Customer Reviews for

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Authentic Happiness

    Written by the former president of the American Psychological Association, and author of over a dozen books including the popular "Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life", this title is one of the better selling happiness books out there. <BR/><BR/>First off, this book was a little harder read for me than most happiness books- I have the paperback book which has small print, perhaps that was a factor. I'm also partial to shorter, just-give-me-the-facts happiness books, such as "Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World"- so that might also explain why I plodded my way through pages at times. But having said that, there's IS lot of gems in here for happiness searchers like myself. <BR/><BR/>While this is the kind of book I could write a really long review about, I think I'll just discuss what I consider to be the best bits for those looking for ways to become happier- which I think is why most people would buy this book. Soooo..... <BR/><BR/>1) the book provides the reader with a "happiness formula", which is H = S + C + V. This works out to happiness = your genetic Set point + intervening Circumstances + factors under you Voluntary control. So, since your can't do much about changing your genetics, when it comes to becoming happier, that leaves room for improvement in the areas of circumstances and voluntary activities. <BR/><BR/>2) the book suggests that if you want to lastingly raise your level of happiness by changing the external circumstances of your life, you should: live in a wealthy democracy, get married, avoid negative events and negative emotion, acquire a rich social network, and get religion. Conversely, you needn't bother to do the following: make more money, stay healthy, get as much education as possible, or try to change your race or move to a sunnier climate. However even if you could alter all of these things, it would not do much for you as this stuff accounts for only a small part of your happiness. On to Voluntary efforts... <BR/><BR/>3) This is where most of the book spends a substantial part of its efforts showing you how to be happier, and there's a lot of "meat" to sink your teeth into, with sections on how to obtain more satisfaction with your past, what consitutes happiness about the future, and happiness in the present. Also, the book spend much time talking about how happiness can be cultivated by identifying and nurturing our traits, such as humor, optimism, generosity or kindness. <BR/><BR/>Readers who have read other happiness books, such as those by Jim Johnson or Sonja Lyubomirsky, will already be well familiar with the idea that the best way to increase your happiness is through intentional or voluntary activities. It makes a lot of sense, as you can't change your genetics, and circumstances are either out of your control, or make very little contributions to your happiness. Like this book, I agree that using intentional activities is the route to go when it comes to raising lasting happiness levels- and this book will help you out with that a lot. Happy trails!

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2006

    Interesting Take on Virtue and Happiness

    We highly recommend this work by Martin E. P. Seligman, the founder of 'positive psychology' and the author of Learned Optimism. This book combines the erudition of psychological research with the accessibility of a self-help text. The author explains why happiness matters. He recapitulates and takes issue with the flawed deterministic assumptions that guided much of twentieth century psychology. He is careful to emphasize the importance of your individual control over your feelings and thoughts. The idea that people actually are in control of their fate marks a departure from Freudianism and behaviorism. Seligman argues, instead, for an understanding of character and virtue rooted in early Greek philosophy. However, his book is not merely theoretical or descriptive. He offers guidance on how you can change your way of thinking to change how you feel - and, thereby, get on the road to achieving long-term happiness for yourself and for others, especially your children.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2003

    A very valuable book

    As a psychologist, I completely understand Martin Seligman's desire 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." At the same time, clinical psychology focussed on diagnosing and treating mental and emotional 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 deep 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 what he called "learned optimism" as a powerful antidote to depression. His earlier book, Learned Optimism, 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 solid 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 begin thinking and acting in ways that foster 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 always builds on reliable experimental findings. (Although the book is vividly written for the most part, at times Seligman's patient explanation of research findings slows things down.) Still, he is 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 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 Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation (John Wiley & Sons, September, 2002).

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A mental wellness self-help book: So many self-help books, quest

    A mental wellness self-help book: So many self-help books, questionnaires, and popular psychology books talk about what’s wrong with our lives and how to make the bad bits better. Martin E. P. Seligman asks us to look instead at what’s good, and learn to turn good into excellent, making this a book on mental wellness, rather than mental illness. It’s a refreshing change.

    Wouldn’t you rather feel more happy instead of less miserable? But this isn’t just a question of looking at half-filled cups when they might be half-empty. Simple questionnaires (with more complicated versions online) invite the reader to find their own strengths so we can play to them. And then, in a nice twist on the “So this is who you are” approach, we’re asked to identify which strengths feel natural to us, which feel enlivening. We might be good at leading but feel drained every time we have to lead, making leadership a strength, but not a signature strength. Those final, happy, signature powers become the key to enlivening everyday life.

    But first, are you happy? Not just smiling today, but waking up happy, contented, hopeful, optimistic. And what things will make us happy? The author has looked through many cultures to find those things common to most. Again, there’s a twist—he’s not looking for features valued in all; just in most, because there area always exceptions—that’s why they’re called exceptions. Religion becomes something of worth, though the author’s own “religious” beliefs, expounded in a final chapter, might not agree with his readers’. The answer’s not in the details but in the approach.

    Raise happy children. Turn your job into something you enjoy (without necessarily changing jobs). Find your strengths and enjoy who you are instead of trying to turn into someone else. And enjoy this book. I did.

    Disclosure: My sister-in-law lent me a copy of this book then I went out and bought my own.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2003

    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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2002

    Positive Psychology Needs To Understand Negativity

    Mid-Twentieth Century psychologists Allport, Maslow, Rogers, Jourard, Murphy, & etc. must be smiling in their graves to see a new generation of psychologists start a new "up" cycle for the positive school of thought in personality and clinical psychology (see also same for the new Handbook of Positive Psychology). One limitation with this new 'Authentic Happiness' book is that the contemporary wave of the Positive Psychology Movement lacks the scholarly discipline of citing and discussing research findings that challenge its theoretical (ideological) conclusions (assumptions). For a more balanced view in academic psychology, also read the books edited by Ed Chang which give fair and scholarly coverage of individual differences in both optimism and pessimism, including Julie Norem's studies of 'defensive pessimism.' And if you just are not the temperamentally optimistic "don't worry, be happy" kind of person, see how Norem describes the adaptive strategy of constructive pessimism in her recent book "The Positive Power of Negative Thinking." Individuals and cultures do differ, and constructing a valid, non-egocentric psychology is difficult. Dr. Seligman's new book gets us half way there, toward realistic psychology for real people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2002

    I will read and re-read this book!

    The premises of Authentic Happiness are another anchor for the soul and its conclusions are a fountain of hope for the human spirit. If everyone would take the tests and continue with their inner work in the areas indicated, the world would be healed. Deep scientific discoveries are revealed in an engaging yet simple story format so that a child could undertand yet grumpy old men find enjoyment and transformation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2002

    This guy's message deserves an audience!

    Okay, folks, I haven't read the book yet. But I heard Martin Seligman being interviewed on National Public Radio the other day. I'm usually really, really critical of books on what I would call "squishy" subjects -- self-help books and human potential books, etc., and this author's field comes close to those areas. And yet. And yet. I heard the guy describe his model for happiness and was impressed. A model's virtue is in being able to create the target reality in a simple framework. A complex model can model reality well, but gets half the marks for doing so, because it's complex. A simple model that only partly models reality is also okay, but only to an extent. If a simple model can describe a relatively complex reality well, then that's very creditable. Anyway, Seligman has come up with a model for happiness which is quite elegant and believable. Briefly, what I heard was that to be really happy, you must lead (1) a pleasnt life, (2) a good life, and (3) a meaningful life. What do these things mean? I'm both late for a date AND want YOU to find out for yourself by reading the book. So: adieu.

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