Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: Flourish

I recently read Martin Seligman's Flourish. Dr. Seligman is one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology, a discipline that focuses on positive emotions and how to experience more of them. It's not about just putting on a fake smile and forcing yourself to think happy thoughts. Rather, it's a science-based approach to well being. I've read some previous work of Seligman, and the overall subject matter is something I'm very interested in.

This book expands upon previous work in creating what he terms authentic happiness. This book introduces a new theory of well being called PERMA, wherein P stands for positive emotions, E stands for engagement, R stands for positive relationships, M stands for meaning, and A stands for accomplishment. A PERMA-filled life is one not just of happiness, but of flourishing. I love the word flourish, and I think its a great thing to aspire towards.

I got lots of little things out of this book. I love reading about scientific research, and this book has a lot of it described in very accessible ways. (This is not a fluffy, frou-frou self help book. It's very much based in empirical scientific study.) There is also a lot of practical real-life application that left me feeling energized and optimistic.

I'll just mention a few little things I got from the book. First, the idea of "satisficers" as opposed to "maximizers." Satisficers are things that are "good enough" wheras as maximizers are things that are "perfect." For happiness and flourishing, generally satisficing is encouraged over maximizing. This was a big DING DING DING! moment for me. I've talked a bit about my perfectionist ways before, but let's just say that I often have a need for maximizing, even when - sometimes maybe even especially when - true maximizing is impossible, or at least causes significant negative side effects! I've been working on it, but I have a lot more work to do. Satisificing is the end of the world and will ruin everything!!! Satisificing is fine. Satisficing is okay. Satisficing is better. Satisficing is happier.

And a quote:
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – preamble to constitution of the WHO, 1946
Another ding ding ding! moment. I so often focus on the presence of problems in my health, when there is very little I can do to change those things. I should be focusing on everything else, and what I can do to make that better, which will improve the overall state of health and happiness.

Check out for more information on authentic happiness, PERMA, and Positive Psychology. The site has tons of questionnaires and surveys and tests that measure things like your strengths, your GRIT, your optimism, your forgiveness and many more, if you're in to that kind of thing.

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