Over a decade ago, Martin Seligman charted a new approach to living with "flexible optimism." Now, in his most stimulating and persuasive book to date, the bestselling author of Learned Optimism introduces the revolutionary, scientifically based idea of "Positive Psychology." Positive Psychology focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, asserting that happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Seligman teaches readers that happiness can be cultivated by identifying and using many of the strengths and traits that they already possess -- including kindness, originality, humor, optimism, and generosity. By frequently calling upon their "signature strengths" in all the crucial realms of life, readers will not only develop natural buffers against misfortune and the experience of negative emotion, they will move their lives up to a new, more positive plane. Drawing on groundbreaking psychological research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession's paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions. Our signature strengths can be nurtured throughout our lives, with benefits to our health, relationships, and careers. Seligman provides the Signature Strengths Survey along with a variety of brief tests that can be used to measure how much positive emotion readers experience, in order to help determine what their highest strengths are. The life-changing lesson of Authentic Happiness is that by identifying the very best in ourselves, we can improve the world around us and achieve new and sustainable levels of authentic contentment, gratification, and meaning.
Intellectual & Insightful Despite the fact that the field of Positive Psychology is new to me, Seligman managed to utilized his extensive intellect of the field & delivered a readable & insightful book. Along with various tools at the book's website, 'Authentic Happiness' offered me a lucid perspective about the power of positive choices; it also altered the way I view myself & others in a positive manner....more info
Be Positive It Works Every Time ! Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin Seligman is a book that tries to lead you on the road to happiness. According to the author happy people are healthier more creative and happily married than their unhappy counterparts. It true most studies indicate that. You're not going to fix weaknesses, it's better to incorporating your strengths like originality, humor and generosity into your everyday interactions with people according to Seligman. Some people just need a attitude adjustment. Kindness and faith are vital ingredients for a happy life.
After you read this book it may be a good time to consider reading my book entitled "The Enlightenment, What God Told Me After One Million Prayers, a Message for Everyone" (See Profile Above)
A must read if you're an intellectual looking for optimism I hate the tone of most self-help books. Too many are cloying, trite, and oh-too-clever while being devoid of hard research. I don't want to hear a happy "life coach" tell me how they became happy simply by looking on the bright side of life, and that I can, too. While that approach may have validity, how do I know it's not just one happy person's natural state?
This book, however, changed the way I look at happiness. Optimism, it turns out, is an important part of being happy, but there's so much more. This book also does the important work of revealing a role of psychology as no longer focusing on treating mental illnesses, but to also shed light on how anyone can live and think more positively. I can't recommend it enough. And look out for more books by Martin Seligman, as he's helped create a Positive Psychology movement we'll feel for years to come....more info
in the "run, don't walk" category The review from Aug 2002 does a nice job of going through the highlights of the book and so do not bear repeating. Instead, I would like to share with you the impact the book has had on me. Twice in the past 3 years, I have faced a significant crisis. Each time I have gone and read this book and come out feeling stronger, replinished and ready to take on life. I literally keep a cheat sheet of what Seligman postulates and read it every now and then. Its easy to dimiss what he says as common-sense or obvious. The basic tenets of good parenting, a good marriage and a good life are common sense-driven as well, yet so many of us fail at them so much of the time. I think of this book as one of life's instruction manuals. Read it and it all starts to make a little more sense....more info
long live positive psychology For years psychology has been about problems. And imho not to much use for the average person, as psychology most of the time weren't better than your wise old aunt anyway (most of time worse, actually).
Basicly, psychology dealt with a lot of more or less welldefined problems, which it then thought about curing. But psychology had little to say about life as it presented itself to the average person. By dealing with the relationship between positive emotions and win-win situations, and speculating that we may be on the threshold of an era of win-win games and good-felling - this book comes along way in making psychology interesting and relevant for the people of the 21'st century....more info
Surprisingly Superficial... Having read several of Seligman's other books, I was quite surprised by just how unsubstantial this book is. Largely ancedotal in nature, it provides little in the way of useful information on just how to make the changes necessary to achieve happiness. The chapter on raising children is downright silly- since Seligman apparently has no scholarly foundation on this topic, he fills the chapter with anecdotes about his own experiences in dealing with his four kids. What's particularly funny about this is that at the very end of the book he thanks his SIX children - what happened to the other two, or the first wife for that matter. One might argue it's personal and therefore not relevant, but since he insists on dragging his second family into this book so much, why not talk about the first? Finally, the whole concept of achieving authentic happiness is probably a lot more meaningful to someone who spends New Year's eve in the Yucatan on someone else's dime, or who contemplates the meaning of it all sitting poolside in the Bahamas. The final pages on his newfound concept of God read like some silly science fiction short story. This book is a serious misstep from someone who needs to get a foot back in the real world....more info
Tentative thoughts..... Admittedly I have not read this entire book in depth or done all of the excercises. I have skimmed it , read parts and done a couple of the excercises online just in case I found it to be worth the 26.00 dollars.I didn't. All in all it seems to me to be a quasi-religious,fuzzy notioned, naive tome of utopian collectivism.But what do I really think? Well for one I don't like his seeming endorsement of fundamentalist religion as indicitive of a superior method for happiness. This seems like the old ignorance is bliss arguement to me and he seems to endorse it. I'll take a little pessimism over arbritrary conformity and "playing by the rules" just to not encounter any "unhappiness".I think the cognitive guys have more to offer as in David Burns "Feeling Good" books and Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Therapy oriented books.One can bear a little unhappiness in the search for integrity and self-respect even if it means bucking the system and not being "Positive Polly"....more info
Pop Psychology by Pablum Reportage Reportage, or surveys of what groups of people believe, may be of interest, but then again not. Pablum, or reciting simplified ideas, similarly may or may not be of interest. This book is highly reductive reportage of pablum. It's very superficial, almost entirely vacuous, and in the end of little interest.
