WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE defies the myths that drive so many of our ideas about success and the good life. This book shows that the real secret of happiness and success lies in giving of yourself to others, and presents striking new science that shows that giving boosts both our physical and emotional health–across an entire lifetime. When we give, we reduce depression, actually live longer, and open a world of other health benefits.
Dr. Stephen Post is already renowned for funding studies at the nation’s top universities to investigate the benefits of generous behavior, and in WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE, Dr. Post and journalist Jill Neimark knit science and wisdom together to give you a lifetime guide to better living. Woven throughout with real-life stories, self-help tips, easy-to-take self-tests, and remarkably powerful evidence, this is a book you can turn to again and again, in hard times, in good times, for yourself, your friends, your family and your children.
The new research includes an astonishing fifty-year study showing that people who are giving as teens reap the benefits of better physical and mental health their whole life–even into their sixties and seventies. Other inspiring studies show that giving extends life, even when you start at a late age; that being helpful lifts mood and self-esteem, and even improves the outcome of chronic illnesses such as HIV and multiple sclerosis.
Offering powerful insights and answers for community groups, book clubs, and any gathering of readers who want to become part of what’s good in the world, WHY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE is a book you’ll want to share with those you care about the most. We hope this guide will enhance your conversation.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Where there is a desert, plant a rose. In the preface, Reverend Otis Moss, Jr. uses the images of a desert and a rose to describe times of hardship and joy. What different kind of deserts does he describe? How did Sister McNair plant a rose in her desert? Can you think of a desert and a rose from your own past? What rose can you plant now in another person’s life–a rose that will bring joy to both you and the other?
2. Feel the Helper’s High. Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan studied the effects of giving among older couples. She found that "giving help to others, such as friends, relatives, and neighbors, along with providing emotional support to a spouse, reduces mortality, although receiving the same kind of help does not." When have you experienced a "helper’s high"? Are you currently giving help to others in a way that increases your overall sense of well-being?
3. Know the Four Spheres of Love. Envisioning a "geography of love," the author outlines four spheres of love: family, friends, community, and humanity. Are you especially good at giving in one sphere? Is there another sphere you could focus on as well, and reap the joys of giving in that realm? How would your daily actions change if you were to give more in that sphere? What is one giving act, word, or gesture you can commit to today, in one of the spheres of love?
4. Celebration is A Way to Joy. How often do you celebrate or express gratitude? Do you keep a gratitude journal? If so, have you experienced better emotional or physical health as a result? Did your celebration quotient surprise you? Can you choose a person to write a celebration letter to? Once you have done so and read it out loud to that person, can you express how happy it made you and the other person?
5. Nurture Others. The famous psychologist Erik Erikson coined the phrase "generativity," which this book interprets widely, as "nurturing others so that they are better able in turn to manifest their own gifts of love." What are you doing to prepare another’s garden for spring? What was your generativity quotient? How can you help nurture someone else this week–whether your own child, someone who works for you or with you, or a friend who’d like to glean a bit of your wisdom?
6. Forgiveness Brings Peace. Who are the people in your life you need to forgive? How can you forgive yourself for your own mistakes? Can you begin to "craft your own quilt of forgiveness"? Did your forgiveness quotient help you think about forgiveness in a new way?
7. Courage Counts. In this book, courage is seen as love in action, love on a silver steed, love as the ability to confront others with care, when necessary. Is there someone you need to confront about destructive behavior? Do you have courage to focus on what matters most to you in life? If you discovered you only had one year to live, what would you do with it? Did your courage quotient cause you to re-examine the role of courage in your life?
8. Laughter Lifts Us All. You might not think of a joke well told as a way of loving others, but indeed it is. The lightness of humor lifts us all, especially in tough times. Do you know your own humor style? Are there ways you could bring more playfulness and joy into your daily activities? What was your humor quotient?
9. Look Again–and Look Truly and Deeply. This book suggests that respect "requires us to look again, past first impressions and unconscious biases, to gaze deeply in order to understand another person’s history, struggles, life-journey, and perspectives." How can you help bring more respect into our often biased, unfair world? Are there ways you can demonstrate more tolerance, civility, acceptance, and reverence for others? What is one way you can show respect to someone else today? How did you react to your respect quotient?
10. Compassion Calms and Connects Us To Others. Did you know that offering compassion to someone else actually benefits your health? How often do you "calm and connect" through compassionate acts? What is the most compassionate action someone else has taken on your behalf? Can you meditate quietly now on someone who you feel deserves your compassion, and let your heart fill with love for them? What was your compassion quotient?
11. Loyalty is Love Through Time. Think about love over a lifetime–and how it weathers the good and the difficult. That kind of love is called loyal love, and defuses our deepest existential anxiety in life. In our society of shifting loyalties, to whom are you the most loyal? What forms the basis of your commitment? Are there people or institutions you have chosen not to be loyal to? If so, why? What did you think of your loyalty quotient?
12. Simply being present and listening are great gifts to others. Are you able to participate fully with others by being present through deep listening? How difficult or easy is it for you to sit quietly with another and hear how life looks from their perspective? Is there someone you know who needs for you to listen and be fully present? What does your listening quotient indicate about your life?
13. Creativity is a gift both large and small. Creativity can be as simple as making a wonderful meal, and as huge as changing history itself What is your favorite way to exercise your own creativity? Do others appreciate it? Do you nurture your own creativity by letting yourself be "open to experience, to joy as well as pain, and aware of the nuances and ironies of life"? Is there one way in which you would like to revitalize your creativity? What did your creativity quotient teach you?
14. Love now, not later. What ideas has this book given you for increasing your giving and its benefits in your life? Could you choose one way of love in one sphere each day? Or could you start with the way of love you scored highest on and build on it?
15. Find the Fire and Light Others With It. Gandhi said, "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems." Consider what you have learned through answering the questions on the Love and Longevity Scale. What is the single most significant way you could increase your giving and help heal the world? How would that one new way of giving enhance your own life? What step could you take today to set this in motion?