While I’m plugging Martin Seligman’s work, I should really point you to another of his books, Authentic Happiness.
Here is the publisher’s synopsis:
Over a decade ago, Martin Seligman charted a new approach to living with “flexible optimism.” Now, in his most stimulating and persuasive book to date, the bestselling author of Learned Optimism introduces the revolutionary, scientifically based idea of “Positive Psychology.” Positive Psychology focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, asserting that happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Seligman teaches readers that happiness can be cultivated by identifying and using many of the strengths and traits that they already possess — including kindness, originality, humor, optimism, and generosity. By frequently calling upon their “signature strengths” in all the crucial realms of life, readers will not only develop natural buffers against misfortune and the experience of negative emotion, they will move their lives up to a new, more positive plane.
Drawing on groundbreaking psychological research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession’s paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions. Our signature strengths can be nurtured throughout our lives, with benefits to our health, relationships, and careers.
Seligman provides the Signature Strengths Survey along with a variety of brief tests that can be used to measure how much positive emotion readers experience, in order to help determine what their highest strengths are. The life-changing lesson of Authentic Happiness is that by identifying the very best in ourselves, we can improve the world around us and achieve new and sustainable levels of authentic contentment,gratification, and meaning.
What I find so useful in this book is that it encourages you not to spend time trying to be the things you aren’t, but really encourages discovering what makes you fundamentally your best self, and building a better life around that. He also doesn’t define happiness in a superficial way, by equating it with pleasure, but by equating it with a combination of pleasure and concepts like flow and meaning. Essentially he is inviting people to find their “calling” — what they are uniquely fit to do — and to dive in with both feet.
And I love Seligman’s ongoing commitment to making sure his ideas hold up when submitted to rigorous empirical testing. He builds a whole body of research around his work to ensure that he is not just spouting nonsense. I deeply respect the fact that he values that kind of scrutiny of his thinking. It takes courage to invite people to prove your cherished ideas wrong if that’s what they turn out to be.
Take a peek at the book and see what you think. What are YOUR signature strengths and how will you use them?