At least "How to Win Friends and Influence People," while highly artificial, stimulates ideas with which to work. Reportage of pablum does little, if anything, to suggest much of anything. The former at least makes a stab at improving skills, the latter basically suggests positive outlooks generally result in more positive outcomes. Not always, but usually. Think positively, and you'll likely see things in a positive light. People who think positively seem to be happier. At least, that's what most people report. Building on one's strengths and avoiding one's weaknesses also produces better outcomes. Positive emotions have evolved to motivate and guide us in win-win games of life. Is any of this not already intuitive? But is any of it really genuine? For example, bad things happen to good people, but giving the bad things a positive spin in order not to get in a funk about life seems a tad bit simplistic and very unrealistic.
Positive thinking is the "substance" of Seligman's "positive psychology," which purports "yet another revolutionary idea . . . by cultivating and nurturing traits we already possess -- including kindness, originality, humor, optimism and generosity." There's absolutely nothing revolutionary about any of this. And what 7 out of 10 people think does not cut it if we're one of the other 3. And who cares what other people think? If 7 out of 10 people report "happiness" at eating highly-processed, fat-laden foods, should I too? And spinning something horrific, unpleasant, unfortunate, etc. as positive seems entirely disengenuous and patently false.
There's nothing wrong about Seligman's perspective that thinking positively won't change. But life comes with a plethora of emotions, not all of which are "positive," and we have them because the "positive" amotions are not the only emotions we use to evaluate life. Thinking that harm, ill-health, death, etc. are positive stages in life isn't facing being human. Sorrow, anger, frustration, and the so-called "negative" emotions can, and do, serve a purpose, or nature would not have formed them in us. Camoflaging or concealing hurt, sorrow, regret, disappointment, etc. with a "positive" sheen just isn't "authentic," and I'd rather be authentic in the moment, than false over a lifetime. PASS....more info
Well researched Rather than repeat what others have said, I am grateful that Dr. Seligman has provided new insight into the art of being happy. He draws from his vast research on depression, optimism and pessimism to render a different approach to finding genuine happiness. A must read....more info
Eye-opening and thought-provoking, well written: a must read for anyone interested in the field! In this well-written, very accessible book, Martin Seligman points out that traditional psychology has always focused on the pathology of the human condition: illness and trauma. By understanding more about what makes people exceptionally well - happy, positive, optimistic - and recognizing that those who have these characteristics are more likely not only to have rewarding lives, but also to be successful in the world, Seligman believes that those who are naturally pessimistic or focused on the down-side can shift their perspective and become happier people.
While this is not a self-help book per se, it does offer tools - including a series of self-evaluations (also available at the Authentic Happiness website) - to help readers understand their strengths and how they can adjust their own viewpoint to become happier.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in positive psychology and the power of positive thinking. This book is grounded in solid research; it's not "fluffy" in any way!...more info
Good but Not to the Last Drop Martin Seligman is a pioneer in the Positive Psychology movement and I think his work has done a great deal of good, especially in attempting to establish a balance between the emphasis on mental illness and mental health. I think his teachings on fighting pessimism have also done a lot of good. I enjoyed and value his presentation on focussing on personal strengths and virtues, and how using these in various areas of your life can lead to personal happiness. His thesis suggests that you can accept your shortcomings and fashion your career and other personal choices around your strengths. I especially appreciate his differentiation between pleasures and gratifications, and how the latter support long-term happiness. If his work had stopped here I would have given him 4 stars, simply to account for the fact that some significant portions of what he claims, and he says so himself, are not fully based on scientific evidence, but on his own practical experience in his life. I reduced his rating to a three for the same reason that other reviewers rated him low. He ventures into an area where he is clearly not proficient - the existence of God. The chapter that includes this seems like a transcript of a conversation with the author of NonZero was slapped on at the end, and it provides poor argumentation for Seligman's position. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend it for the value of the first 90 percent of the book....more info
This is a keeper! I've found this book to be enormously provocative and personally very helpful. I'm not a mental health professional but Seligman's ideas ring true for me. I've highly recommended it to all my relatives and friends! Two enthusiastic thumbs up!...more info
Authentic Happiness? Not Hardly... Unfortunately, Martin Seligman's atheism permeates every page of this book making it not only offensive towards Christians like myself but wholly depressing as well. After the first chapter or two, I couldn't take any more of his propaganda and so I skipped to the end to see what his conclusions might be. Flatly refusing in a supernatural God who can intervene into his creation to produce miracles, Seligman's conclusion is that the natural result of evolution (which expands upon Darwin's original theory on natural selection and mutation of organisms to encompass society and institutions) will produce a perfect society free from poverty and crime that resembles "God." This utopia being the result of "win-win" scenarios is the only "God" that Seligman believes in, and his authentic happiness is rooted in part in this optimism about mankind's future society.
