More Than Money
Issue #38

Money and Happiness

Table of Contents

“Books: How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People- Their Secrets, Their Stories”

By Rick Foster and Greg Hicks
(Perigee, revised edition 2004)

Reviewed by Jane Gerloff

Copyright © 2004 by More Than Money. All rights reserved. For permission to use or reprint articles, please contact More Than Money at 617-864-8200 or .

In How We Choose to Be Happy, authors Rick Foster and Greg Hicks take a bold step beyond other books on happiness. They don't just look at happy people; they look at extremely happy people -people who not only believe themselves to be happy, but whom everybody else thinks are happy, too. In fact, these are the happiest people in their towns, or in their companies.

Based on extensive face-to-face interviews with hundreds of extremely happy people, Foster and Hicks identify nine choices that all of them made in order to become happier.

Extreme Happiness
According to Rick Foster and Greg Hicks, authors of How We Choose to Be Happy, there are nine choices that extremely happy people consistently make:

Intention: they commit to being happy

Accountability: they assume personal responsibility for their lives, refusing to blame others

Identification: they identify what makes them happy, not what others tell them should make them happy

Centrality: they make what brings them happiness central in their lives

Recasting: they transform stressful problems and trauma into something meaningful and important

Options: they are open to new possibilities

Appreciation: they choose deeply appreciate their lives, experiences, and other people

Giving: they share themselves without expectation of return

Truthfulness: they choose to be honest with themselves and others

-Adapted from How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People-Their Secrets , Their Stories by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks (Perigee, revised edition 2004). To rate yourself on these nine choices, visit .

They also provide us with a simple self-rating system that we can use to determine the degree to which we ourselves make those choices. By using the rating system, we can find areas in our lives that need improvement if we want to catapult ourselves into a happier life. The good news is that by strengthening these characteristics, we can become happier people.

The authors make the useful observation that getting rid of problems is not a determinant of happiness. In their work as corporate consultants, Foster and Hicks noticed that as they helped people solve problems in the workplace, the number of problems decreased, but people weren't any happier. Those who were unhappy before the problems were solved were still unhappy afterward. Extremely happy people, in contrast, were happy whether or not there were problems. Even in the midst of difficulties, they managed to live with grace and warmth.

Reading the profiles in the book, it's easy to see how these extremely happy people are different from most of us-they take each of the nine traits to extremes. Their stories inspire because each person's circumstance is challenging in a very different way; yet, all learned important lessons from their difficult experiences and made major changes in the way they approached their lives, in order to become much happier.

The book is written in an easy, conversational style. While it doesn't offer much in the way of facts and figures, the sheer number of cases studied lends credibility to the authors' conclusions. Since the book's original publication in 1999, the authors' model of happiness has been used by individuals, therapists, and social workers, as well as institutions as varied as corporations, hospitals, churches, and universities.

Some of the model's applications for the future are provocative. For example, medical doctors familiar with Foster and Hicks' research noticed that the nine choices of extremely happy people were the same choices made by their most successful patients. The authors are now involved in research in the medical community to see how happiness correlates with various health outcomes, such as immune response, length of hospital stay, and repeat heart attack rates. They are currently training medical professionals to help patients make the nine choices that can so significantly improve health and happiness.

If you want to be extremely happy, this book is an indispensable guide..

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