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Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment Paperback – January 5, 2004
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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. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Caroline Myss Author of Sacred Contracts Authentic Happiness is delightful and richly insightful. Martin Seligman has written a very practical book, guiding readers to make positive choices in life.
Steven Pinker Author of The Language Instinct A highly insightful scientific and personal reflection on the nature of happiness, from one of the most creative and influential psychologists of our time.
Elle A bold new plan for taking control of your life and finding lasting happiness.
Top customer reviews
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You can’t say it without getting weird looks. You can’t even think it without feeling like a hypocrite. Virtue? Isn’t that something Victorians believed in? Look where that got us: a world so full of oppression that the sun never sets on it.
I used to be in that camp. Virtue was a guilty pleasure of mine. I believed in it (sort of). But I always felt like either a faker or a cultural imperialist for doing so. Whenever the word popped into my mind, I gave myself one good mental flogging as penance.
The field of psychology seems to have been beset by similar demons. Much of the research agenda has been dedicated to identifying pathology (things gone very wrong), and mitigating it where possible.
That is, until now (or, to be more accurate, until about ten years ago). Martin Seligman is one of the founders of the field of Positive Psychology, a new branch of research that tries to identify what can go very right.
His findings are compiled in Authentic Happiness. The book has vindicated virtue, at least in my mind.
Seligman has spent the last decade plus trying to identify the sources of human flourishing. He has found a combination of six such sources appearing in literature from the Indus Valley to the Japanese Archipelago to the Mediterranean Sea (how about South America, Africa, or the annals of the Iroquois Nation? I’m not sure. I bet you’d find these traits in abundance there, too, if you looked).
The six (drumroll please) more-or-less ubiquitous human virtues as uncovered by Seligman’s team of graduate students are….
Ha! As if I’m going to just tell you. Go read the book!
Sike. I’ll tell you.
1) Wisdom and Knowledge
3) Love and Humanity
6) Spirituality and Transcendence (defined as moving beyond narrow self-interest)
Quibble as you will, this seems like a good place to start. The first step to becoming a better person is believing that it is possible. For a long time I didn’t. I thought that the best I could do was keep to myself; I cowered in fear of offending anyone’s sensibilities with my notions of good and bad, or of taking on a model I couldn’t live up to. I’m done with that.
I may go down, but at least I’ll go down swinging.
This book has helped me to understand myself and my general level of happiness, and that not every aspect of that is under my control. But I have also learned which parts of that happiness ARE under my control and how to maximize those aspects in order to increase my overall long term happiness.
If you enjoy studies of Meta-cognition and optimistic problem-solving, you might also be inspired by this book!
It does. My criteria for a program being valuable is whether it has useful ideas. His theory about people having predestined ranges of happiness, with ability to move higher within a particular range makes sense. His suggestions about flow also make sense, as does his distinction between a gratification (instant) and a pleasure (must be earned).
Cognitive psychology, like the behaviorists beforehand, tends to be formulaic, implying that emothion follows action and behavior leads to feelings. I'm not so sure about dogged determination that formulas are the answer to everything. I also think that this program spends too much time plugging the various surveys available on the author's web site.
Still, this gets 4 stars because I got some good ideas and helpful suggestions.