Needless to say, this mumbo jumbo (based on "scientific" studies like looking at someone's picture in a high-school yearbook to predict how long they would live) not only insulted my intelligence and my faith, but it made me angry that I had paid hard earned money for this book. I am taking it back to the store tomorrow so that Seligman and Simon & Schuster will not see a penny....more info
Dangerous Pop Psychology Claptrap Shame on Dr. Martin Seligman. Following in the footsteps of Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, he has abandoned legitimate science and moved into the touchy-feely realm of self-help psychology, by appealing to people's thirst for easy answers to difficult life problems. Having been down that road many times with the aforementioned authors, I suggest avoiding said road like the plague! Life does not offer easy answers. Changing attitudes and behavior is hard work, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a charlatan.
By contrast, Dr. Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Therapy, is a brilliant scientist - I repeat, SCIENTIST - who built a school of psychology one brick at a time - through careful research and testing. Dr. Beck NEVER gave people a false sense of optimism. Seligman on the other hand wants to reap the rewards and achieve celebrity by appealing to people's mania for easy answers....more info
happiness requires work! Although this book actually requires some real work, I think it definitely offers some wonderful methodologies to make you happier. ...more info
The Starting Point To Finding Happiness Dr. Seligman's book should be the first read on any list of books to help in finding happiness. Dr.Seligman is one of the recognized world experts on what contributes to happiness. He provides tests in the book and also on the authentichappiness.com website to help the reader identify her/his "signature strengths". They are those characteristics that are our truest strongpoints. He suggests trying to incorporate as many of them as possible into our daily lives and paying less attention to other characteristics that aren't our strong suit.
Naturally, the book is very helpful not only in finding happiness in everyday life, but also as an important tool to guide in career selection. I review the basics concepts of this book with my college management students each semester. Other reviews I've done provide a fuller listing of many excellent happiness and kindness self-help books, but it seems sensible to me to start with this book. It's only logical to identify what our strongest traits are upfront so we can bring them into play in relationship to the wise advice contained in his book and in others I've listed. ...more info
New-to-me research and perspectives While I can't say this book has profoundly changed me, it definitely has provided fuel for thought, and one I would recommend, particularly when he shares data about what is (e.g., that about 50% of our emotional 'set point' appears to be genetic) and what could be changed (e.g., some of his exercises that can increase positive feelings). Too many of the other authors that other reviewers have mentioned are touting their own thoughts, not necessarily research based. I liked his distinctions between the various domains of positive emotions (past, present, and future), and how they need to be looked at differently. I didn't care for his agnostic/atheist stance, but I found it easy to ignore. At times I found his habit of alternating between scholary writing and 'dear diary' style irritating; at other times interesting. I certainly would follow his recommendation to take the various tests online, vs on paper. I've found the online email newsletter to be of interest....more info
From a person who was once very unhappy... I believe this book goes a long way toward directing those who are still seeking happiness at a feeling level. But, in order to be totally fulfilled we have to get over our (narcissistic) need to always look at our transient feelings as any indications of how we are doing. I completely disagree with Dr. Seligman's statements on our 'set points.' I used to be chronically unhappy. I moved so far beyond that 'set point' that I do not even remember who I used to be. I think that 'set points' are an unecessary perspective in such a happy book. I asked a teacher who has helped me greatly in shifting my perspective. Here is part of his response:
"I see 'set points' as emotionally determined. As long as an individual qualifies and quantifies their happiness by the presence or absence of particular thoughts or emotions, then, I agree with Dr. Seligman, and they are `not likely to take long leaps in either direction from such a set point'. However, when such introspection is replaced by acceptance and surrender, regardless of the presence of particular thoughts and emotions, then the individual will uncover the root of authentic happiness, which is Joy. Then boundless leaps are possible." This quote was used with permission from Mick Quinn (Author: Power and Grace - The Four Steps of Evolving Consciousness)
Positively Disturbing This is the first time I have written a review. In this particular case, I felt it was my responsibility to forewarn potential readers of the disturbing contents of this book. I've read several "self help" books on subjects ranging from introversion to optimistic thinking. I found this book to be of little help and quite disturbing. The book is filled with tests and self evaluations. I do not believe it is necessary to know where one falls on the optimist/pessimist scale. Often, such tests can only further depress or make anxious an already vulnerable reader. In Chapter 5, the author uses an extremely horrific and disturbing story to illustrate a five step process to forgiveness. I was further sickened by the author's list of "bodily pleasures" in Chapter 7. Rather than feeling uplifted by this book, I found myself feeling upset and outraged by the author's egotism, ignorance, perversion and insensitivity. I caution anyone seeking advice on optimism ...more info
Leading the Way to a Happier Future Marty Seligman is the leader of the emerging field of Positive Psychology. Finally, psychologists are focusing on what works instead of what is broken. In this highly readable book, the author shares the latest research on happiness and what creates it. I suspect many of the negative reviews were written by pessimists and traditional psychotherapists whose voodo therapy probably does more harm than good. Its true that this is a new field but its significance could change the course of the world. If we all focused on creating positive emotions instead of material wealth, we could transform Earth into a happier and more sustainable planet. Thanks Marty, the people of Earth need your leadership and compassion....more info
Interesting Prespective This CD has an interesting prespective on happiness. I tried one of the things suggested about sharing with someone how their life has impacted yours. It was a delightful experience. ...more info
On-target wisdom for our time Martin Seligman's Positive Psychology is just what the doctor ordered! We've been waiting for a way to release ourselves from the hold of the painful past and to feel optimistic about the future, despite recession, wars, disappointing candidates, and all the other angst that visits the thoughtful. In refreshing, candid tones, he turns psychology on its head and points it in the right direction, one we can willingly follow. His work helps us find our own strengths, and even more significant, find meaning and purpose in our lives by applying those strengths. Happiness is the natural byproduct of this process, making the investment of time and thought necessary to read and apply the book a most rewarding investment indeed. If you're searching for satisfaction, whether in work or in love, this will be a generous, kindly, clear, and forgiving guide....more info
A Solid CD Program I'm always looking for CDs to listen during my communte. A friend suggested this program as having some good ideas.
