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Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  5,290 ratings  ·  480 reviews
“This book will help you flourish.” With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in ten years—and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, whi ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Free Press
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Lucia Gannon
This book was not what I expected but a good read nonetheless. I had expected a book focused on "Flourishing". The title of the book is, "Flourish", after all but what I got was a gallop through all of Mr Seligman's life-work. This is a very interesting over-view of what he has achieved to date and what he hopes to achieve in the future. I greatly admire this man and what he is doing and I know I will return to the book to remind myself of his insights and direction.
I found the work he is doing
From the title, I was expecting a prescriptive book. Instead, it was more a descriptive book about the general background of positive psychology and several ways it has been used in the past several years. I also was puzzled by the couple of times that Dr. Seligman spent time defending himself against critics, which seemed out of place in this book to me. If you're already a fan of Dr. Seligman and positive psychology, you'll enjoy reading these stories about how the positive psychology model is ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Seligman
Shelves: mind-and-body
I'm not sure how to review this book, because it was quite different from what I was expecting after reading his earlier book, Authentic Happiness.

I knew from the introduction that Seligman thinks the earlier book was correct enough about happiness, but didn't cover all the aspects of well-being that positive psychology should be studying. So I thought this book would treat those new aspects (achievement and positive relationships) in the same depth as he'd covered the earlier ones (positive em
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Would recommend the dated, though similar and more practical Feeling Good by David Burns or even the pithy 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman over this book in a second. Flourish is light on practical advice and heavy on grandstanding. Almost every chapter starts with someone of stature asking Seligman to improve something gargantuan, like the US military or America Psychiatric Association. Save it for the memoirs. There's an attractive and compelling theory here that could fit into a 4-page pamphlet ...more
Phil Tomson
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm about 1/2 way through this book. So far I'm not all that impressed. I guess I was expecting more. It's written in a very chatty style with lots of little digressions that make it seem unfocused. There's also some annoying self-congratulatory stuff like how he mentions he was elected president of the APA with the highest margin of victory ever. I was hoping for lot more nuts & bolts, this is what you can do to flourish type content.

Edit: Now finished (well, I have to admit that I quickly skim
May 15, 2013 rated it liked it
After I'd finished this book I had to wonder who the anticipated audience was? This is not a how-to, with detailed techniques for creating positive psychology in your own life. Mention of specific techniques is pretty much in passing. It's like a biography, but not so much of Seligman, the titan of the field, but of the discipline of positive psychology, with a great deal of "how I done good" in the mix. Seligman narrates how, under his tutelage and that of his disciples, positive psychology has ...more
Louise Silk
Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
I enjoyed Dr. Seligman's TED talk and I loved his book Authentic Happiness but this book was a disappointment. There is way too much information on his research working with the armed forces and his criticism of others who are not engaging in happiness from his research perspective to make this book worth reading.

In his talk, as in the book, he gives the daily exercise of writing down three good things that happened which is a concrete step to more happiness.

The best part is the last page which
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book starts out with what you'd expect, explaining what positive psychology is and some exercises in positive psychology.

The entire rest of the book is a off-topic. I give a quick chapter summary below to show you what I mean. He talks about how much he helped the American Military with Post Traumatic Growth, and how he's baffled at criticism. He talks about how he thinks IRB's (which review experiments to make sure that no one gets hurt, and if someone gets hurt it's worthwhile) are too re
Billie Pritchett
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
I just finished Flourish, a book about positive psychology by Martin Seligman, and although I really liked it, I thought it could have been organized a little better, perhaps less an account of the recent history and fields in which the field of positive psychology is venturing into (fields like education, the military, health/medicine, etc.) and more an account of what positive psychology is. There are pieces of what positive psychology is along the way but these pieces are not the book's organ ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am one obsessed with social science popular nonfiction. Of the dozens of books I have read, this one is the best. Why? Because if the value of social science is the betterment of society and life of an individual, which I believe is the best measuring stick, then this book is #1.

I am beyond certain that, in future decades, Martin Seligman founding and building out the cogent theory of well-being and positive psychology will be looked back at a watershed moment in the history of bettering soci
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended by the CEO of the Rescue Mission. Slow going due to research, but interesting discussion of applied positive psychology. The author updates and expands his research of the measures of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, accomplishments and positive relationships. Spending 10 minutes nightly on a "blessings journal" listing three things that went well during the day and why they went well/or how you feel about them would be a good habit for young and old. Lengthy list ...more
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it
There’s quite a bit that’s useful in this book; I’m using quite a bit of positive psychology concepts in my 1101 class right now. However, in its pendulum swinging it goes a bit too far in putting culpability on individuals and not in institutions and structures. As with Grit (which is mentioned quite a bit in here), it doesn’t matter how “gritty” my students are-if they can’t afford books or get to class, they aren’t going to succeed.
Lino  Matteo
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Martin E.P. Seligman
“This book will help you flourish.” – the opening sentence
A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being – the sub title
Only at page 62, and thinking WOW! This was not the psychology that I learnt in school
Someone on Twitter recommended this book – whoever you are, thank you!

