Pursuing happiness 


In this lesson, you are going to watch an interview with Tal Ben-Shahar, author of the book Happier, No Matter What.

Level: upper intermediate 

Key-words: happiness, resilience, antifragility, psychology 

A) Before you watch

Before you watch the video, think about these questions:

  • What is happiness to you?
  • Do you think it is possible to be happy all the time?
  • What makes people generally unhappy?
  • What are the main elements of a happy life?

B) Watch for main idea

Now, watch the interview and choose the statement that best expresses the speaker's main idea:

  1. It is possible to become happy if someone really strives for it.

  2. It is impossible to reach true happiness after experiencing hardships.

  3. Happiness comes from well-being in various fields of life.

C) Vocabulary

Read the sentences with words from the interview you heard (a-k). Guess the meanings of the words and phrases in bold. Then match each word or phrase to its definition (1-11).

a. It is a false understanding that eating less is the best way to lose weight.
b. A long-term calcium deficiency can lead to dental changes and bone fragility.
c. You need great emotional strength and resilience to help you through difficult times.
d. She broke down when she lost her job.
e. We are working together to pursue our common goal.
f. A good way to deal with the problem is to break it down into a series of small ones.
g. A meeting has been called to resolve the dispute.
h. Have you used up all the matches for lighting candles?
i. She likes being engaged with the problems of other people.
j. She sent them a present to express her gratitude for all the help she received.
k. The dialects spoken in the country reside on a continuum without any sharp boundaries.

1. ________________ (n.) a strong feeling of appreciation for sg good received

2. ________________ (n.) the ability to be happy and successful again after sg bad has happened

3. ________________ (n.) sg that changes in character gradually without any clear dividing points

4. ________________ (n.) the quality of being easily damaged, broken, or harmed; weakness

5. ________________ (v.) to focus on sg

6. ________________ (v.) to try to achieve sg; to chase sg

7. ________________ (v.) to find a solution to a problem

8. ________________ (phr. v.) to divide sg into smaller parts

9. ________________ (phr. v.) to use all of sg, so that nothing is left

10. ________________ (phr. v.) to become upset

11. ________________ (phr.) an idea or belief that is false but many people think is true; fallacy

D) Watch for details

Watch the interview again and complete each gap with one suitable word based on what you hear.

  1. Happiness studies deal not only with happiness but also with _______________ emotions.
  2. Resilience 1.0 means that the system goes back to its _______________ form after the pressure is lifted.
  3. Antifragility is resilience 2.0. It means that the system grows _______________ after the pressure is over.
  4. The happiness paradox means that the more you pursue happiness the _______________ happy you become.
  5. The happiness paradox can be resolved by pursuing happiness _______________.
  6. The lack of recovery from stress influences your _______________ well-being.
  7. Spending _______________ time with your loved ones will add to your happiness.
  8. By feeling _______________, you can bring more of the good things into your life.
  9. Happiness is a _______________ journey rather than a state.

E) After you watch

Think about these questions for a minute and answer them:

  • What is your opinion about the happiness paradox?
  • Do you think it is possible to become stronger after experiencing some hardship? Why/why not?
  • Which elements of the SPIRE model have you heard about before?