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....more info
Happiness it is! I used this book for a course I took and it was very informative. I enjoyed learning about how to evaluate one's frame of mind and look at things in a more positive light. Using our core strengths is definitely a must, in order to live to our full potential....more info
The original book on happiness is worth a read Seligman is the father of "positive psychology," a branch of psychology that focuses on building on the positive elements of a person's life rather than spending time working through past traumas and challenges. Seligman describes a number of key principles of positive psychology in an interactive manner. For example, there are two self-assessments in the book that determine how much of an optimist you are and identify your "signature strengths". Seligman also includes exercises that can increase your happiness level and personal stories that bring the concepts to life. While this book doesn't summarize the scope of happiness research the way other books (like Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt or Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar), the reason is that this book is the foundation of the other research and, as such, is a good primer on Positive Psychology....more info
An extremely worthwhile book As a psychologist, I completely understand Martin Seligman's drive to free psychology from its obsession with negativity. Freud, he writes, made many people "unduly embittered about their past and unduly passive about their future," while clinical psychology focussed on diagnosing and treating mental disorders. In his new book, Authentic Happiness, Seligman goes a long way towards breaking psychology free from its love affair with pathology and replacing it with a far more positive approach.
I don't know of anyone with better credentials to guide readers through what psychology has discovered about happiness. Seligman's own research has contributed greatly to our understanding of the entire range of human experience from profound depression to "abundant gratification." His early, groundbreaking studies of learned helplessness provided great insight into inescapable trauma as a major source of helplessness and depression. He went on to study "learned optimism" as a powerful antidote to depression--his earlier book by that name is invaluable.
Now, Seligman sets out to provide readers with the insights and tools from the relatively new field of positive psychology. He does this with a rich mixture of anecdotes, personal revelations and research. In addition, he provides frequent self-assessments and exercises. I think that almost anyone who takes the time to read what Seligman has to say, who takes and thinks about the self assessments, and who does the exercises, will start thinking and acting in ways that lead to lasting happiness.
It's important to realize that Seligman is not a self-help guru by any stretch of the imagination. He is a leading research psychologist who builds on solid experimental findings. (Although the book is vividly written for the most part, at times Seligman's reliance on research findings slows things down.) Still, he is also devoted to the idea of making those often dry experiments as meaningful and useful as possible. He doesn't promise limitless bliss, but what he does offer may actually be reachable by ordinary, unenlightened people like us.
Early in the book Seligman makes the point that pleasure in itself is not the road to happiness. As we all know, pleasure is fleeting, and pursuing it can easily turn into addiction or futility. Instead Seligman identifies and values a set of nearly universal virtues which he believes lead to deep and lasting gratification. These include wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, spirituality and transcendance. "The good life," he writes, "is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification."
What I liked most about this book is that it made me feel good about myself, other people, and the "simple" virtues that make up much of the fabric of life, but which are often ignored and devalued. Kindness, tolerance, competence, interpersonal skills, a work ethic, and faith emerge as vital ingredients of a good, gratifying, happy life.
Authentic Happiness is not a miracle cure for all unhappiness. It is, however, a wise, well-informed, and extremely valuable guide to a more grounded, heartfelt and gratifying life.
Robert Adler, Author of _Sharing the Children: How to Resolve Custody Problems and Get on With Your Life_(1988, 2nd. Ed. 2001), and _Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation_ (2002)....more info
Test your happiness levels and learn what can inffluence them I had expected more scientific research supporting the book's thesis, than mere happiness surveys or tests about how people feel and their moods in specific situations. Soon I realized that my expectations could hardly be met, since fortunately happiness is one of the most subjective issues and although objective factors like wealth and health have an inffluence on it, every individual has his personal (maybe genetic or maybe learned) patterns or attitudes towards life.
The book contains all tests performed to many people from different countries so you can answer them yourself to rate your levels of optimism, happiness, etc., which is interesting per se. The shown results give interesting data about which factors have a greater inffluence on happiness, always showing that specific circumstances alter the results. For example, persons that have had a successful surgery in their recent past (which is a sign of illness) are happier than healthy ones. (One might wonder!)
The book explains happiness as coming from the past, the future and the present, for example satisfaction comes from our past; optimism, hope and meaning are oriented towards the future and living every moment intensely (physical joy coming from the senses) as well as engaging in activities that fulfill you (entering in a "flow" state) come from the present.
I had first skipped the section on kids, since having no children myself, I had no interest in the topic. After reading the rest of the book, I returned to this part and found it extremely interesting, indeed one of the best parts of the book. Maybe more experienced persons can refute the author's propositions, as apparently is the case, still I find this section worth reading and worth judging by yourself.
The last chapter is related to finding a meaning in your life, but it is full of tortuous philosophical arguments for a kind of religion without God. I do not believe it will help anybody to find a meaning in life and on top, the arguments are extremely difficult to follow. Better look for meaning somewhere else.