11: Positive psychology…is about what we choose for its own sake.
16: The elements of well being
Well being theory has five elements (PERMA):
• Positive emotion
• Engagement
• Mean
Nicola Isabelle
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
In general, this books offers a good overview of the field of positive psychology. As I have done the Positive Psychology Specialization on Coursera and as this book probably served as a foundation of the course, I did not learn as much as I hoped I would. Nevertheless, I found the the notes in the appendix quite helpful for further research.
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic book. Seligman does a great job of making the argument that teaching kids well-being (resilience, optimism), is more powerful than any other intervention. This was interesting to me for several reasons. First, as a person working in a K-6 school with some poverty. Second, as a parent. Third, as someone with a background and interest in psychology. The book includes a case study of a boarding school in Australia. It also includes exercises that you can do with kids to get the ...more
Julie Christine
Although a great believer in Dr. Seligman's work, the positive psychology movement, and the important work being done at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, I would not recommend this book to someone not already familiar with PP or Seligman. It's oddly structured and rambling--more an overview of Seligman's career and the development of positive psychology, with heaps of footnotes--than a enlightening look at the practical application of positive psychology in every ...more
Dragos Comaneci
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book was pretty informative and evidence based (not your typical self-improvement babble types) and the author has a nice way of explaining concepts and introducing his own stories behind them. Overall, I enjoyed the book and it has a lot of references for more information at the end. The take away is that for flourishing to work effectively you need to experience positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and achievement.
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
It's strange when you start to realize a very specific ideology is behind lots of what you consume in terms of information, specially books. Only recently have I been able to connect the dots - not by virtue of my shrewdness, but by reading authors who point them out.

Positive Psychology is fought against by people on the left because of its focus on the power of the individual to shape a big part of his life and because it dares to be optimistic about the present and the future state of things.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a book group selection so I listened to it. I like the premise of positive psychology as a way to improve well-being--if I understand it correctly, happiness and well-being will follow when you behave in certain ways. The author is a Phd psychologist at Penn State and very scientific in his research and studies. He claims the universal single best way to improve well-being is performing an act of kindness. I found that fascinating. He also reported an interesting thing when talking abou ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fairly powerful book for me both professionally and personally. I think have a history of anecdotally describing myself as a “pessimist.” This book helped me to analyze how my aversion to optimism isn’t really about optimism but more about vacuous imposters and hucksters peddling their version of optimism. Seligman’s notion of P.E.R.M.A. is a concept that I can wrap my head around and attempt to increasingly try to approximate in my life and values. Seligman shows us how science has c ...more
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am torn between 3 and 4 stars, so maybe a 3.5 would be more accurate. I loved the first part of this book. I found it encouraging as someone who tends toward dwelling on the negative and difficulties of life. However the final chapters I was less enthralled with and to be honest, it could be a result of having finished the book the days following the Capitol siege of which I am furious towards all who have foolishly enabled a psychopath in the presidency for lo these 4 years. I am having a har ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I’d say it’s a 3.5. I think this is a book worth reading, though I didn’t always enjoy reading it. I think positive psychology, PERMA, and the VIA character strengths are all great things to learn about and incorporate. I feel like I didn’t need all of the stories and explanations in there, but I appreciated some of the examples, particularly the one about the grammar school. For the most part, I found it interesting, informative, and applicable.
Walden Effingham
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An important book , that perhaps everyone should read. Discusses concepts of wellbeing and happiness. Introduces positive psychology aspects (as opposed to standard psychology/psychiatry which focuses on attaining absence of disease rather than actual wellbeing). Excellent. Probably will reread at some stage.
John Dennis
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was really important for me to ‘get’ Duckworth’s Grit. The book tells allot about Seligman’s work on the Army resilience program - ie, grit.

It talks about the PERMA ‘model’ Whig stands for:

Positive emotion
Meaning and purpose in life

Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
An academic look at Positive Psychology that includes a memoir portion on it's creation. Some reviews are kind of harsh, but if you're used to reading academic books or journals, then I think you'd enjoy it. ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jana Rađa
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Flourish" was recommended in Laurie Santos's "The Science of Wellbeing!", supposedly the most popular class ever taught in Yale University's 317-year history, which is now available on Coursera for free, so I spent the last few days listening to what Martin Seligman wants to tell us about happiness and well-being. It is a good book, but the outlook on life he promotes is even more satisfying.

Happiness and positive psychology are common terms nowadays and there are plenty of articles online teac
May 31, 2021 rated it liked it
Reads more like a research paper than a self-help book. The book starts off delivering what it promised [helping you flourish] but goes off track after a couple of chapters, from there it's all about how great and life-changing his work and the field of positive psychology is. It can be a pretty informative book if you're interested in positive psychology, how it came to be etc. There's not much practical or actionable content in the book that you can apply. ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
I expected more from the "Father of Positive Psychology." For the most part, the ideas articulated herein have become such a part of the conventional wisdom if you follow these topics at all, that the book's treatment of then really doesn't hold up or add anything worth considering. A meandering tour, more personal memoir thank serious treatment. Turn to his other work or that of those who've built in the ideas. Three Stars. ...more
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: already-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology. He was previously the Director of the Clinical Training Program in the department. Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association by the widest margin in its history and served in that capacity during the 1998 term.[4] He is the founding editor-in-chief ...more

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23 likes · 5 comments
“I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction. I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well-being, that the gold standard for measuring well-being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing. This theory, which I call well-being theory, is very different from authentic happiness theory, and the difference requires explanation.” 8 likes
“It turns out, however, that how much life satisfaction people report is itself determined by how good we feel at the very moment we are asked the question. Averaged over many people, the mood you are in determines more than 70 percent of how much life satisfaction you report and how well you judge your life to be going at that moment determines less than 30 percent.” 5 likes
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