Flourish — Martin Seligman

FlourishHuman well-being consists of more than just happiness. In this book, Martin Seligman presents one way of breaking down well-being into its components, so we can try to improve all of them and enable ourselves to flourish. PERMA is the acronym for the five components he identifies:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

All five of these elements must be present for a person to truly flourish. This shows, for example, why money cannot buy happiness. It can buy positive emotion and possibly achievement, but leaves you short in the other three elements and therefore unfulfilled despite your riches.

The book loses its way a bit towards the end — I think it would be better if it were significantly shorter. There are too many great ideas and stories that never form a coherent conclusion. They are still worthwhile though — I made quite a few notes as I read the book.

… we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested. (p20)

Dieting is a scam, like much psychotherapy and many drugs. They work to relieve symptoms but ignore the underlying problem, leading to relapses without continuous treatment. (p31 and ch3)

The What-Went-Well Exercise: For ten minutes before bedtime, write down three things that went well today (major or trivial) and why they went well. This improves happiness and reduces depression because it forces you to focus on the good in your life. (p33)

Dealing with Negative Emotions: You can’t always just make the negative emotions go away. You must learn to deal with them, to function well even if you are sad or anxious or angry. (p51)

Wittgenstein was an academic poseur because of his obsession with analysis: puzzle-solving over problem-solving. (p58)

See Tools of the Mind for ways to develop children’s executive functions.

Rhonda Cornum (US Army) has her philosophy of life (p126)

Prioritize.
A.
B.
C.
Discard C.

This echoes management guru Peter Drucker:

Effective executives concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first — and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.

Optimists tend to be immune to learned helplessness. They tend to believe that the causes of setbacks in their lives are temporary, changeable, and local. They think “It’s going away quickly, I can do something about it, and it’s just this one situation.” They bounce back and they don’t take their work problems home. On the other hand, people who think “It’s going to last forever, there’s nothing I can do about it, and it’s going to undermine everything” do not bounce back, and they take their work problem home and vice versa. (p189)

On GDP vs Well-Being. How much of your precious time should you devote to pursuing money if what you want is life satisfaction? (p223)

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was, during the industrial revolution, a decent first approximation to how well a nation was doing. Now, however, every time we build a prison, every time there is a divorce, a motor accident, or a suicide, the GDP — just a measure of how many goods and services are used — goes up.

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  1. Pingback: The Happiness Advantage — Shawn Achor | Bennettarium

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