One of the books main thesis is that you can achieve happiness by doing things that make you happy. These are things that have a meaning or are significant to you or by "submerging" yourself into an activity to fall in a so called "flow" state. For people interested in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience I could probably recommend Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi's book on the topic, unfortunately I can't, because I have not read it yet (although I will, since his book is one of the most quoted by authors of totally different fields). Instead I will recommend First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently and its sequel Now, Discover Your Strengths. These "management style" books tell you why sticking to your strengths makes you happier than insisting on doing things in which you are not good at....more info
This is science? Professor Seligman addresses his audience in two distinct costumes. In the first, he wears the white lab coat of the scientist, and he presents findings in the form of regularities across population groups: this empirical data is descriptive, in that it relates what is the case and makes no exhortations as to what should be the case; it is also objective, in that it relies on a methodology that allows another scientist to potentially duplicate the findings. Seligman's second costume is that of the sage, or archetypal wise man, so that he can be seen as wearing flowing orange robes, or a comfortable tweed jacket, or the vestments of a cleric or rabbi: in such garb he tells us what should be the case; the methodology here is such that it positively invites disagreement - consensus is neither necessary nor presumed; instead of relating what humans do in fact strive for, he instructs us as to what humans should strive for.
If Professor Seligman wore each of these two outfits in turn, then his performance would be clear and comprehensible. However, he changes costume frequently, and without warning, and he often speaks as if dressed in an odd combination of both - white lab coat thrown over black cassock, his stethoscope tangled with his tzitzis. The scientist starts to sound like the preacher-man. This is not just confusing, it is deliberately misleading.
As a scientist, Seligman is helpful and informative. In an appendix, he provides the bones of a conceptual analysis of the term `happiness'. He dissects the term along several axes: firstly, by temporal direction - whether the happiness is seen as of the past, the present, or the future; secondly, by sensory or reflective faculty - whether the happiness is purely sensual, or whether it requires the engagement of rational processes; and lastly, along the axis of passivity versus activity - whether it is passively experienced by the subject, or whether the subject actively engages in behaviour which engenders, or even constitutes, happiness. This analysis might be incomplete, but it is useful as far as it goes. If you like, he distinguishes various `sub- types' of happiness. These `sub-types' can co-exist, and conflict, within an individual - thus it makes sense to say that an individual is `unhappy' with regards his/her past, but `happy' in the present; or `unhappy' sensually, but `happy' in terms of the activity that is being performed (say an athlete in great pain on approaching the finishing line of a race). By making these distinctions, Seligman makes it possible to comprehend the results of the studies he cites.
The studies themselves are interesting. Most of them track a sub-type of happiness that involves the reflective faculties, and which is directed towards the past - answers to questions along the lines of, `How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?'. As an example: one might expect that as a nation becomes economically wealthier, its inhabitants would respond to such a question more positively - the average `happiness' of the citizens would increase. Not so. If you sample the physically healthier segment of the population, they would on average be `happier' than those ill, surely? No. The beautiful, as opposed to the plain - happier? No. And so on. All these counter-intuitive findings are intriguing and, given that the limitations of the methodology are spelt out, uncontroversial. You can, if you wish, call these scientific findings, or at least statistical ones.
The problems begin when Seligman, or anyone for that matter, tries to do something with these findings. Seligman suggests that it is `better' to be happy. One can well ask, "Better in what way?". Seligman's answer has several strands. The most prominent is an appeal to self-evidence - he presumes that it is a ubiquitous human trait that humans prefer to be happy. His auxillary strands have happiness as conducive to a human society that is more productive (in some sense), more peaceful, and more knowledgable. His answer might be said to rely on common sense, or on uncommon practical wisdom, but it certainly does not rely on scientific method. Relatedly, he cites six ubiquitous virtues, gleaned from reading over thirty texts of traditional repute - while many other virtues are mentioned, these six are common to all. He then commends these six virtues, apparently the consensus of the thirty texts lending them the authority to be regarded as prescriptive. As a methodology this might well be pragmatic, but again it is not distinctively scientific. As a scientist, Professor Seligman presents the findings - but when he champions an increase in the amount of individual or collective happiness he does so not as a scientist, but as an ordinary citizen, or, perhaps, as a citizen who has read the wisdom of the ages.
Taking this analysis in a slightly different direction, one can ask what `sub-type' of happiness should be prioritized. Seligman's own taxonomy has made it possible to be happy in one way, while unhappy in another, so the question arises which type of happiness is most important. Here Seligman suggests that the `gratifications' trump the `pleasures' - that is, happiness involving the rational faculties and reflection is more important than happiness consisting of sensual pleasure alone; and that `active' happiness, that is behaviour that actually constitutes `happiness', holds a higher priority than a passively experienced subjective feeling of happiness. He goes further and claims that even more important is `meaning', this vague concept being said to arise when a human's activities (presumably happy ones) are connected to `something larger'. Again, one can either endorse or reject Seligman's ranking of the various sub-types of happiness, along with his claims in regard `meaning', but this is in no way a `scientific' dispute. No study can be cited, nor no experiment performed, to prove Seligman right or wrong. His speculations come from the armchair, an armchair where he has no doubt read many secular and sacred texts, but an armchair nonetheless.
While the paragraphs above mention claims which are, at least at first blush, plausible, Seligman also makes claims that are immediately disputable. Several reviewers have rightly taken issue with his advice about child-rearing. His speculations regarding God appearing as the culmination of some evolution of the universe are similarly unconvincing. Strangely, Seligman wishes to bolster his claims with weak gestures towards `science' - as previously, his topics here are, prima facie, not amenable in any way to scientific investigation, so how `science' is meant to intervene is utterly unclear. He uses the word `science' as some unspecified ultimate authority, almost as if he were appealing to a deity himself.
