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Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being Hardcover
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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.)
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Martin Seligman is the inventor of positive psychology and a major figure in the well-being movement. This makes him a significant figure in world culture. A happier society requires us to attend much more to the quality of our inner life, and to proven methods for improving it. This is important stuff. Observer I was immediately chamred. 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. Admirable and exciting. Sunday Times Since Martin Seligman launched the positive psychology movement more than a decade ago, his methods have attracted a global following, including David Cameron... The rise of 'positive psychology' has been all but unstoppable, with Seligman's book Authentic Happiness its key text... Now, in his book Flourish, happiness is out and well-being, or 'flourishing', is in. -- Matthew Kirk, British Ambassador to Finland Psychologies His most personal and boldest book so far... Seligman's book is a paean to applied science, a blue-print for how to translate empirical evidence from the laboratory to the real world... Unlike many authors, he offers detailed and tested solutions as well as compelling arguments for how societies can aim to raise the amount of positive emotion, meaning, good relationships and accomplishment in their citizens... Everyone stands to benefit from his initiatives. If they are happy, flourishing or enjoying well-being, people won't care about the labels that researchers attach to those good feelings. Nature Seligman describes several exercises that are easy to do and result in a significant and lasting effect on people's self-reported sense of well-being. (For example, each night, write down three things that went well that day and why.) Coming up with these exercises is high art - the description of their effect is compelling and left me promising myself to do them... readers who persevere will remember many of the points that Seligman made in this book - and will act on at least some of them... Some of his insights could really lead to greater well-being for society as a whole. -- Professor Richard Layard Huffington Post Martin Seligman did the world a service by focusing his profession's attention away from correcting negatives and towards promoting positives...flourishing is to be welcomed. Financial Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The field of positive psychology's main idea is that the focus of mental health has been for so long the elimination of psychological disorders and not much on the cultivation of living a richer life through a person's expression of her strengths and virtues. Positive psychology, then, is supposed to complement the traditional understanding of treating disorders with the additional goal of cultivating virtues and helping a person live a more flourishing life.
The theory of human nature that underlies positive psychology holds that people are forward- or goal-seeking individuals capable of dealing with stressors and disasters in life and concerned with increasing their well-being. And people are able to increase their well-being through positive emotion, engagement with the activities they do, positive relationships they have, and the achievements that result from the activities people engage in. These four components Seligman labels with the acronym PERMA. I'll break down PERMA to explain what each component is and how Seligman thinks you can better nourish these aspects of a life well lived.
1. Positive emotion. Positive emotion is just the set of happy feelings you have in any given day. And as we all know, these happy feelings can be produced by almost anything: eating a good meal, watching a good movie, having a good conversation with a friend, making love, and so on. For the record, though, the best research shows that nobody can much change their predisposition to conceive of events positively; it can only change by about 20 per cent, and this is because the predisposition is largely heritable. Suggestions. Seligman does make suggestions for increasing positive emotion, though, if only a little. And they are several. One is keeping a journal and writing in at night before you go to bed three good things you did that day and why you feel like they were good things. They can be the simplest things too. Another thing you can do is practice the A, B, C, D, E method with your negative thinking. How you do this is by writing down an action (A) that bothered you that day, the negative beliefs (B) you had about the situation, the feelings you have/had as a consequence (C), a demonstration, (D) of alternative ways to conceive of the event, and then an evaluation (E) of your thoughts and feelings afterward. The list goes on in terms of how you can improve your positive emotion, and you can read the book for the others.
2. Engagement. Engagement is the degree to which the activities you engage in are flowing, when time seems to pass and you're completely unaware, because you're so enthralled in the work you're doing. You can increase this sense of engagement by using your signature strengths during the things that you do. (If you're at all curious, what strengths you have, you can go to authentichappiness.org, sign up, and take the VIA test.)
3. Relationships. A basic way of improving relationships, Seligman reccommends, is by positively and constructively communicating with someone. If someone tells you something they did positive, for example, you can compliment that person and then ask more specific questions to find out about what it is they did. Something as simple as this increases relationships.
4. Achievement. What Seligman has to say about achievement is this. What a person really needs to do to perform well is the gumption to get up and do it and push away adversity. Seligman, somewhat commically, writes that if you want to be good at something, do it about 60 hours every week for 10 years.
All that I wrote here is just scanning the surface. There are a lot of good ideas in here.
Instead, I bought something that had an excellent intro chapter or two, but which then morphs into a something akin to a diary - what Marty did here and what Marty did there in establishing positive psychology at the university level and lots of hints about the programs Marty can put together for your organization, be it a school or army, and why that would be a good thing to do.
If you are a school principal or the Head of Department for Psychology at a tertiary education institution, this book may be a wonderful source for your presentation on why you want to get Positive Psychology going at your organisation. If you're just a person looking to improve your relationships, other books will be more helpful.
The best thing about the book is the generous references to the OTHER teachers at the monumentally expensive executive program Seligman put together - there I found a reference to an author who DOES talk exactly about what I wanted to hear. That book I bought also, and am very impressed with it.
It's a pity the book is put forward as a personal level, self-help book. After the first few chapters, it really becomes a mix of memoir and exec programme brochure.
However, it does point the buyer towards some other authors who focus on improving relationships in their books.
That comment is quite an oversell and is disingenuous at best.
I've genuinely been trying to give this book a fair chance, but so far fail to be sufficiently impressed. The content of the book argues for why "well being" is a better descriptor and goal than happiness in various settings and context, yet the author never seems to get around to the nuts and bolts of how that is accomplished. Rather, the book serves as more of a biographical memoir highlighting the events that brought forth the idea of "flourishing" and "well being," particularly in academic circles. With that, it also acts as a bit of a marketing-type grab for folks to toggle over to the UPenn website with the intent of having more participants fill out questionnaires that add to the database for research, all without any real benefit/feedback for the persons going through the effort of completing the material.
Seligman's general concept is well received, and he goes to great lengths to sell the idea, but it's an idea that is not well expounded by his writing here. I'd recommend folks wait until something more substantive is released with coherent details, and which holds merit beyond being a book length version of something that could have been covered via a quick magazine article.