Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

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“This book will help you flourish.”

With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in ten years—and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human ...

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“This book will help you flourish.”

With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in ten years—and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition.

Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life, unveiling an electrifying new theory of what makes a good life—for individuals, for communities, and for nations. In a fascinating evolution of thought and practice, Flourish refines what Positive Psychology is all about.

While certainly a part of well-being, happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning. Seligman now asks, What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world? In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? “Well-being” takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment.

Thought-provoking in its implications for education, economics, therapy, medicine, and public policy—the very fabric of society—Flourish tells inspiring stories of Positive Psychology in action, including how the entire U.S. Army is now trained in emotional resilience; how innovative schools can educate for fulfillment in life and not just for workplace success; and how corporations can improve performance at the same time as they raise employee well-being.

With interactive exercises to help readers explore their own attitudes and aims, Flourish is a watershed in the understanding of happiness as well as a tool for getting the most out of life. On the cutting edge of a science that has changed millions of lives, Dr. Seligman now creates the ultimate extension and capstone of his bestselling classics, Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In his first new book in a dozen years, psychologist Martin Seligman (Authentic Happiness) turns psychology upside down. While others view its goal as the relief of human suffering, Dr. Seligman believes that it should be an affirmative enterprise focused on nurturing optimism, motivation, well-being, and healthy self-actualization. Flourish lays out both the rationale behind Positive Psychology and describes the five pillars that make authentic fulfillment possible. A confident stride towards deep self-improvement; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Alisa Schnaars

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.)
Library Journal
Former president of the division of clinical psychology of the American Psychological Association, Seligman (psychology, Univ. of Pennsylvania) wrote the book on positive psychology. Here, he goes beyond his previous volumes (Learned Optimism; Authentic Happiness) by explaining how to achieve well-being by mastering its components—positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and purpose, and accomplishment. Seligman expands his prescription for personal happiness and demonstrates how teaching resiliency to young people, those in the armed services, and business personnel has helped them overcome trauma and flourish in their environments. Seligman includes over 40 pages of annotated bibliography, websites, and interviews. This is particularly helpful for people who want to know why learned optimism works and the variety of venues in which it has been successful.
Kirkus Reviews

The former president of the American Psychological Association repaves the path to true happiness.

Seligman (Authentic Happiness, 2002, etc.) parlays his 20-year experience studying and applying theories about personal contentment into an instructional book on personal growth through affirmative, upbeat reinforcement—a continuance of the author's "positive psychology" movement. The author surprisingly admits that the word happiness has become virtually meaningless because of its rampant overuse in contemporary society, and he focuses on the promotion of individual well-being. Promoting these concepts in schools and the armed forces ("resilience training") could be a key element, he writes, in the advancement of happiness in youth and those consistently engaged in difficult, demanding situations. Seligman discredits the rampant overuse of anti-depressants in the administration of "biological psychiatry," advocating instead for increased curative efforts rather than temporary symptom suppression. Utilizing interactive exercises, case histories and examples from everyday life (health and wealth factors), the author energetically coaches those interested in self-improvement and personal growth. But is acquiring happiness such a complex, theoretical accomplishment? Seligman believes so and never wavers in his belief in a well-honed, systematic process of managed satisfaction. Though certain sections become garrulous and repetitive, graphs, charts and tables offer refreshingly visual proof of the success of his model, including a reprint of his "Signature Strengths Test." An elusive quality for some, a natural condition for others, happiness, Seligman avows, is a priceless emotion to cultivate and preserve.

A relentlessly optimistic guidebook on finding and securing individual happiness.

From the Publisher
"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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439190753
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Edition description: Simon & Schuster
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., the Robert A. Fox Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, works on positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, ethnopolitical conflict, and optimism. Dr. Seligman's work has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He is the director of the Positive Psychology Network and scientific director of Foresight, Inc., a testing company that predicts success in various walks of life.