Occupying a territory somewhere between his more outlandish claims and his accounts of the responses to questionnaires, there is his account of `signature strengths'. This is laid out as if it were a quasi-scientific classification, as per genus and species in biology. Actually, the system here is one of Seligman's own invention, one which might prove practically useful, but one which is underdetermined by the objective data - one could, with equal validity, classify personality traits in any number of ways - it remains to be seen whether Seligman's classificatory systems attracts more adherents than the poet W.B.Yeats' theory of 28 personality types, and whether it is incorporated into a practice that could be justifiably termed scientific. Furthermore, Seligman's advice to cultivate the one or two `signature strengths' is not a piece of advice based on any established science, but the practical suggestion of a thoughtful man.
In this book, the actual recounting of scientific findings is limited. The problematic assumptions behind these findings are barely discussed. The `self-improvement' fraction of the book is extensive, and oracular - it is also, in part, misleadingly disguised as being directly implied by the findings and, consequently, `authorized' by `science'. The vast bulk of the book is actually Professor Seligman's personal recommendations for living a better life. You might care to listen to him, or you might prefer to listen to Buddha, or your local pastor, or to Robert Nozick, or Fyodor Dostoevsky, or to your mum and dad, or, and this gets my vote for what it's worth, to as many sources of wisdom as time allows. ...more info
Discovering And Leading The Good Life This is an important book. Dr. Seligman is the pioneer of positive psychology, which represents a distinct paradigm shift in relation to pathology based theories and therapies. Lasting fulfillment, it seems, does not come from what we've been told by the forces that have shaped us, including Madison Avenue.We need to learn what our "signature strengths" are and then practice utilizing them in our day to day lives.This is not a self-help book although it could be used as such. This is a scholarly exploration of what produces happiness, and it will be very helpful to practicing psychotherapists, psychology students, and those who want to obtain optimal joy and well-being....more info
About meaning of life Your book has provided concrete steps that can manifest our happiness in life. Thanks for your great work.
One thought about the chapter you have discussed about the meaning of life, that something which is bigger than our selves.
Our true nature itself is that something bigger than life and oneness with the universe. And it is beyond our mind and body. The meaning of our life, in my thinking, is to grow and to learn to reach that ultimate truth of life and serving people to do so in the process. And that state of truth is peaceful, perfect, and luminous....more info
A Useful and Entertaining Book We are lucky that a heavy weight in experimental psychology has taken an interest in these areas. It took someone of Seligman's stature to marshal the funding and qualified manpower in order to study the areas of positive emotion and strengths of character. I'm not sure I agree that psychology has done enough to study pathology, but I do believe that it is high time that we begin to spend more time and resources in an effort to understand how people who lead highly satisfying lives do so.
His formula describing happiness makes sense. It is interesting that experimental psychology is coming to the same conclusion as so many philosophers have, that in an effort to lead the good life, striving after pleasures along leave us coming up short. Seligman does't deride pursuing pleasure, in fact, he gives us some assistance getting the most from sensory pleasures, but he points toward the matching of signature strengths to opportunities as the primary source of happiness that is under our control. This does not surprise me as it seems to be an example of consiliance among many thinkers from Dewey, to Rogers and Maslow to Csikszentmihalyi not to mention the many philosophers that have reached the conclusion by more absract means.
His website has many useful tests that are scored with lightning speed and that give you comparitive data about thousands of others who have taken the same test. The only question I have about all this data his is compiling and basing his research on is how does he rule out the desire to be socially approved. I found myself struggling with some questions in an effort to distinguish between what I strive to be like, or what I would like to be like and where I actually am at currently.
Therapists, folks in the self-help market and many others will find much that is useful in this book that looks like it will the the first and most general of a field that one hopes is taking its first toddler steps....more info
good advice This book provides practical advice backed up by research. It states clearly what actions and beliefs are needed in order to have a happy and fulfilled life. ...more info
Seligman's Online Site Beats the Book I heard about this book on NPR a few months ago and checked out the companion website (authentichappiness.org) before buying the book. The site has 17 questionnaires on happiness, optimism, relationships, emotion, and Seligman's trademark Values in Action Signature Strengths. You can take these tests days or weeks apart and track your progress. It's an excellent site and does the job of prompting you to buy the book.
The book just isn't as strong as the site. As noted it other reviews it's part autobiography, part research report and part self-help book. You'll get formulas like H = S + C + V (H is enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, v is voluntary variables) and lots of self-congratulatory stories about Seligman's friends, colleagues, wife and kids. Not that any of that's bad, but I have to wonder if his editor didn't ask him "Are you sure you want to include this?"
Single greatest reminder of something I knew but had forgotten: "You can't change your past, but you can change your perception of it."...more info
too much info makes it Confusing This book has a lot of information in it. However, it is just too much for the book to be very useful in real life. I found this book to be one of the hardest to look up a quote or piece of information later. Which really negates all the useful information in there. If you can't find it, it's of no use. And it was absolutely packed with quizzes. I personally like quizzes, but I could not get my husband to read a word because it was too quiz-oriented. I recommend "Learned Optimism" over this book....more info
And intelligent book that makes your more hopefull I think this is a long over due look at a subject (happiness) in the light of all the recent developments in cognitive psychology, neuroscience as well as traditional psychoterapy. And it's written in a language accessible to lay persons. Good read plus highly useful and practical insights into all aspects of life including realtionships. Recommned reading to all thinkers and non-thinkers too. ...more info
Well Worth the Read Dr. Seligman is renowned in this area of study and his book is both insightful and inspirational. It gives a clear and helpful perspective on this things called happiness.
