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3.9 out of 5 stars37
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 19 September 2011
"This book will help you flourish" is the claim on the back of the book. I have to disagree - there is very little here that is of practical use. Out of the 241 pages of content there are probably 10 pages of exercises/advice for the reader. The rest is about the history of positive psychology and the various people that developed it. An accurate subtitle would be "the adventures of Martin Seligman."

The book describes the ways in which positive psychology is being used to help soldiers (56 pages or 23% of the book is on this topic), schools, health, the various university degrees now available in positive psychology and different experiments highlighting the benefits of it. There is even a section on using positive psychology to help astronauts!

This may be of interest to some readers but it definitely doesn't help readers improve their lives and it isn't what the book claims to be.

If you're looking for a practical guide to positive psychology, this isnt it. If you're looking for a history of Martin Seligman's work on positive psychology then this is the book for you.
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on 8 May 2011
'This book will help you flourish' the dust jacket claims in big letters on the back. Actually it won't. 'A new understanding of happiness and well-being and how to achieve them'. No it isn't. Don't judge a book by its cover the saying says: it's a good read, although Seligman does tend to wander off topic a bit, for example when he goes on about Lisa's dancing or explains why Ehrenreich is wrong. An editor would have been good.
But how does knowing the US army has a resilience programme and big database of its test results help me flourish? How does a Seligman-centric history of well-being research help me flourish? I bought the book to learn well-being ideas and techniques - what works and what does not, and there's very little of these.
But it's a good read, and Seligman has many interesting ideas in his field - such as what is our legacy to the world going to be now wealthy countries have wealth enough to go round - can we copy Florence and leave something (well-being, rather than beauty) that will last for future generations?
I hope Seligman will ensure future editions have an honest dust jacket and preface that describe what the book is actually about, rather than what the publisher thinks will sell it. But don't buy it for the cover!
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on 2 May 2011
Positive psychology has come to be defined as "the scientific study of what enables individuals and communities to thrive". "Flourish" explores this concept of thriving. The last 15 years, Martin Seligman has been one of the major driving forces behind positive psychology. He has authored influential bestsellers such as Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (1991) and Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment (2002). Now, again about a decade later, Seligman writes a new account of what he has been teaching and telling on conferences lately. He does so in a somewhat peculiar mix: a) a manifesto for a broad science of well-being, b) accounts of positive psychology research and practice, interlaced with c) a backstage history of positive psychology.

a) First of all, "Flourish" is a manifesto for a science of well-being. Seligman departs from his earlier "Authentic Happiness" concept and posits the broader topic of "well-being". "Authentic happiness" comprised three components: 1. positive emotion (feeling good), 2. engagement (flow) and 3. meaning. Seligman now adds two more components of well-being: 4. positive relationships and 5. accomplishment. To my humble opinion, the addition of 4. positive relationships is long overdue, whereas the addition of 5. accomplishment may turn out to be controversial.

b) Next, this book gives several examples of well-being research. Don't expect yet another pop self-help peptalk of "happiness in 5 easy steps". In a sound academic style, Seligman describes research on positive psychology exercises, post-traumatic growth, links between psychological well-being and health, and promising future research on well-being. Seligman also offers the reader a short peek into existing well-being (teaching) programs such as positive psychotherapy, MAPP (training Masters in Positive Psychology), Penn Resiliency Program (in schools), Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (in the U.S. Army), ...

c) Last (but not least), Seligman describes the history of Positive Psychology, the backstage academic and political bickering, the impact on science, media and politics. Seligman does not eschew stressing his own importance in this, balancing it with a self-depreciating humor (although it remains doubtful whether all readers really want to know about his diarrhea ensuing his watermelon diet).

These three thematic threads are intertwined in this book totaling 349 pages (First U.S. hardcover edition April 2011). Don't be misguided by the lack of notes in the main text: in the back, this book does contain 49 pages of extensive, page-per page notes where you can check many of the quoted scientific studies. A topic and name index of 28 pages is also included.

The book is definitely a U.S. product and may not always resonate with people from non-Anglo-Saxon cultures. This may be one of the major challenges in reaching the commendable and ambitious mission articulated at the end of this book: "By the year 2051, 51 percent of the people of the world will be flourishing."

I found "Flourish" a fascinating read that has held me captivated for three days straight.
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on 18 May 2011
Authentic Happiness had a huge impact on me so I looked forward to Flourish. It wasn't really what I expected. There was a surprising amount of biography of academic life (stories about individual students, experiences with funding bodies etc) and I rapidly lost interest. Might be useful if you are in a similar academic situation to Seligman but I'm not sure of the value for the general public.
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on 18 September 2012

Judging by the reviews, I was a bit mixed as to whether this book would be useful for me or not. Having read 'Authentic Happiness', I was left with a sense that it missed something about real life and wellbeing.

