by Tal Ben-Shahar

Here is a reminder of a beautiful and transformative exercise to practice in a quiet moment on your own, taking a timeout from the bustle of the season, or to share with loved ones when you gather together. Happy Holidays!

In the 1980s, David Cooperrider and his colleagues introduced a simple yet revolutionary approach to change that has since helped numerous individuals and organizations grow and learn. Rather than focusing on what doesn’t work, on the problem areas—as most intervention programs or consultants do—Appreciative Inquiry focuses on what has worked or does work. To “appreciate” means to recognize the value of something and also to increase its value (money in the bank can appreciate). By inquiring into positive past experiences, we can learn from them and then apply our learning to present and future situations.

You can do this exercise on your own, though it is better to do with a partner or in a small group. If you’re doing it with others, take turns telling one another what has made you happier in the past—10 years ago, last month, throughout 2016, or earlier today. It could be a meal, an evening with your family, a specific project at work, or a concert. What, specifically, was it that made you feel good? Was it the connection you felt to other people? Was it the fact that you were challenged? Was it a sense of awe that you experienced?

After inquiring into the positive aspects of your experiences—whether on your own or with the help of others—ask yourself how you can take what you have learned from your best past and apply it toward creating a better future. Commit yourself, in writing and to those doing the exercise with you, to activities that you believe will make you happier in the coming year.

Learn more from Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar in The Certificate in Positive Psychology.

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, Co-founder of WholeBeing Institute, is an author and lecturer who taught the largest course at Harvard on “Positive Psychology” and the third largest on “The Psychology of Leadership”—with a total of over 1,400 students. Author of Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, he consults and lectures around the world to corporate executives, the general public, and at-risk populations on topics that include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, mindfulness, and leadership. He holds a doctorate in organizational behavior and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology from Harvard.