This book will help you flourish.
With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in 10 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 15 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 best-selling classics, Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism.
©2011 Martin Seligman, Ph.D. All rights reserved. (P)2011 2011 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
“Brilliant, beautiful, useful, and true. How many books can you say that about? Well, you can say it for sure about Flourish. Written by a master of research as well as a thoroughly joyful man, Flourish will allow you to flourish if you simply read the book and follow its sane, sage, ground-breaking advice. Skeptics, beware! This book will prove you wrong. You actually can plan your way to a joyful and fulfilling life. Read and rejoice!” (Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Shine: Using Brain Science to Bring the Best from Your People)
For example when he introduces his "PERMA" acronym, he gives his explanation of what each letter stands for out of order (he skips the "R"), so that you're distracted and backing up the recording to see if you missed it! Further, he doesn't stick to using the terms the letters stand for. Similarly, he introduces characters for no apparent reason, some of whom are never heard from again, while other characters are referred back to in passing and only after a long series of meanders. The effect is to leave the reader overwhelmed with incomplete and disjointed concepts and characters, many of which are never followed up on, and very few of which are fleshed out to any significant degree.
More the shame it is, because throughout the book, the good Doctor teases us with snippets of genius and inspirational insights, then frustrates us by flitting away into glossed over academic course outlines, often-gratuitous autobiography, and other lengthy, multi-layered digressions, leaving the reader stranded in a thicket of rambles, and little edified for the odyssey.
There is a tremendous opportunity for someone to distill Seligman's experience, research and theories, into a linear, focused, comprehensible reference book that would facilitate the practical application of "Positive Psychology" by the non-academic.
Seligman spends far too much of this book dropping names, delivering polemics, telling personal (and boring) stories about his friends and colleagues, and advertising Penn. This book is a long shallow skim of his work on positive psychology and doesn't offer anything novel or practical.
I listened to Authentic Happiness and found it a truly useful book for my own personal development. I saw Flourish advertised as the next great thing. Happiness is not enough, the author says. We need to learn to flourish. Okay, I thought, tell me more. I bought the book to learn more.
The first segment does give us a teaser -- the PERMA concept: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement. However, the author breezes through these, out of order, and while giving us a taste of how these could be achieved. But only a taste. There are a few personal exercises that the reader can try out, but far too few.
Instead, the bulk of the book is a detailed accounting of the many groups that Seligman applied his principals to and all that they achieved. As I listened, I felt first a growing sense of unease, then anger. Each group was made up of elite people: wealthy high-achievers who were carefully selected from a large pool of applicants to take a very expensive course from Seligman and company; more wealthy high-achievers who came to Seligman with their own projects; a boarding school in rural Australia, which sounded promising, until we learn it's an exclusive boarding school for children of the uppermost of upper crust, including English princes. Each group tried out Seligman's Flourish principle, and to no one's surprise, they all flourished.
As I heard story after story of privileged people who paid large sums to be allowed to take part in Seligman's program, I kept thinking, "Lovely, but what about the rest us? What about the poor slobs like me, commuting to work every day, who spent good money on this book? What do you have for us? Are we allowed some part of your program? Some hint of how to improve ourselves beyond a couple of exercises at the start of the book?"Apparently not. We only get to hear how other people, with wealth enough to buy Seligman's time, get the details of this new Flourish program. The rest of us are only allowed to watch from a distance.
While Authentic Happiness is worth picking up, I don't advise spending time or money on Flourish.
I'd also like to issue a challenge to Dr. Seligman: Try your Flourish program on another school. Let's try a tiny rural high school, or an inner city public elementary, or an underfunded community college, or an school on Reservation lands in the U.S. Try this with everyday people struggling to make ends meet in a stagnant economy. Will they flourish, too, Dr. Seligman? Will they ever have the chance to find out?
After I'd finished this book I had to wonder who the anticipated audience was? This is not a how-to, with detailed techniques for creating positive psychology in your own life. Mention of specific techniques is pretty much in passing. It's like a biography, but not so much of Seligman, the titan of the field, but of the discipline of positive psychology, with a great deal of "how I done good" in the mix. Seligman narrates how, under his tutelage and that of his disciples, positive psychology has been fast-track adopted by the military, by a grossly expensive private school in Australia, and Penn State's very special Master's degree for very special applicants.
But more interesting, and rather off-putting, is his need to defend the very subject he says is still in its early stages and still needs more than the one randomized controlled trial he describes in the text. Mostly his defensive posture, and his attacks, are directed at Barbara Ehrenreich and her book _Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinks Has Undermined America_. I believe lazy and irresponsible are two of the adjectives he uses for her methods critiquing his work, but don't quote me on that. And while I haven't read her book, he himself says that he is surprised the military wanted to jump right in when more research was needed. As far as I can see, his work simply doesn't meet her standard, while his work does meet his own standard.
But I'm troubled how easily he dismisses over hundred years of social science research and how his work could be used by the far right. Poverty? It's nothing. Trauma and abuse? Don't worry about it. Anything else shown to be a factor of causation for anti-social behavior means nothing to Seligman, because it is all about the individual and their non-positive thought patterns. Used in the wrong hands, those of one hundred years ago and some of those in Congress now, that is a recipe for the "take thee care of number one" mentality that doesn't need to help preschoolers with Head Start programs, or funding state colleges at adequate levels so students don't leave college with more debt than they can pay within the rest of their life.
Like any titan who has virtually created a field, Seligman is certain that his way is the best way to solve personal and global problems, and if only every person on the planet would listen to him, it would work on all people. I've had that feeling too, somedays; I just haven't published enough to feel a can say it with an entire book.
Lastly, to points of minor interest. The main thrust of his work is that it isn't what happens to you that matters as much as how/what you think about what happens to you. Fair enough and findable in many other books. It's an essential part of Buddhist philosophy. But does he mention Buddhism for even a moment? Nope.
And yet, I still give the book 3 stars. While I have these worries and reservations, I think Seligman's field of study has points of great validity. I'd like to take one of the workshops he has arranged around the world. And I was interested in his narrative of it's adoption in various places. And it is surprisingly interesting; I would like to hear in ten years how it all panned out for the disciple.
I came to this book after hearing Seligman's interview on the HBR Ideacast where he talked specifically about his work on behalf of the US Army and developing Post-Traumatic Growth.
This is an enjoyable and stimulating read, with some provocative ideas and surprising data. I did not expect but thoroughly enjoyed the many personal stories, not so much of patient progress, but behind the scenes glimpses of the politics of science, psychology, and higher ed. The author is not shy about expressing his opinion, and calling out professional disagreement. This was appreciated.
There are plenty of stories and material to take back to the workplace and the classroom (one and the same for me) for trial, as well as personal activities worth a shot.
This book is NOT to be dismissed as mere Positivism or promotion of Happiness as a mood, this is rather a look into the state of the art of well-being –the history, the research, and the prognosis.
The narrator is a great stand-in for Seligman with a comforting, paternal voice and no condescension. I'd listen to more.
Interesting narrative of experiments done by the author. But unfortunately very little actionable advice to improve one's life.
Learning about resiliency and the concept of PERMA will indeed change the world. Some of the exercises listed in the book will quickly bring about positive change. Seligman's vision for a resilient world is admirable. Looking forward to a better future...
This book is written for the serious student of psychology. If you are expecting a self-development book look elsewhere. The narrator is dry and lifeless. This is one I wish I could return for a refund.
An academic work that gives great credibility to the field of positive psychology. I took some very practical advice or of this book that I have applied to my own life with success.
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