Overview: A vaunted professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman is the architect of positive psychology—which studies how to make people not just less depressed, anxious, or angry but also happier and flourishing. I believe that Flourish, Seligman’s latest book, will stand as a classic text for psychologists and lay people alike who are interested in finding out how to live a better, happier, more productive and meaningful life. His research boils down to a theory of well-being constructed by seeking P-E-R-M-A: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships (positive), Meaning, and Accomplishment. His theory of well-being evolves from his original work on Authentic Happiness. He spends much of his book discussing each of the PERMA critical elements of what gives us well-being, not just smiley-faced, self-absorbed happiness. A self-proclaimed depressive (read that as being a hard-nosed realist), Seligman makes a true distinction between a kind of insufferable (and often insincere) smiling giddiness and well-being, which leads to true flourishing. Moreover, he describes how to craft programs for leaders, teachers, and even the Army that can make the world a better place. Talk about a mission and a legacy! In particular, the work he’s doing on post-traumatic stress is remarkable and something I wish had been around when I was a young Marine.
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. (Free Press, 2011), reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.