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Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being Paperback – February 7, 2012
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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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"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
Top customer reviews
The model proposed in this book is:
• Positive emotion (of which happiness and life satisfaction are all aspects)
I read a Kindle edition, and liked how references were done. There would be a phrase in colored text. Clicking on it took me to that endnote. Going back was just as easy. (Either the back arrow, or click on the colored text at the start of the endnote.)
A Kindle disappointment: The Table of Contents on an iPad had ten chapters, but on the Mac Kindle reader, instead of 10 chapters it just list Part 1 & Part 2.
In summary: Authentic Happiness is more engaging reading. This book gives some information on what has happened in the intervening nine years.
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.
“Flourish,” is both accessible theory and practical practice. PP is not “positive thinking.” Its not about changing your mind or thinking. It encompasses thinking, for sure, but it is extremely practical, empirically studied and supported by research. “Flourish,” provides a comprehensive overview of PP’s research on “Post-Traumatic Growth,” “Positive Education,” and “GRIT,” to name a few. And, “Flourish,” provides methods to develop well-being and happiness.
In particular Seligman provides a useful acronynm to help the reader develop a practical sense of PP. PERMA: P = Positive Emotion, E = Engagement, R = Positive Relationships / Relating, M = Meaning, and A = Accomplishment / Achievement.
Some time ago I wrote the following for my PP blog (garyshunk.com) to illustrante the “R” in PERMA:
[So…Erica arrives home from work and excitedly tells her husband, Jeff, “I got the promotion!” Jeff turns to Erica smiles and says, “WOW, that’s great! Tell me ALL about it.” He takes Erica by the hand and leads her to a chair and sits her down. Jeff places himself directly across from her, leans forward, gazes into his wife’s smiling face, and says, “OK, tell me.”
In that moment Jeff enters Erica’s world of joy with genuine, intentional and devoted interest. At points in her story, he asks, “What were you feeling when your boss told you?” “Tell me verbatim what you and your boss said to one another.” “What was your drive home like?” After an hour of wrapped attention, Jeff says, “Let’s celebrate,” and asks Erica where she’d like to go for dinner that evening.
The above is an illustration of Positive Relating, This is a Positive Psychology intervention. Imagine yourself on the receiving end. Erica is happy because of the good thing that happened to her today. When she arrives home, Jeff “actively,” and “constructively,” responds to Erica’s good news and her happiness. He puts his needs and agenda to the side and is 100% present, and curious about the good thing that happened to his wife. The outcome of Jeff’s investment is a gift for Erica, their marriage, their children and extended family, as well as their community because it magnifies happiness.
This illustration may seem cliche. But, it really takes intention and effort to be present for someone’s joy. When the investment happens, it deepens what is already there, extends the joy and happiness, as well as solidifies the relationship.]
Obviously I am a big fan of Marty Seligman. Nevertheless, I believe “Flourish,” is a great introduction to PP. You will discover PP is not “self help,” but rather a solid field of psychology with its foundation in empirical study and scientific research. As I like to say: there is no where PP is not applicable.