How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People--Their Secrets, Their Stories

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9780399144608: How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People--Their Secrets, Their Stories

Two professional training consultants explain how readers can create their own personal definition of happiness and how they can make happiness a central goal in life, illuminating nine fundamental principles that can transform one's attitudes, goals, and experiences. 20,000 first printing. Tour.

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About the Author:

Rick Foster and Greg Hicks have earned a reputation as specialists in the topic of happiness through their in-depth studies, interviews, and the application of their model of happiness in their workshops and seminars for major corporations and universities.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page




Chapter 1 - Intention

Chapter 2 - Accountability

Chapter 3 - Identification

Chapter 4 - Centrality

Chapter 5 - Recasting

Chapter 6 - Options

Chapter 7 - Appreciation

Chapter 8 - Giving

Chapter 9 - Truthfulness

Chapter 10 - Synergy



“Foster and Hicks conduct workshops internationally in the development of interpersonal skills. For this book, they interviewed happy people from all walks of life, from the United States to Eastern Europe. The resulting personal stories, writing exercises, and quotes together inform and instruct the reader in the nine principles discovered by the authors in their travels. Recommended.”

Library Journal



“My plan was to read the book long enough to decide whether I would write a testimonial. In a short time I found myself in the middle of a remarkable torrent of brilliant ideas, all delivered in a warm and sturdy format. I realized that at some unnoticed moment I had changed, and was now reading because I was convinced the book would be of great personal value to me—it could help me find more happiness. It is a delightful and boundlessly valuable book, especially for those readers willing to explore the possibility that happiness is something we can all choose.”

-Will Schutz, Ph. D.,
author of Joy, Joy: 20 Years Later and The Human Element.


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 I Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa


Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England


While the authors have made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the authors assume any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


Copyright © 1999 by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks


All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

PERIGEE is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “P” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



G. P. Putnam’s Sons edition / April 1999

Revised Perigee trade paperback / June 2004


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Foster, Rick.

How we choose to be happy : the 9 choices of extremely happy people : their secrets, their stories / Rick Foster and Greg Hicks.

p. cm.

eISBN : 978-1-101-00738-9

1. Happiness. 2. Happiness-Case studies. I. Hicks, Greg.

II. Title.

BF575.H27F-37033 CIP





PUBLISHER’ NOTE: Neither the publisher nor the authors are engaged in rendering professional advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions contained in this book are not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. Neither the authors nor the publisher shall be liable or responsible for any loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestion in this book.


Most Perigee books are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, or educational use. Special books, or book excerpts, can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write: Special Markets, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

For our children
Tim and Molly Hicks
Alex and Kathryn Foster


Our happiness journey has run through two eras—first, the research and writing of this book, and next, the amazing developments after its initial publication. From the beginning, it has been graced by so many who have championed it. Thanks to our editor and trusted friend, John Duff, at Penguin who nurtured and supported our work every step of the way, and to our agent Angela Miller. Thanks also for the skill and superb judgment of our independent editors: Marilyn Foster for her careful reading and insightful suggestions and Paula Munier for her knowledgeable and optimistic cheerleading through the writing process.

Ron Luyet, always gentle of spirit and compassionate about our human strengths and foibles, gave generously of his professional understandings and his materials, including the “List of Defenses.” Thanks also to landscape architect Laurie Grassman of Boulder, Colorado, for her invaluable help with flora, to Dr. David Spear for his deep insight into the interaction of behavior and biochemistry, to Philip Turner and Tonda Marton for advice about writing projects in general, and to Tonda for giving us a “writer’s retreat” in New York City.

Our first Happiness Workshops were sponsored by Dr. Barbara Scott in San Luis Obispo, California. Eva Nemeth transformed her physical therapy offices in Marina Del Rey, California, into a conference center on our behalf. A wonderful crew from Shelburne Farms, Vermont, including Emily Morrow, Alec Webb, Megan Camp and Paul and Eileen Growald, supported our work in their community. Thanks to all of them for adding to the demographic depth of the interviews and to our understanding of happiness.

We also have an extraordinary support system of friends and family who gave unconditionally to the early days of the project. Special thanks goes to dear friends—Ellen Tussman, Diane Jarmolow, Russell Kaltschmidt, Herb Kindler, Marilyn Ginsburg and Janet Cobb. Their referrals to interview sources, opinions and reactions were critical to the development of our ideas. Our generous and patient readers were our parents, Lenore and Don Hicks and Harold and Diana Foster. Matt Weinstein and Geneen Roth gave us a much-needed kick-start in the beginning. And “The Men’s Group” continues to provide a superb forum to experiment, try out ideas, and receive loving yet firm feedback.

We also want to express our gratitude to Ailish and the late Will Schutz, who over the years taught us so much, and introduced us to the wonderful acupuncturist, Dr. Van Vu. His work kept us balanced, and gave us the energy to do our research, write a book, raise our children and continue working.

Since the initial publication of How We Choose to Be Happy, a great number of people and institutions have introduced us to professional arenas we couldn’t have previously imagined. Our deepest gratitude goes to Duffy Newman and Joanna Infantine of the Health Forum in San Francisco, who gave us a superb entree to the medical world. There is no way to individually thank all the wonderful people with whom we’re partnering in the medical fields, but special thanks go to Doctors Nicholas LaRusso and Jeanne Huddleston of The Mayo Clinic, who astonish us with their drive for excellence. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. David Jaques and Aileen Killen provided us with a life-altering view of surgery. Elizabeth Duthie, Director of Nursing for Patient Care Systems at NYU Hospitals Center, has been full of ideas and information and is an encouraging friend. And, Jenny Kirksey, Community Health Director of Wake Forest Baptist Hospitals has been a great supporter. We thank all of you who have become friends and colleagues.

Other faculty and organizational work has also been a source of inspiration and growth. Many thanks to Dr. Joseph Mori and Julie Ryan who have included us as faculty in their MSA program at San Jose State University. Becky Miles-Polka and Gail Hardinger have also given us faculty positions with the wonderful Iowa Community Health Leadership Institute. And James Baraz and Edith Politis have brought us into the unexpected delights of the Buddhist community at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, California. You have all enriched our lives immeasurably.

Above all, we deeply thank the hundreds of “extremely happy people” from around the world, whose love, commitment, words and thoughts appear in these pages. There is no way to express fully our respect and gratitude to them. They have changed our lives, and we thank them deeply for the kindness, honesty and thoughtfulness they shared with us. Although their names and hometowns have been changed, their true spirits soar through every part of this book and continue to inform our lives.

A Note to the Reader

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