Beyond happiness

Shawn Achor’s book Before Happiness dovetails at many points with what could be termed a broadly Christian outlook. Although presented in an almost entirely non-Christian framework, where its points are supported by citing business studies or lab results, it was not surprising to me to learn that Achor received a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School, specializing in Christian and Buddhist ethics.

Yet, since Achor is a distinguished researcher in the field of positive psychology – an approach within academic psychology that actually gets results – that leads me to the conclusion that Before Happiness is a Christian work in significant part because certain Christian practices work – and not simply because Achor is informed by a Christian ethos.

That certain specific kinds of Christian practices work is a view I have been seeing significant evidence for in various ways – through my own practice, anecdotally, statistically, and through the sorts of studies Achor focuses on – and so this book largely furthers these beliefs.

(Of course, certain Christian practices I have significant problems with – it seems they don’t work very well. The real picture is complex, including situations where relatively subtle differences in meaning or practice seem to make significant differences in results.)

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