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The Power of Positive Thinking: A Comparative Study of ‘Happier’ and ‘Designing Your Life’

In an ever-evolving world, the pursuit of happiness and purpose has become an intrinsic part of our existence. Authors and scholars have dedicated themselves to unravelling the secrets of a fulfilling life, addressing this universal quest for happiness from different perspectives. Two notable contributions to this field are “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar and “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett.

With a focus on positive psychology and practical advice, “Happier” offers a unique approach to finding lasting happiness by integrating research findings with personal anecdotes. On the other hand, “Designing Your Life” takes a design-based perspective, employing techniques employed in engineering to create a life that aligns with one’s desires and values. Both books explore diverse aspects of personal growth and provide tools for readers to enhance their overall well-being.

This comparative study aims to delve into the core tenets of “Happier” and “Designing Your Life” to uncover their similarities, differences, and unique contributions to the field of self-improvement. By examining the philosophical foundations, methodologies, and key ideas within each book, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of how these texts delve into the intricacies of happiness and fulfillment.

1. Philosophical Foundations:

First and foremost, it is essential to explore the philosophical underpinnings that shape the perspectives offered in “Happier” and “Designing Your Life.” While both authors strive to inspire their readers, their approaches are grounded in different philosophies.

Ben-Shahar draws from the field of positive psychology, emphasizing the importance of finding meaning, cultivating positive emotions, and deepening one’s satisfaction with life. In contrast, Burnett draws inspiration from design thinking and human-centered design principles to address goal-setting, life experiments, and iterative decision-making processes.

2. Methodological Approach:

The methodologies employed by Ben-Shahar and Burnett provide readers with practical frameworks and exercises to apply in their personal growth journeys. Understanding these methodologies will enable us to assess the effectiveness of their respective approaches.

Ben-Shahar integrates research findings from the field of positive psychology, neurobiology, and philosophy, utilizing them to construct a foundation for happiness. Drawing on numerous anecdotes, exercises, and guided activities, he offers readers a roadmap to transform their understanding of what it means to lead a happier life.

Burnett, however, adopts a design-based framework that treats life as a design problem. He employs techniques such as prototyping, reframing, and storytelling to help readers create multiple versions of their life and test potential trajectories. These iterative processes allow individuals to design their lives with intentionality and curiosity.

3. Key Ideas and Contributions:

Finally, we will explore the key ideas and contributions presented in “Happier” and “Designing Your Life.” By examining the core concepts, readers can determine which elements resonate with their individual journeys towards fulfillment.

“Happier” emphasizes the significance of acceptance, gratitude, mindfulness, and the pursuit of meaningful goals as crucial ingredients in cultivating happiness. It guides readers in understanding the importance of balancing work and personal life while shedding light on obstacles that hinder happiness.

On the other hand, “Designing Your Life” drives readers to envision a fulfilling life by encouraging experimentation and reframing failures as opportunities. The book asserts that by applying design principles to life, individuals can cultivate resilience, creativity, and a sense of purpose.

By critically analyzing the philosophical foundations, methodologies, and key ideas presented in “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar and “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett, this comparative study aims to shed light on the diverse paths individuals can explore on their quest for happiness and fulfillment.

As we embark on this journey of exploration, it becomes evident that both books offer unique insights and practical guidance, providing readers with strategies to navigate their lives with a renewed sense of purpose and happiness.

Brief Summary of Two Books

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar is a self-help book that aims to guide readers towards a more joyful and fulfilling life. Drawing from the field of positive psychology, the author shares principles and strategies that can help individuals increase their happiness and well-being.

Ben-Shahar emphasizes the importance of finding meaning and purpose in our lives and pursuing activities that align with our interests and values. He suggests focusing on our strengths and cultivating a positive mindset, which can lead to greater happiness and success. The book also explores the role of relationships in our happiness, highlighting the importance of social connections and offering advice on fostering healthy and meaningful relationships.

Furthermore, the author delves into the power of gratitude, mindfulness, and resilience in boosting happiness. He provides practical exercises and techniques for implementing these practices into everyday life, encouraging readers to engage in activities such as journaling, meditation, and practicing gratitude to enhance their well-being.

Overall, Happier presents a comprehensive and accessible guide to happiness by offering insights, scientific research, and practical tips. Ben-Shahar’s approach combines theory and practice, making it a valuable resource for anyone seeking to lead a more fulfilling and joyous life.

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett

“Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett is a book that explores a methodology to help individuals design a fulfilling and purposeful life. Co-authored by Dave Evans, this book draws on principles from design thinking and applies them to personal growth and development.

The authors suggest that life should be treated as a design problem, and just like designers create prototypes to test and refine their products, individuals can experiment and iterate to create a life they truly enjoy. The book introduces five key mindsets that are crucial in the design process: curiosity, bias to action, reframing, awareness, and resilience.

