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Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment Hardcover – August 27, 2002

203 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest user-friendly road map for human emotion, the author of the bestselling Learned Optimism proposes ratcheting the field of psychology to a new level. "Relieving the states that make life miserable... has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the `good life,' " writes Seligman. Thankfully, his lengthy homage to happiness may actually live up to the ambitious promise of its subtitle. Seligman doesn't just preach the merits of happiness e.g., happy people are healthier, more productive and contentedly married than their unhappy counterparts but he also presents brief tests and even an interactive Web site (the launch date is set for mid-August) to help readers increase the happiness quotient in their own lives. Trying to fix weaknesses won't help, he says; rather, incorporating strengths such as humor, originality and generosity into everyday interactions with people is a better way to achieve happiness. Skeptics will wonder whether it's possible to learn happiness from a book. Their point may be valid, but Seligman certainly provides the attitude adjustment and practical tools (including self-tests and exercises) for charting the course.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Daniel Goleman author of Emotional Intelligence At last, psychology gets serious about glee, fun and happiness. Martin Seligman has given us a gift -- a practical map for the perennial quest for a flourishing life. -- Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (August 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743222970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743222976
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., is the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the director of the Positive Psychology Network, and former president of the American Psychological Association. Among his twenty books are Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

179 of 185 people found the following review helpful By W. ALLEN on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
I quickly read this book a couple of years ago and thought it was very good, but I got little benefit. Then, called to jury duty, I grabbed it going out the door. Sitting a room in LA with 200 people and after reading 4 newspapers, I reread the first 100 pages of this book. But I read it the way I did textbooks, pen in hand, underlining, diagraming, analyzing and synthesizing. I digested the book. I did the forgiveness exercise. I took the surveys and I added up my scores. Then I did the appreciation exercise. I was struck that several of the people I decided I needed to forgive also turned up as people who did things for me that I greatly appreciated. I have moved work and wealth into a lower priority and moved my subjective health, fitness and nutrition into a higher priority. Now, I try to be mindful and savory the experiences of today. I am still struggling with other exercises and methods, but I am grateful to one more person, Dr. Seligman who wrote a great book. My family and coworders enjoy me more. I have ordered the audiobook, too. If you are chronically unhappy, irritable, often angry, this book may be life changing for you. But don't just breeze throught like I did the first time, read carefully and more than once.
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285 of 312 people found the following review helpful By Robert Adler on March 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a psychologist, I completely understand Martin Seligman's drive to free psychology from its obsession with negativity. Freud, he writes, made many people "unduly embittered about their past and unduly passive about their future," while clinical psychology focussed on diagnosing and treating mental disorders. In his new book, Authentic Happiness, Seligman goes a long way towards breaking psychology free from its love affair with pathology and replacing it with a far more positive approach.
I don't know of anyone with better credentials to guide readers through what psychology has discovered about happiness. Seligman's own research has contributed greatly to our understanding of the entire range of human experience from profound depression to "abundant gratification." His early, groundbreaking studies of learned helplessness provided great insight into inescapable trauma as a major source of helplessness and depression. He went on to study "learned optimism" as a powerful antidote to depression--his earlier book by that name is invaluable.
Now, Seligman sets out to provide readers with the insights and tools from the relatively new field of positive psychology. He does this with a rich mixture of anecdotes, personal revelations and research. In addition, he provides frequent self-assessments and exercises. I think that almost anyone who takes the time to read what Seligman has to say, who takes and thinks about the self assessments, and who does the exercises, will start thinking and acting in ways that lead to lasting happiness.
It's important to realize that Seligman is not a self-help guru by any stretch of the imagination. He is a leading research psychologist who builds on solid experimental findings.
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98 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Arley on February 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
I heard about this book on NPR a few months ago and checked out the companion website ( before buying the book. The site has 17 questionnaires on happiness, optimism, relationships, emotion, and Seligman's trademark Values in Action Signature Strengths. You can take these tests days or weeks apart and track your progress. It's an excellent site and does the job of prompting you to buy the book.
The book just isn't as strong as the site. As noted it other reviews it's part autobiography, part research report and part self-help book. You'll get formulas like H = S + C + V (H is enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, v is voluntary variables) and lots of self-congratulatory stories about Seligman's friends, colleagues, wife and kids. Not that any of that's bad, but I have to wonder if his editor didn't ask him "Are you sure you want to include this?"
Single greatest reminder of something I knew but had forgotten: "You can't change your past, but you can change your perception of it."
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115 of 124 people found the following review helpful By deepthinkr on November 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
Written by the former president of the American Psychological Association, and author of over a dozen books including the popular Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, this title is one of the better selling happiness books out there.

While this is the kind of book I could write a really long review about, I think I'll just discuss what I consider to be the best bits for those looking for ways to become happier- which I think is why most people would buy this book. Soooo.....

1) the book provides the reader with a "happiness formula", which is H = S + C + V. This works out to happiness = your genetic Set point + intervening Circumstances + factors under you Voluntary control. So, since your can't do much about changing your genetics, when it comes to becoming happier, that leaves room for improvement in the areas of circumstances and voluntary activities.

2) the book suggests that if you want to lastingly raise your level of happiness by changing the external circumstances of your life, you should: live in a wealthy democracy, get married, avoid negative events and negative emotion, acquire a rich social network, and get religion. Conversely, you needn't bother to do the following: make more money, stay healthy, get as much education as possible, or try to change your race or move to a sunnier climate. However even if you could alter all of these things, it would not do much for you as this stuff accounts for only a small part of your happiness. On to Voluntary efforts...
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