded on: September 23, 2009
Tal Ben Shahar is very concerned about the state of education in our country: he explains why a "happiness curriculum" starting in childhood is a key to fixing what’s wrong with our school system.
Is it acceptable to write a story from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you?
- Man Booker Prize-winning writer Yann Martel, a Canadian man, has written from the perspectives of a man with AIDS, a body-switching woman, an Indian boy, and 20th-century Portuguese widowers.
- Is it acceptable to write from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you? Martel believes these transgressions put empathetic imagination into practice, allowing your mind to go where your body cannot.
- In Martel's case, it's the recipe for great art—books that have been loved and read by millions. "[W]e are who we are in relation to others," says Martel. "But the key thing is the empathetic imagination, and the empathetic imagination is the great traveler. And travelers necessarily cross borders. And not only do they have to but it's a thrill to do so. It's a thrill encountering the other."
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The inventor Nikola Tesla's esoteric beliefs included unusual theories about the Egyptian pyramids.