Review: Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman


My Interest

“Hell is other people.”

(John Paul Sartre, as quoted in Seligman, 2011, p. 17)

For the last year I’ve been back in school earning a certificate in coaching–as in Life Coaching. It is not a qualification to practice coaching, just a part of that process. There are hours and hours of practice coaching to go do and more hoops to jump through (and pay for–my employer is only paying for the certificate) if I want to be a coach. I’m still unsure about that. As not enough people enrolled this summer, I have another year to consider my options–the classes I need to finish will hopefully have enough people next summer (a change just put in place to an existing program should ensure that ). At 59 I’m not sure I want any debt and more education (even the practical hours of practice) would mean taking out student loans. My answer is probably not. Anyway, Flourish was one of my assigned books and, unlike the vast majority of assigned books, it was good. Proving Charlotte Mason right yet again–living books beat textbooks every time.

The Story

Author Martin Seligman has given the world the theory of learned helplessness and the theory of positive psychology. Thankfully, this book focuses on the later–positive psychology and how to be happy. I spent a good part of my late 30s and early 40s looking at what happy, successful people do to (as Dave Ramsey would say) “change my family tree.” Oh, don’t worry–my family had plenty of success every way you can define that term. We just lacked peace, contentment, hope, happiness, and a positive outlook. Mind you, I never set out to be Pollyanna. Just happy. And content.

Flourish tells how Seligman uses optimism, motivation, and character to give people happiness, peace, and contentment. In his role as head of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania he has sent his theories out into the world to show the changes we can all make to be happier. To me, this is about the best thing a person can learn. Who doesn’t want a life of positive emotion, engagement, MEANING, accomplishment, and positive relationships? It’s a no-brainer.

The theories are shown in action at West Point, at a prestigious Australian prep school once attended by Prince Charles for a few terms, and elsewhere. There are various psychological assessments mentioned and various research studies. Remarkably, none of this is dull! It’s all very engaging. And, easy to apply to your own situation. Think about positive relationships. Who wasn’t wanted to cull the drama llamas or energy vampires from their herd? It works. It is hard to recall, but “boundaries” and “passion” (as applied to life calling–not in the bedroom) and other terms from positive psychology did not used to be part of our daily lexicon. But, wait! This is not the woke-jokes of the current minute’s popular culture. Duty still has a place. Manners still have a place. This theory supplies the intellectual and emotional scaffolding necessary to build a solid, productive and happy life.

Flourish by Martin Seligman

One thought on “Review: Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman

  1. This book sounds like it would be helpful to every person. I haven’t read a self-help book of this sort for quite a while. This one speaks volumes for people wanting or needing this kind of help. I could relate to some of the things you mentioned in your review especially about culling toxic people from your life. I even left a good-paying job because the people there were so involved in office politics, it was not a healthy place to work.


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