Sunday, January 18, 2009

personal development through philosophy course starting soon

Of all the courses I teach, this is the one that gives me the most satisfaction - and feedback from students suggest they like it a lot too. I'll be writing more blog entries about ideas arising from the course this year - but if you can reach London, you might like to be part of the course yourself. Here are the details
This 10 week course will show how studying philosophy can help you explore the nature of a flourishing, good life, and begin applying these ideas to your own life. Philosophers studied will include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Nietzsche, Mill , Heidegger and Sartre. Topics will include happiness, wisdom, the emotions, relationships, work , ethics and the meaning of life. The course is suitable for all levels and has had very positive feedback from many students, ranging from those who have had no academic study since leaving school to those with advanced qualifications in philosophy wishing to use this material to develop their own good life and their own courses in practical philosophy.

Course Code CE1944
Course Fee £110
Start dateTuesday 17 January 2009 Time 6.30pm – 8.30pm
10 weekly classes
Location City University, London

What Previous Participants Have Said
“I like the way it challenged my thinking processes and has impacted on the way I want to lead my life”
"Interesting and thought-provoking”
“It was very accessible and helped to de-mystify the topic of philosophy”.
“The course has had a major impact on my life.”

Course Programme
1. Introduction: Socrates: Philosophy and the Good Life
Part 1- What is the Good Life?
2. Happiness, Well-Being & Values – Bentham versus Mill
3. Human Excellence, Character & Virtue – Aristotle versus the Stoics
4. Wisdom – the most important virtue?
5. Ethics – Doing the right thing – Kant, Mill and Hare
6. Existentialism: Sartre, Heidegger and the freedom to choose
7. The Meaning of Life - is it really 42?
Part 2 - Applications
8. Relationships: Philosophy, Love, Friendship & Compassion
9. Work: Philosophy, careers & Work-life balance
10. Conclusions: The Good Life and how to live it - and team quiz

To enrol call City University on 020 7040 8268 between 9.30am and 5.00pm.or
visit the City Uni website (

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Top Ten All Time Personal Development Books 2008

Regular readers will know that I am not one of those people who disparage all personal development or "self-help" books.

Sure, Aristotle, Sartre, Marx and Darwin were more original and profound thinkers than those that feature in the self-help section

of your local book shop - but how readable and  practical are their great works?
The best self-help books distill this wisdom into understandable and practical advice -making it as simple as it can be, but no simpler.

This year you will see that whilst the top few classics remain much the same as last year, there are some new entries lower down the chart.

The new entries cover mindfulness, relationships, and changing habits - all very important topics. The recommended books on them provide

accessible and well-researched introductions. Hope that some of these books are of use for you.

1. The Seven Habits of Highly effective People Stephen Covey (1)

2. Man's Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl (2)

3. The Feeling Good Handbook David Burns (3)

4. Overcoming Low Self-Esteem Melanie Fennell (4)

5. The Conquest of Happiness Bertrand Russell (5)

6. The Mindful Way Through Depression Mark Williams, John Teasdale  et al (-)

7. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff -and it's all small stuff Richard Carlson (6)

8. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work   John M. Gottman & Nan Silver (-)

9.   Changing for Good  James Prochaska et al(-)

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie (9)

Bubbling Under

 Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman (7)

The Consolations of Philosophy Alain de Botton (10

 The Art of Happiness Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama (8)

Happiness - Mathieu Ricard (-)

The How of Happiness Sonja Lyubomirsky (-)

Of course this list just reflects my personal opinion  - what self-help books have inspired you most in 2008?

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Wishing you a happy and meaningful New Year

You read it here first two years ago (New Years Resolutions - you must be nuts) , but the BBC now agrees that New Years Resolutions are Bad for your Health. According to Mind chief executive Paul Farmer,

"We chastise ourselves for our perceived shortcomings and set unrealistic goals to change our behaviour, so it's not surprising that when we fail to keep resolutions, we end up feeling worse than when we started. In 2009, instead of making a New Year's resolution, think positively about the year to come and what you can achieve."

Sound advice, but how can you best think about what you can achieve?

A very simple yet very useful and profound distinction is in thinking about both what can make you happy and what will be meaningful.

If you focus just on happiness, you may be setting yourself up for a mid-life meaning crisis - and such a crisis can occur well before middle-age. So think about where you can create more meaning in 2009 - in intimate relationships, friendships, with children, parents, work, hobbies or altruistic activities, for example. These don't have to be big things - just things that mean that when you tot up what your life adds up to, it adds up to something that feels meaningful to you, and provides you with a purpose.

Yet focussing just on meaning and purpose isn't such a good idea either. Research suggests that the happier people are, the more altruistic they are, the healthier they are, the longer they live - the positive spin-offs from happiness are many. What's more, if you imagine a life which is very meaningful but isn't enjoyable, or one that is both meaningful and enjoyable, which would you choose?

Sometimes there's a clear choice between the meaningful and the enjoyable - but that needn't always be the case. One answer is to find activities that you find both meaningful and enjoyable.What would that be for you? Another is devote a certain amount of time to purely meaningful activities, another portion to enjoyable activities.

If you are reading this on or near New Year's Day, how about writing down a list of activities and goals for 2009 under two headings

1) Goals that will lead to me finding 2009 meaningful

2) Goals that will lead to me enjoying 2009

Then go about fulfilling them, and have a truely happy and meaningful 2009

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