He was for fourteen years the Director of the Clinical Training Program of the University of Pennsylvania and was named a "Distinguished Practitioner" by the National Academies of Practice. In 1995, he received the Pennsylvania Psychological Association's award for "Distinguished Contributions to Science and Practice."

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Table of Contents

Preface 1

Part 1 A New Positive Psychology 3

Chapter 1 What Is Well-Being? 5

The Birth of a New Theory 9

The Original Theory: Authentic Happiness 11

From Authentic Happiness Theory to Well-Being Theory 13

Well-Being Theory 14

The Elements of Well-Being 16

Kindness Exercise 21

Flourishing as the Goal of Positive Psychology 26

Chapter 2 Creating Your Happiness: Positive Psychology Exercises That Work 30

The Gratitude Visit 30

Can Well-Being Be Changed? 31

What-Went-Well Exercise 33

Positive Psychology Interventions and Cases 35

Signature Strengths Exercise 38

Positive Psychotherapy 40

Chapter 3 The Dirty Little Secret of Drugs and Therapy 45

Cure Versus Symptom Relief 46

The 65 Percent Barrier 47

Active, Constructive Responding 48

Dealing with Negative Emotions 51

A New Approach to Cure 53

Applied Psychology Versus Basic Psychology: Problems Versus Puzzles 55

Wittgenstein, Popper, and Penn 56

Chapter 4 Teaching Well-Being: The Magic of MAPP 63

The First MAPP 64

Ingredients of Applied Positive Psychology 66

Intellectually Challenging Applicable Content 66

Personal and Professional Transformation 70

Transformations 71

Called to Positive Psychology 75

Chapter 5 Positive Education: Teaching Well-Being to Young People 78

Should Well-Being Be Taught in School? 79

The Penn Resiliency Program: A Way to Teach Well-Being in School 81

Three-Good-Things Exercise 84

Using Signature Strengths in New Ways 84

The Geelong Grammar School Project 85

Teaching Positive Education 89

Embedding Positive Education 90

Living Positive Education 92

Positive Computing 93

A New Measure of Prosperity 96

Part 2 The Ways to Flourish 99

Chapter 6 GRIT, Character, and Achievement: A New Theory of Intelligence 101

Success and Intelligence 102

Positive Character 103

Drawn by the Future, Not Driven by the Past 104

What Intelligence Is 106

Speed 106

The Virtue of Slowness 110

Executive Function 112

Rate of Learning: The First Derivative of Speed 113

Self-Control and GRIT 115

GRIT Versus Self-Discipline 118

High Human Accomplishment 119

GRIT's Benefits 122

Building the Elements of Success 124

Chapter 7 Army Strong: Comprehensive Soldier Fitness 126

A Psychologically Fit Army 126

Global Assessment Tool (GAT) 129

Online Courses 137

Emotional Fitness Module 139

Family Fitness Module 142

Social Fitness Module 143

Spiritual Fitness Module 149

Chapter 8 Turning Trauma into Growth 152

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 152

Post-Traumatic Growth 159

Post-Traumatic Growth Course 161

Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory 161

Master Resilience Training 163

Building Mental Toughness 167

The Hot Seat: Fighting Catastrophic Thoughts in Real Time 169

Hunt the Good Stuff 171

Character Strengths 171

Building Strong Relationships 173

The Rollout 177

Chapter 9 Positive Physical Health: The Biology of Optimism 182

Turning Medicine on Its Head 182

Origins of Learned Helplessness Theory 184

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) 190

Infectious Illness 194

Cancer and All-Cause Mortality 200

Is Well-Being Causal, and How Might It Protect? 204

Positive Health 208

Army Database: A National Treasure 211

Cardiovascular Health Assets 213

Exercise as a Health Asset 214

Chapter 10 The Politics and Economics of Well-Being 221

Beyond Money 221

The Divergence Between GDP and Well-Being 222

The Financial Downturn 228

Ethics Versus Values 228

Optimism and Economics 232

Reflexive and Nonreflexive Reality 234

Perma 51 237

Appendix: Signature Strengths Test 243

Thanks and Acknowledgments 267

Notes 271

Index 321

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