Through various exercises, the authors guide readers in understanding and redesigning different aspects of their lives, including career, relationships, health, and overall well-being. They emphasize the importance of self-reflection, experimentation, and embracing failure as a means to learn and grow.

By applying design thinking principles, readers are encouraged to generate multiple possibilities, gather data, and make informed decisions. The authors also emphasize the importance of building a supportive community and seeking mentors to guide the design process.

“Designing Your Life” provides practical tools and strategies for individuals seeking to create a more meaningful life. It empowers readers to identify and pursue their passions, align their values with their actions, and ultimately, shape a life that brings them joy, purpose, and fulfillment.

Comparison between Two Books

Similarities in Positive Thinking

Both Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar and Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett discuss the importance of positive thinking and its impact on well-being and personal growth. Here are some similarities regarding positive thinking in these books:

1. Happiness mindset: Both authors emphasize the significance of cultivating a happiness mindset for a fulfilling life. They argue that positive thinking is a choice and an essential tool for achieving happiness and overall satisfaction.

2. Gratitude and appreciation: Both books emphasize the power of gratitude and appreciation in fostering positive thinking. Ben-Shahar and Burnett suggest that acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of life, even during challenging times, can greatly enhance one’s well-being and perspective.

3. Rethinking failure: Both authors advocate for a positive reevaluation of failure and setbacks. They stress that viewing failure as an opportunity for growth, learning, and improvement can lead to resilience and a more positive outlook on life.

4. Positive self-talk: Both books discuss the concept of positive self-talk as a means to strengthen positive thinking. They highlight the importance of being mindful of one’s internal dialogue and adopting a more optimistic and empowering narrative.

5. Cultivating positive emotions: Ben-Shahar and Burnett both emphasize the importance of cultivating positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, love, and awe. They suggest that intentionally seeking out and engaging in activities that elicit such emotions can foster positive thinking and overall well-being.

6. Mindfulness and self-awareness: Both authors emphasize the significance of mindfulness and self-awareness in promoting positive thinking. They encourage readers to be present in the moment, aware of their thoughts and emotions, and actively choose a positive mindset.

Overall, Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar and Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett share a common thread in their focus on positive thinking. They highlight its impact on happiness, personal growth, resilience, and overall life satisfaction, while providing practical strategies for cultivating and maintaining a positive mindset.

Divergences in Positive Thinking

Both Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar and Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett are self-help books that aim to guide readers towards a more fulfilling and satisfying life. While they cover various aspects of personal development and well-being, there is a clear divergence when it comes to the concept of positive thinking.

In Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar emphasizes the significance of positive thinking and its impact on overall happiness. He highlights the importance of embracing positive emotions, gratitude, and optimism as a means to enhance personal well-being. Ben-Shahar dives deep into the idea of happiness and how it can be cultivated through positive thinking practices such as expressing appreciation, savoring joyful moments, and reframing negative experiences. His book promotes the belief that positive thinking can lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

On the other hand, Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett takes a slightly different approach. While positive thinking is acknowledged and considered a helpful mindset, Burnett focuses more on the concept of design thinking. Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that encourages individuals to prototype and iterate their way towards a better life. Burnett suggests that rather than solely relying on positive thinking, individuals should actively engage in experimentation, reframe problems, and consider multiple perspectives to design a life that aligns with their values and desires.

This divergence in the importance placed on positive thinking is mainly rooted in the different perspectives and frameworks presented in the two books. Happier leans more towards the traditional notion of incorporating positive thinking as a foundational aspect of overall happiness, while Designing Your Life brings in a more practical and action-oriented approach that incorporates positive thinking but focuses more on design thinking principles.

In conclusion, while both Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar and Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett aim to provide guidance for a more fulfilling life, they diverge in their emphasis on positive thinking. Happier greatly emphasizes the transformative power of positive thinking, whereas Designing Your Life incorporates positive thinking as a helpful mindset but focuses more on design thinking principles for personal growth and fulfillment.


Both “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar and “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett are highly regarded self-help books, each with its own unique perspective and approach. The choice of which book is more worthy of reading ultimately depends on your specific interests and needs.

“Happier” focuses on positive psychology and teaches readers how to find happiness through various perspectives, mindsets, and strategies. It delves into the concept of happiness as a goal, providing practical and evidence-based advice on leading a more fulfilling life.

“Designing Your Life,” on the other hand, takes a design thinking approach to help individuals create a meaningful and satisfying life. It offers a step-by-step method to evaluate and find solutions to life’s complexities, allowing readers to design a life that aligns with their values, passions, and strengths.

If you are specifically interested in exploring happiness and want a deeper understanding of the psychology behind it, “Happier” might be the more suitable choice. However, if you are seeking guidance on shaping and designing your overall life, then “Designing Your Life” could be a better fit.

Ultimately, both books have gained positive reviews and have valuable insights to offer. It would be beneficial to consider your specific goals and priorities before making a final decision on which book to read.

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