Review of October’s Business Book Brunch:
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman
We have a saying in our family: “This is happiness”. We use these words to describe a perfect, happy moment and find ourselves saying it often while away on holiday or sitting in a picturesque location usually with a drink in our hand. Happiness has, therefore, always been very top of mind for me, and I actively try to pursue a ‘happy life’ day to day. I was very excited to be reading Martin Seligman’s book called Authentic Happiness and looking forward to discovering secrets on how to be genuinely happy more of the time.
I soon discovered I’ve been pursuing, what Seligman calls, a Pleasant Life. I’ve been using short cuts to find moments of happiness that have an immediate and positive impact on my emotional state but don’t have a long-lasting effect. Seligman uses examples like eating an ice cream or having sex. My short cuts have been holiday adventures and alcoholic beverages. He says people leading this sort of life can feel like they are “fidgeting unto death” because they are going from one thing to another without finding real purpose in life.
To be authentically happy Seligman says we need to use our signature strengths to find a true purpose or calling in life. He calls this a Meaningful Life. According to Seligman, everyone has four or five signature strengths, and we need to use these every day to lead a richer and fuller life so that we may be authentically happy. He devotes a third of his book to examining how we can apply this to work and personal satisfaction, love and relationships, and raising children.
As we are the NZBWN, the discussion quickly turned to work and how we can effectively use our strengths to maximise our career enjoyment. There’s a really good example in the book where Seligman talks about nurses and their role within the healthcare system. Some nurses do it just as a functional job to get paid and look forward to retirement in comparison to others who see it as a real vocation and make the patients’ experience as positive and enjoyable as possible.
So, what happens when we leave work? We had a couple of examples in our group discussion of women who have recently retired and have found themselves losing meaning without work to provide structure, direction and purpose. Our signature strengths don’t change but, we concluded, can be used to evaluate where we might find a new purpose or calling so we can continue to lead a Meaningful Life.
I loved this book! Others (admittedly) struggled as it’s a dense, text book-type of read. However, most of us agreed it was definitely worth reading and a book that you need to take your time with. I’ve only summarised the overarching concept of the book – there’s so much more to discover about this fairly new science of happiness and Seligman’s Positive Psychology movement.
For those of you how are interested in the concept but might not have the time to invest in the book, I found this good YouTube video.
It’s an interview with the author and a great summary of his concept of Authentic Happiness:
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