“Flourish – A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being“ is the new book, released in Spring 2011, by Dr. Martin Seligman. The book starts with a big committment: “This book will help you flourish.” And ends (spoiler!) with a challenging goal, PERMA 51: the commitment to facilitate flourishing in 51% of the people of the world by year 2051. In between, you get an inspiring overview of what Positive Psychology has accomplished, and how, plus evidence-based tactics you can use to facilitate your well-being on a daily basis.
Flourish is Martin Seligman’s first book in ten years. Previously, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, initiated by Dr. Martin Seligman fifteen years ago, is about raising the bar for the human condition. In Flourish, Martin Seligman refines the scope of Positive Psychology: happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning. In this book, well-being takes the leading role, and Happiness is described as one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology.
Martin Seligman addresses what enables us to cultivate talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world. In a word, what allows us to flourish, which he summarizes it with PERMA:
– Positive Emotion
According to Martin Seligman’s research, these are the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. Each of these five components is embraced by people for its own sake, and independently of the others.
PERMA and AmAre
This short commentary is about leveraging both Dr. Seligman work and mine (“A course in happiness” available for Kindle on http://www.amazon.com/course-happiness-well-being-flourishing-ebook/dp/B00563YNYK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0/192-5425987-8011544?ie=UTF8&m=AZC9TZ4UC9CFC&tag=httpwwwamarew-20) to facilitate well-being.
There are plenty of acronym summarizing what it makes for a happy life, with high well-being. When it comes to PERMA, there is a substantial body of research backing the acronym, plus all the prestige and visibility brought by its author.
My framework is non-dualistic, or at least syncretic. I see well-being inputs/outputs as (sometimes overlapping) sub-sets of the same whole, well-being. Plus inputs (in my work, called seeds and nourishment) and outputs (I call them fruits) are interconnected: fruits contain the seeds which then become input, together with nourishment. In my opinion, PERMA is chiefly about the fruits of well-being, which feed back in a virtuous cycle.
If we want to consider also:
* A – Aware and Accepting
* M – Meaningful and Motivated
* A – Active and Attentive
* R – Resilient and Respectful
* E – Eating properly [and Exercising]
PERMA and physical health
When Dr. Seligman talks, many many many people listen. This also means he gets a lot of heat from critics. He already addressed some of the potential criticism in the very pages of Flourish. One of the questions in the air are: why doesn’t PERMA include physical health? Dr. Seligman replied to this explaining that physical health, in his opinion, is not pursued for its own sake; people exercise to cultivate positive emotions, to feel engaged, etc.
PERMA, its future developments, and a question for you
PERMA is unlikely to be set in stone. Dr. Martin Seligman has always been very straightforwad in leveraging previous research, clarifying/developing in more details and even correcting his previous statements, if evidence proved that was the appropriate way to do. Especially if he wants PP to deliver its PERMA51 commitment, he will likely develop PERMA over time, according to what additional PP research show. Now, my question for you: how do you see/wish PERMA to develop? If you want to share your views, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and they may be integrated into future versions of this Kindle booklet. Please note that, if you have questions for Dr. Seligman, they can be sent through http://www.psych.upenn.edu/people/seligman
Flourish builds on Dr. Martin Seligman’s previous books and essays, including:
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0752-7 (Paperback reprint edition, W.H. Freeman, 1992, ISBN 0-7167-2328-X)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-671-01911-2 (Paperback reprint edition, Penguin Books, 1998; reissue edition, Free Press, 1998)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1993). What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41024-4 (Paperback reprint edition, Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-449-90971-9)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (1996). The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression & Build Lifelong Resilience. New York: Houghton Mifflin. (Paperback edition, Harper Paperbacks, 1996, ISBN 0-06-097709-4)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-2297-0 (Paperback edition, Free Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7432-2298-9)
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). ‘”Can Happiness be Taught?”. Daedalus, Spring 2004.
* Peterson, Christopher, & Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 987-0-19-516701-6
* Seligman, Martin E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4391-9075-3
Flourish Part I: A new Positive Psychology
Chapter 1: What is well-being?
Martin Seligman starts by taking the distance from monistic theories, which assign to one unique element (happiness, power, etc.) the value of the leading force in life. In his words, monistich theories “gets the most mileage from the fewest variables”, however such variables are too few to explain the richness of the phenomenon analyzed.
Building on his formula/book for Autenthich Happiness, which aimed to increase life-satisfaction and identifies happiness as the sum of positive emotions plus engagment plus meaning, he introduces “PERMA”, his new theory well-being. Perma is made by:
Each element which increases flourishing has three properties:
1) contributes to well-being
2) people often pursue it for its own sake
3) can be defined and measured independetly of the other elements