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Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology


When we think of psychology, we think of a field dedicated to understanding and curing the dark side of life--addictions, phobias, compulsions, anxieties, and on and on. But there is a field of psychology that looks at the bright side, that considers seriously these questions: What makes life most worth living? And how can we pursue a good life? That field is called, not surprisingly, positive psychology.

In Pursuing the Good Life, one of the founders of positive psychology, ...

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Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology

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When we think of psychology, we think of a field dedicated to understanding and curing the dark side of life--addictions, phobias, compulsions, anxieties, and on and on. But there is a field of psychology that looks at the bright side, that considers seriously these questions: What makes life most worth living? And how can we pursue a good life? That field is called, not surprisingly, positive psychology.

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 has 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.

Throughout, Peterson shows that happiness is not simply the result of a fortunate spin of the genetic wheel. There are things that people can learn to do to lead happier lives. Pursuing the Good Life is both an enjoyable read and an invaluable guide to making the good life part of your everyday existence.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Witty, incisive, wise, tear-jerking."

-Martin P Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

"Peterson is clever, funny, and smart, and his writing reflects his quick brain."

-Kim Cameron, Associate Dean, Executive Education; William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations, University of Michigan

"An informative review of positive psychology research married with interesting, real-world examples of living the good life." -- Psychology Today

"In his wonderful book Pursuing the Good Life, Christopher Peterson has provided the world with a precious gift. His wise, warm, witty, and insightful collection of reflections on positive psychology radiate the many strengths and virtues that are central to the field of positive psychology--humility, bravery, love, kindness, humor, citizenship, love of learning, and much more. With the lightest touch of a true master, Peterson surveys a vast territory of human experience, with blog posts on the critical focus of positive psychology, the nature of positive emotions and experiences, positive traits and talents, positive relationships, and the role of families, workplaces, schools, and geographical places in the good life. I highly recommend this book, and I will read it again and again. Sincere thanks to Christopher Peterson for his gift to the world." -Michael Hogan, PsycCRITIQUES

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199916351
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 578,826
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Peterson was Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. One of the world's most highly cited research psychologists and a founder of the field of positive psychology, Peterson was best-known for his studies of optimism and character strengths and their relationship to psychological and physical well-being. He was a frequent blogger for Psychology Today, where many of these short essays first appeared.

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Table of Contents


Part I. Positive Psychology and the Good Life
1. What is Positive Psychology, and What is it Not?
2. Parsing Positive Psychology
3. How Do Americans Spend Their Time?
4. Blaming the Science Versus Blaming the Victim: A Third Alternative
5. Perfect People
6. The Future of Unhappiness
7. Positive Psychology and Bullshit
8. The Bad Company of Positive Psychology
9. Taking on the Criticisms of Positive Psychology
10. The Future of Positive Psychology: Science and Practice

Part II. Positive Emotions and Experiences
11. What Do You Think About in the Shower?
12. Savoring and Dampening Positive Feelings
13. Who Most Enjoys the Small Things in Life?
14. Fast Food and Impatience
15. Passion and Positive Psychology
16. The Positive Analogue of a Phobia
17. Sunday Afternoon with Daniel Kahneman
18. Money and Happiness
19. Does Happiness Have a Cost?
20. Does Happiness Have a Cost? Part Two
22. Heritability and Happiness
22. Smiles and Longevity: Game Faces and Life Faces
23. Happiness Outliers

Part III. Positive Traits and Talents
24. The Last Lecture: A Positive Psychology Case Study
25. Is Optimism Undermining America?
26. Optimism Goes Underground
27. Good Hope and Bad Hope
28. Strengths or Weaknesses?
29. Character Is Sexy
30. There Are No Saints
31. Does It Matter Where We Live?
32. Resilience
33. Growing Greatness
34. David and Goliath and the Good Life
35. Steve Jobs: Lessons for the Good Life
36. What Have You Done for Yourself Lately?

Part IV. Positive Relationships
37. Other People Matter: Two Examples
38. Gratitude: Letting Other People Know They Matter Benefits Us
39. Gender and Friendship
40. Tears and Testosterone
41. Dealing with the Pain of Romantic Breakups
42. Happiness, Small Talk, and Big Talk
43. Having a Friend and Being a Friend
44. Infants Get It Right
45. Viral Happiness

Part V. Enabling Institutions: Families
46. Books Matter
47. You May Now Kiss the Bride -- And Would You Like Fries With That?
48. Living Happily Ever After
49. What Good Are Fathers?

Part VI. Enabling Institutions: Workplaces
50. Leadership Style and Employee Well-Being
51. Doing the Right Thing
52. Positive Psychology and Assholes
53. Positive Psychology and Unemployment

Part VII. Enabling Institutions: Schools
54. Did You Bring a Stuffed Animal to College?
55. Paying Students for Good Grades
56. Teaching Positive Psychology to an Entire University
57. The 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps
58. Doing the Right Thing EL With a Business Plan
59. Saturday Afternoon with President Obama

Part VIII. Enabling Institutions: Sports
60. When Losing Isn't Losing
61. I Love the NFL, But ...
62. Streaks in Sports and Life: Not for Men Only
63. Brett Favre versus Cal Ripken?
64. Team Sports, Happiness, and Health
65. Team Celebration and Performance
66. The NBA Finals: Does the Best Team Win?

Part IX. Enabling Institutions: Geographical Places
67. Geography and Happiness: A Book Review
68. Happy Places: Happy States
69. Are Happy Places Also Deadly Ones?
70. Gauging the Happiness of a Nation
71. How Can You Tell If Someone from France is Happy?
72. Gross National Happiness
73. Positive Psychology and China
74. Gauging the Happiness of Nations: A View from North Korea
75. Happy Places: Third Places

Part X. Rants
76. Can You Be Too Cheerful?
77. "Strong" Accents Define America
78. Does Anyone Write Letters Anymore?
79. You Can't Savor a Nutrient
80. I Hate E-mail
81. Technology and Happiness: A Book Review
82. Don't Pick My Brain
83. First, Think Inside the Box
84. It is What it is
85. Upspeak
86. Joy in the Misfortune of Others: Sports and Beyond
87. Bucket Lists and Positive Psychology

Part XI. Pursuing the Good life
88. Days are Long -- Life is Short
89. I Resolve to Take Benjamin Franklin Seriously
90. How to Smile
91. How to Talk
92. Finding the Right Bank to Rob
93. Ikigai and Mortality
94. University of Michigan Squirrels
95. A But-Free Day
96. Getting Lost in Buildings -- and Life
97. Giving Thanks by Mental Subtraction
98. What's in Your Closet?
99. The Good Life: Ends and Means
100. There Are No Bad Racks


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