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Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being Paperback – February 7, 2012
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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
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The book is also interspersed by out-of-place asides on odd topics like "I'm not saying that veterans are necessarily FAKING having PTSD, but here's a bunch of facts that sure seem suspicious, huh?" and "People say that I helped the CIA to design torture programs but that's actually not a very nuanced understanding of the substantial assistance I granted them" and "One time this one lady in Australia wrote an op-ed criticizing my work and it really irritated me."
This book is more "that one older relative at your Thanksgiving dinner who rambles on and on" than it is Malcolm Gladwell. Disappointing, because a good edit could have excavated an interesting book out of this fossil matrix.
Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology's correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have:
* Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.),
* Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity),
* Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness),
* Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and
* Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).
Some reviews have criticized the lack of step by step plans. My guess is they did not do the work as outlined in Flourish on Seligman's website: [...]
A few of my favorite ideas from Flourish are:
* It is better to believe we are lucky than unlucky aka be optimistic.
* Describing success as being the result of work instead of luck. "You must have worked really hard to do that" vs "You got lucky."
* Avoiding PTSD in soldiers and others by implanting the idea & values of post traumatic growth.
* Citing basic research as proof of how concepts work. This gave the ideas vastly greater credibility over self-improvement gurus lacking research to support their theory de jour.
Few of these concepts are new: work hard; value relationships with others; be nice; etc. Most of Seligman's ideas are found in the world's great religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and others. They just did not have the PhDs back in the day to do studies on well-being like we do now.