Paul Coleman, author of "The 30 Secrets of Happily Married Couples"...more info
Joshua This book has been life changing for me. I strongly disagree with the author's stances on a few psychoanalytical subjects and view of the nature of God, but the vast majority of its content I believe is accurate and know has made my life happier. I personally recommend reading Aristotle's book(s) of philosophy before reading this one, I think doing so will help the reader get more out it. ...more info
Another valuable self-improvement manual by Seligman As a psychologist myself and a big fan of Seligman's previous self-help work, Learned Optimism, I was eager to read this book. Authentic Happiness is based on the Positive Psychology movement, or the idea that psychologists should be helping people feel more happy rather than simply less unhappy. Well-respected psychologist Seligman has a gift for taking years of psychology research and breaking it down into readable yet still compelling evidence to support his theories. He begins with reviewing the components that can affect happiness and how we can work to change these factors with respect to our past, present, and future.
The meat of the book, however, lies in Seligman's notion of Signature Strengths, which he views as keys to more lasting fulfillment. Seligman focuses in particular on how to enhance your signature strengths in the areas of love, work, and raising your children (based on many examples from his own child-rearing experiences). He concludes the book by shifting into a slightly more spiritual perspective to discuss attaining a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Seligman is practical in addition to being philosophical, and thus the book contains many self-tests (all of which can also be found on his web site) as well as plenty of practical advice. Overall, however, this book didn't quite resonate with me in the same way that Learned Happiness did, and although I've frequently recommended Learned Happiness to my clients, I see this newer work as being appropriate for a more limited audience. Still, for anyone who chooses to read this book, Seligman's engaging writing style is sure to make it worth your while, and those who are truly motivated to pursue happiness in their lives are likely to benefit enormously....more info
Not even one half complaint. I got the book just a few days after the purchase and it was in new condition as described. Perfect transaction....more info
A true "how-to" book for happiness Much research has shown that people have a set range of happiness, and they're likely to stay within this set range throughout their lives, returning to it over and over again. Dr. Seligman proposes a slightly different way of looking at this situation and represents it with the following equation: H = S + C + V where H is your overall current happiness, S is your set range, C is the influence of current life events, and V represents those factors under your voluntary control. His idea is that while you can't really change your set range, you can set yourself up to experience the highest part of that range a much greater portion of the time.
He believes you can do this by altering how you view your life (past, present and future), using psychological strategies to make your life more pleasant, and discovering and using to the fullest what he calls your "signature strengths."
The research in this book is quite methodical and solid. Seligman systematically lays out the details of dozens of studies (at least!) and decades of research by luminaries and students alike. This is a thick book. Not dry, thankfully, and not inaccessible, but definitely thick. It isn't something you can skim in two hours and be done with; it takes some time to read through, digest, and absorb. This is not a bad thing. Everything is explained with care and attention to detail.
This is an immensely practical and helpful book. It doesn't just talk about happiness; it provides concrete strategies backed up by thorough research that can help you to improve your happiness and your satisfaction with your life. This truly is a how-to book on happiness. The research is solid, careful, and well-thought-out. Dr. Seligman, a self-avowed pessimist, makes it easy for non-optimists to see and understand his points; unlike many optimists he doesn't boil it down to a simple "cheer up!" but instead gives us critical evidence and practical strategies. This is a courageous, in-depth, thoughtful, and highly helpful book for just about anyone from a brilliant researcher. I have no hesitation in recommending it, and will probably be passing it on to several people I know....more info
On the road to happiness Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, was a fascinating book on the scientific advances behind the lighter side of humanity. The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman is a true believer that we can all find happiness in our lives. The trick is that you have to work for it. But he does not leave it at that. The pages are brimming with personality tests and techniques for improving your happiness. This book changed my life, and I highly recommend it to anyone who feels like happiness is just a myth. I am looking forward to reading another book of Mr. Seligman's called Learned Optimism. ...more info
Right at the top! Definitely on my recommended book list. A must read for women in business.
The Success Coach for Women in Business
a decent book on an important topic Seligman has chosen to address a very important topic- namely how we should pursue happiness- and does a decent job providing answers. The main message I took home is that if you pursue meaningful activities that use your "signature strengths", you will achieve happiness in the process. Seligman also fills the book with quite a bit of fluffy psychology and terms which I didn't find too informative. Nonetheless, this book is well worth reading. Avery Z. Conner, author of "Fevers of the Mind"....more info
"Some great theories and self-tests" I saw the book and the CD in the library and opted for the CD. Good choice. Some time ago I started reading "Learned Optimism", also by Seligman. I never finished reading it, even though it was an excellent book. Authentic Happiness adresses the things in our lives that produce the most happiness as well as those things that bring us down. One of the biggest insights for me, even though I've heard it and read it many times: Don't work on or worry about your weaknesses, rather, increase your strengths! This is a difficult assignment for a perfectionist. Are you a "glass is half-full", or "half-empty" person? Which ever you are, can you change? Seligman brought a lot of deep, soul-searching questions into play. He also offers a web-site including self-tests, to find out where you stand in the happiness line of life. I don't know whether I'd ever read this book, however, I would like to listen to the audio program again. Positive stuff!...more info
Good point tough read The book is very good and has excellent points BUT the text is dense for a pop psychology book and only a Psychology student would understand some of the points made. ...more info
cruel fake emotions one should be prohibited to sell garbage like this. good only for the pockets of the one who aimed at reaching poor souls and tested on poor dogs. SHAME ON YOU MR!!!...more info
Speculative + Unscientiific + Self-absorbed = Disappointing The biggest problem with Seligmanys book is it is not based on real science. His experiments consists of asking people whether they are happy. This is like asking a male teenager about his sex life. The results will not be that accurate.
