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Are You Living the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, or the Meaningful Life?

Posted May 22 2009 11:55pm

The video below from TED is a talk given by Dr. Martin Seligmann about positive psychology.

Martin Seligman founded the field of positive psychology in 2000, and has devoted his career since then to furthering the study of positive emotion, positive character traits, and positive institutions. It's a fascinating field of study that had few empirical, scientific measures -- traditional clinical psychology focusing more on the repair of unhappy states than the propagation and nurturing of happy ones. In his pioneering work, Seligman directs the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, developing clinical tools and training the next generation of positive psychologists.

His earlier work focused on perhaps the opposite state: learned helplessness, in which a person feels he or she is powerless to change a situation that is, in fact, changeable. Seligman is an often-cited authority in this field as well -- in fact, his is the 13th most likely name to pop up in a general psych textbook. He was the leading consultant on a Consumer Reports study on long-term psychotherapy, and has developed several common pre-employment tests, including the Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire (SASQ).

Here is the gist of the talk, but the video (23 minutes) is well worth watching.

The Pleasant Life

  • having as many pleasures as possible
  • amplying these pleasures with your skills
  • 50% of this is heritable and not very modifiable
  • positive emotion habituates

The Good Life

  • the three great avenues of life: work, play, love
  • pleasure is raw, something you feel
  • flow (as opposed to pleasure): you are one with the activity
  • identify with your signature strengths ( )
  • using that knowledge, recraft your work, play and love to make it conform more to flow

The Meaningful Life

  • knowing your highest strengths
  • using them for something larger than you
  • participating/forming positive institutions

Should you have any difficulty viewing the video here on the blog, click here to see it at TED
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