Great ideas, made even better

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman
Martin Seligman’s earlier book, Authentic Happiness, is on my top-25 list. Now Flourish takes the ideas presented in the earlier work and expands them.
And man, it’s good.
Yeah, listen to me being all positive about the positive psychology.
Positive psychology is one of those topics—like space, Buddy Holly, needless tragic events, frugality, and personal finance—that sucks me in like a vortex. And I think of Seligman as the grand poobah of the positive psychology world. Certainly he’s the one who’s made most of this stuff accessible to us regular Janes and Joes.
Here, he critiques his earlier ideas as focusing too much on positive emotion alone, and he expands the goal to encompass engagement (flow!), relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. Because life’s not just about feeling happy, it’s also about loving and being loved, serving something bigger than yourself, having and achieving goals, and all that good stuff. It’s about well-being.
So this book does a couple of things. First, it tells you how you can enhance your own sense of well-being. One of the building blocks is the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. (You can do the survey online, and it’ll tell you your top 5 character strengths.) There’s lots more to the well-being stuff, but this character strengths business is pretty darn interesting.
The other thing that Seligman does here is tell us how these ideas are being used to improve others’ lives. The part I found most fascinating was about his work with the U.S. Army to improve the well-being of soldiers. In particular, he writes about the work they’re doing to help prevent PTSD, and it’s encouraging stuff.
I already own a copy of Authentic Happiness. I rather suspect I’m going to be adding a copy of Flourish to my shelves sometime in the next year, because I suspect I’m going to keep thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it…

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