Authentic Happiness

2012 Martin Seligman Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment   ISBN 13:978-0-7432-2297-6

Most people come to coaching because they want more. Often they have identified the more quite clearly. What they have not identified is what the more will do for them and those associated with them; the how to bring this change about; and the resulting changes to things affected by this change. The journey that is the backdrop for this book was never so directed yet as you will see was very effective. We can support our clients moving into more intentional, productive, integrated, happy lives. This book is witness to the author’s process of developing self-awareness leading to an increases in his emotional intelligence which lead according to him to a much richer fuller happier life.

This is a fascinating book in that is shows the development of a man from strictly logical highly skilled scientific trained brain to far more encompassing functions adding a greater emotional intelligence. The Scientist studies the research and moves- intentionally or otherwise we are not sure, with what he discovers. He becomes so much more self- aware of aspects of his life that do not function within the linear model he works with. He studied and started to embody how we can help ourselves to be happier in our lives.

Similar to Hendricks, The Big Leap, 1999, in topic, as both authors identify a limiting factor we each a carry- a limiting predisposition to how great we can be, how happy we can be. Common to both We have a programmed (genetic) predisposition to our capacity to feel.   Some are happy, some are glum. On the positive side, both found that we can create more tolerance within ourselves for happiness. Both are following the adult development model as espoused by (Collins, 1999; Cook-Greuter, 1994, 2004; Torbet, 1987, 1994). Their wisdom is closely associated with higher stages of ‘ego development’ that resulted from the individuals’ intentional efforts to grow and learn (Cook-Greuter, 1994, 2004; Kegan, 1982, 1994). He described these people as being mature. I have called such Leaders as wise, which Seligman believes can be broken down “into strengths of curiosity, love of learning, judgment, originality, social Intelligence and perspective.” P. 11.The path way according to Seligman, 2012, is “. . . well-being comes from engaging our strengths and virtues, our lives are imbued with authenticity” ,( p. 11). The route to greater happiness for both authors is related to living life as your: “genius” Hicks, in the Flow, Csikszentmihalyi, XXX, in your strengths and virtue for Seligman. “I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths. . . . the good life is using your signature strengths everyday to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.” (2012, p. 15). This is in support of Collins (1999) work that those leaders who come from wisdom and values with a focus on the “how “as much as the “what” make the most significant impact on their organizations success.

So success and happiness are within reach if only we can open ourselves to learning more and differently. One aspect of our perspectives which may need to be revised is our openness for change. This is similar to Dweck’s Mindset(XX). One aspect of how we see the world has been truncated to our belief that what is “is” versus what is “can change”. Openness to learning is one of Seligman’s strengths. This can be developed. One mindset can be changed through safe, integrated, effective, what I would call transformational education- this is what we do. It is essential to create an openness to learning, to taking on a challenge and seeing a challenge as potential for a win-win solution.   This mindset is not fearful of learning or changing. It is open to new ideas and new experiences, new learning. Positive emotions facilitate creativity and learning. “A positive mood . . . buoys people into a way of thinking that is creative, tolerant, constructive, generous, undefensive and lateral” (p.39). “More happiness actually causes more productivity and higher income” Seligman, 2012, p. 40. People “in a good mood select higher goals, perform better, and persist longer” p. 41. He goes on to claim that . . . feeling positive emotion is important. . .because it causes much better commerce in the world” Collins(1999) Torbet(1987,1994) agreed.

Hope is the underlying energy behind growth, change and happiness. Conversely, Hendricks in The Big Leap ( 2009) and Seligman (2013) both mention the limitation to our potential that fear has. Fear is strongly associated with the l win- you lose competitive world dominating view that dominates much of the business world. Negative emotions are a prominent in win-lose worlds. Seligman clearly articulates the difficulties that certain negative emotions cause us. Fear tells of danger, sadness tells of loss, and anger means we have been “trespassed”. Sadness brings about disengagement the others bring about reactive actions. These negative emotions fuel the risks associated with win lose perspective fueling more aggression and stopping learning.

Seligman (2012)identified barriers that we can work on to reduce their negative impact within our lives. A barrier to happiness is lack of positive social contact. Happier people spend more time with people. One thing associated with greater happiness is marriage. This was not welcome by me as I am an introvert but do recognize I need people as well. Interacting being in the flow (Csikszentmihalyi). To reduce negative thoughts Seligman has a strong preference for making peace and moving on in acceptance versus the talk therapy of reliving and reliving the negative. Having done both to me the talk therapy was needed to be ready to move on with any perspective that rested well within me. However your route it is necessary to find happiness to stop being in the negative emotions.

This is important as many hold negative energy from the past and when not actively engaged dwell on the negative and past hardships. We may do this when we are in a moment with no needs, no reason not to be in beauty and appreciation instead our habit, our mind, our gremlin takes us to the past and projects the past again into the present. Sit for a moment and listen to your thoughts . . . no wonder we like to be distracted. But what if your thoughts were positive? What would that feel like to you? Seligman wrote, thoughts “expressed and dwelt upon, through emotions multiply and imprison you in a vicious cycle of dealing fruitlessly with past wrongs ‘ p. 70. That is why becoming aware of your inner voice is so important -so that you can choose to give it credence and energy or not.

Another barrier is the “Hedonic treadmill” or taking for granted the wondrous abundance we currently live in. We forget to be grateful. We forget to appreciate. We forget to savor the beauty. We are in abundance, abundance we wanted but we fail to appreciate it. It no longer gives us the joy it did the day we purchased it. Our life circumstances are what we use as excuses for not being happier. Research actually does not bear this out. If our basic needs are met the population’s happiness is not impacted by wealth. “People who value money more than other goals are less satisfied with their income and with their lives as a whole” p. 55. Like many Seligman thinks that this will continue and this trend will become stronger. That would occur if as many believe we are on a tipping point to change and one of those changes will be a reduction in the value we give materialism.

How can we change? As in all change awareness is the first step, Have hope and belief in positive change. Start increasing the amount of positive you can maintain by being aware of all the abundance that you can be grateful for today this moment. Appreciate what is, turn up the joy the happiness right now. Identify when you are at your best, your strengths and than consciously spend some time each and every day in your strengths as these will allow you to contribute the most.   Spend time challenged and focused using skills and developing more skills in areas where you excel and have fun doing it.

I have not reviewed the chapters on love and marriage, and raising children as I did not feel they were the focus for this venue.