The problem with surveys are many. People all have different criterion about what will qualify as happiness. It may be absence of pain for one and a state of bliss for another. Defining of these vague terms does not seem to be done very clearly in his work. Other problems that may result is that people often delude themselves about how happy they are or simply lie on the survey for whatever reason. In addition a question may be present to measure a trait but the wording of the question or the causal connection of the question to the trait is unsupported. In other words, just because this person answered this question this way does not mean the trait is necessarily reflected in that person. Thereys a lot of subjectivity and interpretation going on. A better way to do this is have physiological indicators that correlate to happiness. People would be hooked up to wires, put through different experiences, and their levels of happiness measured. However, all we get are questionnaires which really prove nothing. This means all the conclusions from experiments done from surveys (which I believe are all of them) must be looked at with a grain of salt and not taken as gospel. I would think the general conclusions such as married people are happier than single people are probably true, but I would be suspicious of the numbers telling what percentage are happy and how much happier they are.
Seligman has this happiness formula that he either simply created out of thin air or is based on his survey experiments. Since the validity of survey experiments are questionable, Iym skeptical about the formula as well.
He also talks about his life, how he met his wife, how he chose his profession, his various hobbies, his kids, how he met his colleagues. Other non fiction-writers do this too, especially yself-helpy authors. I wish they wouldnyt. It is irrelevant, uninteresting, indulgent and self-absorbed. I did not pick up the book to read their autobiography.
Seligman argues that you will be happier if you engage in more activities that creates yflowy and which you innately are good at. Basically it means you will be happier if you do stuff you like. Unfortunately, most of his insights do not go any deeper than this. He creates these 24 strengths that he found from combing through religions, cultures, and important texts in the pass. I hope most scientists would not do it this way. He divides and categorizes. People will find this interesting, because they like taking quizzes and tests to find out more about themselves. However, the real probative value is minimal. All the problems with surveys I mentioned above apply to the surveys measuring what amount of these 24 strengths you have. His work would be more valid to me if good scientific testing derived these 24 strengths rather than him collecting them.
His chapter on meaning and purpose which you think would intricately be linked to happiness has hardly anything to do with it and his more him talking about his colleagues and some get together. Get to the point! He has this gratitude exercise which is hoaky and sentimental.
In conclusion, the book is not really insightful or helpful and probably has nothing in it that will make anyone any happier. If by chance someone does become happier, I doubt this book will have anything to do with it. Like philosophers of old and Jung and Freud, he is speculating and making stuff up with the smallest backbone of science behind it. Speculation may be interesting and fun but is not science and it is usually not helpful. I really wanted to like this book and wanted scientific data on happiness so I may better understand it and achieve more of it, but I didnyt get that. Quite a disappointing book....more info
A novel approach This book begins with a bang and got me very motivated. However, Mr. Seligman lost my favor in the later chapters which became or were at least interpreted by me as a bit preachy and self-righteous. I've read many such books and liked the focus on the positive. In the later chapters the message I received was that if you don't do A, B, or C then you are a bad person doomed to a life of unhappiness. So buy the book or don't but stop before the second half and you'll get more out of it....more info
Two Steps Further Although I'm not a psychologist (but a dilettante one), in the course of life, I have encountered my share of obstacles. In trying to cope with them, I attended to traditional psychoanalysis for some time. It's OK, if you have the patience - and time and money - to dig in the depths of your infancy or the long development of your personality. Besides, all the psychoanalytic theory comes originally from the ideas of a man. A brilliant e insightful man, at that (others not so brilliant came afterwards). But his doctrine is punctuated with flaws, like the famous theory of imprisoned passions. There are many people who live with that firm belief and, what is worse, live up to them.
Theorists of cognitive-behavior school, on the other hand, have reached the next step. With a therapy that focus on specific problems (eg. a lost of a child), they teach you how to think - and act - accordingly, if you are not to become a mental sick. ("What's to gain in thinking about your loss?"). It, too, has its limitations, of course. Serious mental or personality disorders almost always require medication, as well as more specialized treatment.
With the positive psychology of Martin Seligman, the discipline has reached the zenith. Although not intended, its lessons have almost become a way to sanctification. Understand me. This is not a warning for you not to open his books. On the contrary. But it's difficult to put his teachings into action without some kind of personal transformation, be you a religious person or not. In the above mentioned lost of a child, for example, maybe Seligman would inspire you to care of other children in order to overcome your bad feelings. Difficult, but fulfilling when put into practice.
Most well researched self help book Martin, a well respected psychologist and researcher offers an enlightening book that has qualities of a self help book yet is very well researched. At the same time it is very personal. I would have liked it better if he didn't evangelize at the end, it all works from a secular point of view too, and this ending was a surprise. Not enough to negate the rest of this fine book. ...more info