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Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being Paperback – February 7, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the guru of the "positive psychology" movement, abandons his previous emphasis on happiness, which he now views as simplistic, to examine how individuals might achieve a richer, multilayered goal: a life of well-being. He identifies four factors that can help individuals thrive: positive emotion, engagement with what one is doing, a sense of accomplishment, and good relationships. Those expecting a guide on how to achieve these goals will be disappointed; Seligman's approach is largely conceptual and empirical, although he has some useful things to say, such as how even soldiers with PTSD can be taught resilience to recover and even grow from their traumas, and how students of all ages can be taught focus, delayed gratification, and GRIT, a combination of drive and perseverance. But Seligman includes too much on the mechanics of conducting his studies. Also, he can be self-congratulatory regarding his own theory, and harsh and reductionist on traditional treatments ("psychology-as-usual—the psychology of victims and negative emotions and alienation and pathology and tragedy"). This is a potentially important book whose impact may be limited by its flaws. (Apr.)
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"Repaves the path to true happiness. A relentlessly optimistic guidebook on finding and securing individual happiness." –Kirkus

"Important" --Publishers Weekly

"I was immediately charmed... Seligman's intentions are admirable and exciting. He is consumed by his mission, which is to take psychology on from its traditional role in alleviating misery, and broaden it into positive psychology -- the entirely different art of teaching us how to be wiser, stronger, more generous to others, more self-disciplined, and more capable of dealing with difficulty and rejection... The book is full of nuggets about why positive approaches work."
The Sunday Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781439190760
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439190760
  • ASIN: 1439190763
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

216 of 225 people found the following review helpful By Mehrad Ahari on June 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book starts brilliantly. Professor Seligman offers a revision to his famous theory of happiness and puts forward such a thrilling hypothesis, that I was hesitant to put the book down for a while.

However, and as the reader impatiently waits for the good doctor to explain his new theory in details - after all, it is easy to say you need "engagement" without defining what engagement really is and how it can be achieved - the book moves away from the message and turns into a boring, uninteresting manifesto in defence of positive psychology in general, and professor Seligman's credentials in particular.

He spends more time, trying to sell the idea than he does explaining it, as if he is making an extraordinary effort to convert unbelievers, than to preach to the already converted. Considering that the majority of those who would buy the book are among the latter group, I am baffled why he decided to turn this into a marketing material!

The book continues with more validating examples of positive psychology's successes, including two excruciating chapters about Seligman's work with the military. His repeatedly defensive arguments - specially those targeted at Barbara Ehrenreich and her likeminded entourage - are more suitable for an op-ed column than for a book of this calibre.

Toward the end, Seligman steps into an economic debate about the financial crisis, with such flimsy analogies that makes you wonder why this titan of the psychology should step out of his field of expertise so carelessly!

All being said, "Flourish" is a good book, and for those who are looking for fresh ideas, it does provide enough rich and valuable content to justify the time/money invested.
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324 of 341 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a great book and it certainly has its flaws. However, it is a fairly well written book by Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, and provides a passionate argument for his latest thinking on well being. He has changed his views over the last decade and he explains how and why in this book. The topic is important and if Seligman is right, he has made a major contribution to human flourishing with his work.

I read Barbara Ehrenrich's Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America a while back and I admit that it caused me to doubt to some degree Seligman's credibility. Shame on me and this book showed me how wrong I was to let her influence me in that regard.

If you are looking for a step-by-step recipe for flourishing, a traditional type of self-help book, you will not find it here. This book is much more theoretical and it spends a lot of time on the evidence and research for Seligman's views on well being. Having said that, you certainly can glean what it takes to flourish from reading it. I just want to make clear this book is mostly about theory and evidence and not about practical steps individuals can take on their own.

My biggest complaint about the book is that it spends too much time detailing specific projects the author is currently working on or has worked on in the past. He spends two full chapters on his work with the army. He does that to support his argument and to some degree I think to establish his credibility. While it is somewhat interesting, it's just too much.

If you are interested in a theory of human flourishing then I think this book would be a valuable addition to your library. I definitely recommend it.
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153 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Peter Davies on April 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Seligman starts off reviewing why he has moved on from authentic happiness to well-being. While not giving up on authentic happiness, he argues that while happiness is an important concept, the notion of well-being involves a number of factors in addition to happiness.
The book is comprehensive in nature, covering everything from happiness to sex in space to a denial that he ever helped the U.S. military develop torture techniques. That comprehensiveness, is however, the book's weakness as well as its strength. The book does start with ways to achieve well-being at a personal level, including some exercises to do so. Just as it began to get interesting on that topic, the author switches to introducing well-being into the education system and just as that becomes interesting he switches to well-being in the military and so on. He also has a tendency to go off on tangents throughout the book, further diminishing the book's focus. Because of this it was hard to discern the target audience of the book, with some parts being suitable to the lay-person while others were best suited to psychologists or similar professionals.
Having said all that, I did enjoy the book and found the occasional gem of wisdom. However as stated in a previous critique, this is not a self-help book and those wishing to learn how to flourish will be disappointed. I would recommend his prior book Authentic Happiness for those wanting to learn self-improvement. For those wanting an overview of positive psychology and the various settings it could be used in, the book does provide a basic overall introduction to the subject area. However it does not contain much information that would be useful to the lay-person or to clinicians and their clients.
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