I felt he courageously revealed and accepted that his last book was not a complete picture of wellbeing, and that he had concentrated too much on happiness (which is mainly linked to mood/life satisfaction) -- and did not encompass meaning, engagement, positive relationships and accomplishment. But, he is only human and he is constantly evolving (as we all are)...And, thank goodness, he has the passion and drive to continue to improve on his work. His book shows the conscious improvement on his thoughts and uncertainties, and his overview of the evidence-base, to draw his conclusion about the key elements for flourishing.

The reason for 4 out of 5, is simply that I felt he expanded a little too much on his pre-positive psychology days, at the beginning, which did not add value to the information he was presenting about flourishing for wellbeing.

However, I did like the story behind Martin Seligmans development and input into positive psychology, and he writes about a plethora of evidence-base for its effectiveness -- yet still questions certain areas that continue to be developed. He enthusiastically discusses his peers and their important contribution to creating the, say, Penn Resilience Programme.

I feel it is an amazing feat to have been able to incorporate the programme into the US Army and schools, and that it is being closely monitored. He displays a compassion for the problems many soldiers encounter when they leave the army, or real-time situations they have to deal with at home -- simply because of their links with mobile technology to their loved ones.

With his constructive reasoning he convinces me of the benefits of positive psychology, and that it is not just a 'happiology' - but a realistic portrayal of the essential elements required for inner resilience within the fast-paced and ever-changing world we live in today. I plan to use this book to inform my practice as a resilience coach/trainer.

There are definite nuggats of essential information into the complex world of wellbeing!
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on 31 August 2011
This book seems to be very confused about whether it wants to be a biography or a self-help/practical book. Seligman drops a lot of names and wanders off at tangents so that it is difficult to follow. It really needed a good editing.... it would be a good biography but perhaps that wouldn't have sold.... or a good academic text but it would have required a lot more work.... or a good self-help book but then why would people pay for him to teach them if they could just use his book.... but can't fault his great work in the positive psychology field.
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on 9 October 2015
The psychology of happiness and positivity is a growth industry in the current climate. Seligman was one of the first to explore the idea of using psychology to promote well-being and this book is the distillation of his work over a number of years. Working in a school I try to incorporate many of the ideas that Seligman explores in terms of attempting to give students a positive education which enables them to develop soft skills as well as academic skills.

Positive Psychology is the cure to all ills but it helps frame a mindset that has proven benefits in terms of reduced stress and better health. there are many who will view this as mumbo-jumbo, and indeed the book shows a few dissenters as well, but I think this is powerful thought.
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on 3 January 2012
Having recently devoured Seligman's 'Learned Optimism' and 'What You Can Change and What You Can't' I found Flourish to be a slightly disappointing read, lacking depth and rigor, with Seligman focusing too much on defending or justifying his choices and outlining his achievements.
Nevertheless, with a little tooth combing, it is possible to extract from the narrative valuable strategies for improving personal well being and the well being of others, and Seligman makes good reference to the work of Angela Lee Duckworth, Carol Dweck, Shelley Gable, Marcel Losada and Albert Ellis. For example, the chapter on positive physical health strengthens resolve to walk 10000 steps daily... the chapter on self discipline and achievement emphasizes the importance of effort and application over IQ; while the chapter on trauma and growth provides useful insights into strategies for coping effectively with adversity, recognizing that growth can arise out of adversity.
Overall there are many valuable lessons to be learned from this book, but it would have been useful to have less 'narrative' and more information about proven strategies to improve well being, preferably linked explicitly to each of the five key features of well being that Seligman identifies in the first chapter (positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment).
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on 1 May 2013
If you want to learn Positive Psych, this isn't really it. If you want to learn *about* Positive Psych - i.e. the history, the process that led to its creation, fine, go for it. It's not a bad read but I'd go with the "For Dummies" book.
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on 9 May 2011
Not really sure what to make of this book.Quite a good read and some interesting points but seems to be trying to be a history of positive psychology,rather than how to use it.He's got another book out soon,positive psychotherapy,which might be more practical.This is also a big ego trip for the writer and tries to be intectually impressive,which it isnt.He also tries to justify torturing animals for his learned helplessness experiments,which was very ethically dubious even then,by saying he always gave himself electric shocks too.Im sure that made the animals feel better and maybe even 'flourish'.
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