Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness was one of my first introductions to Positive Psychology. That book along with the online course I took of Dr. Tal Ben Shahar solidified my thinking that psychology is not only for the variety of mental illnesses but the principles are also there to help all people live better lives. I am grateful for both of these experiences in my life.
Being the Bookhead I am, when I saw a new book Flourish, by Dr. Martin Seligman I had to get it. The book has been out for a while and it continues his thoughts on Positive Psychology. The work is a deeper expansion of Positive Psychology beyond his initial work, Authentic Happiness. He shows examples of how the principles behind Positive Psychology have been used with beneficial results in a variety of populations.
The deeper expansion Dr. Seligman speaks of in the book is moving beyond happiness to overall improved well being in our human life journey. The core features of Positive Psychology he mentions in the first chapter are having positive emotions, being intentionally engaged in our life focus, and having a sense of meaning and purpose. The first core principle focuses in on our happiness level and life satisfaction. The second is centered on the joy of learning and creatively looking at life. Then the third focuses in on what is the big picture of what we want to do with our lives. What will make our life journey meaningful? He describes some other principles which flow out of the three core features but I don’t want to give all the book’s features away. Hopefully you will go to your local library or favorite bookstore and pick up a copy to read. As I definitely would say this is one of those books that would make life better if everyone would read it.
In the preface of the book he makes this statement that stood out to me “… happiness, flow, meaning, love, gratitude, accomplishment, growth, better relationships – constitute human flourishing. Learning that you can have more of these things is life changing.” Life can be a continual growing journey of flourishing if we make the right choices to spiral up instead of spiral down in life. This is the way to have the best life possible and I believe it is the way we were meant to be.
As I come at life with a Christian worldview, the title of Dr. Seligman’s book made me think of how God wants us to be living. I looked in the scriptures for the word flourish and found many references to the word in Psalms. In Psalm 92:1 we read, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.” Or in Psalm 52:8 “ But I am like an Olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” There are several other verses that use the metaphors of our being like a flourishing tree or plant without using the term flouring but it is implied, (Psalm 1:3; Psalm 144:12; Proverbs 11:28; Jeremiah 17:8).
The scriptures look at God’s desire for us not as shriveled up plants or dried up dead trees. The verses mentioned above describes God’s people as flourishing, healthy trees. Trees that are strong and fruitful as well. The metaphor carries with it that our lives are to be positive and have meaning in being fruitful so that we have a purpose in our daily living. So, that we are strong to meet the challenges of each day. This is what I appreciate about Positive Psychology is that it’s focus on making people stronger and more fruitful in their life.
Reflection -- If you were a tree what kid of tree would you be? Thinking of the three core features of Positive Psychology where are you at presently:
1. What is your level of happiness?
2. Are you learning something new and excited about it?
3. What do you see as your primary purpose in life at the present time?