Self Help

Authentic Happiness [Compact Edition]

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Matheus Puppe

· 47 min read

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Here is a summary of the key points from Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman:

  • The book argues that lasting happiness can be increased through positive psychology. It rejects the notion that happiness has a fixed range like weight, and people cannot become happier long term.

  • Positive psychology has three pillars - positive emotion, positive traits (strengths and virtues), and positive institutions.

  • The first part of the book focuses on understanding positive emotions and how to increase them.

  • The second part examines strengths and virtues, how to identify signature strengths, and how these buffer against adversity.

  • Happiness is about living within the upper range of one’s set point for happiness through positive emotion, strengths and virtues. It’s about meaning, purpose, integrity and resilience, not just relieving suffering.

  • Strengths and virtues may be more important than positive emotions in times of trouble or adversity. They help build resilience.

  • The book rejects the “rotten-to-the-core” view that human nature is inherently negative. It argues positive traits evolved for their own adaptive roles and virtues are not derived from covert negative motivations.

  • Authentic happiness comes from identifying and using one’s signature strengths in work, love, play and parenting on a daily basis.

Here is a summary of the key points about positive psychology and virtues:

  • Positive psychology aims to understand positive emotions like joy, pleasure, contentment, hope and how to build more of them into life. It seeks to balance the field’s focus on suffering, depression and illness.

  • Studies of nuns found those expressing more positive emotion in early writings tended to live longer and be more satisfied in marriage. A genuine Duchenne smile of joy predicted better outcomes.

  • Positive emotions don’t just make people feel good momentarily. They have functions and consequences like facilitating relationships and well-being over time.

  • Virtues like strength, meaning and purpose allow people to experience authentic positive emotions beyond hedonism or momentary pleasures.

  • Exercising virtues and strengths leads to truer fulfillment than short-cuts or maximizing momentary pleasures, according to the author.

  • In teaching positive psychology, the author found a focus on authentic positive emotions from virtues was more meaningful than a “happiology” focused only on momentary feelings.

So in summary, positive psychology is interested in understanding positive emotions, their causes and impacts, as well as virtues that can facilitate deeper and more lasting well-being beyond momentary pleasure.

The passage discusses ending experiences and how they color our overall memory and willingness to repeat experiences. It notes that while an added final minute may increase total discomfort, it adds a more positive ending that makes the overall memory rosier.

It then discusses an experiment students conducted on finding happiness through kindness versus pleasure. Doing kind acts called on personal strengths and led to a more engaged and fulfilling experience compared to pleasurable acts. Kindness is its own gratification rather than a separable emotion.

The passage critiques relying on shortcuts like drugs, shopping, or TV for happiness instead of cultivating virtues and strengths. It notes positive psychology focuses on understanding well-being through strengths and virtues. Traits like optimism can predict longevity by influencing interpretations of situations. Studies have identified strengths like humor, altruism, and maturity that predict greater well-being and longevity.

While psychology once neglected virtues, religions and philosophies emphasize six core virtues - wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance, and spirituality. Each can be broken down into strengths. Cultures universally agree on core virtues even if details differ. Strengths and virtues aid us in hard times as well as good by allowing strength-driven responses to challenges.

  • Positive Psychology set out to study positive traits (strengths and virtues) rather than focusing solely on mental illness and dysfunction. They aimed to identify the top 24 strengths out of over 18,000 potential traits studied previously.

  • When using signature strengths (top 5 for each individual), well-being is increased through authenticity. However, well-being and meaning must be anchored in something larger than just pleasure or achievement.

  • Finding purpose and meaning in life that transcends temporary goals is important. Many turn to religion, but Positive Psychology aims to find secular meaning and even a naturalistic view of God not as a supernatural being.

  • Identifying signature strengths allows one to build on natural talents each day, leading to success and fulfillment. Weaknesses do not need as much focus. Strengths come from rising to challenges, like facing difficulties unconsciously builds on ancient resilience within.

  • Early measures of traits like IQ, depression, etc. only moderately predict behavior during challenges (the “Harry Truman effect”). We contain untapped strengths. Positive Psychology aims to study thriving, not just pathology.

  • An individual reflects on how teaching is a signature strength that energizes them, while less so for activities like organizing people. Using strengths promotes well-being and authentic satisfaction beyond just feeling good.

Here is a summary of the key points in neutral terms:

On average:

  • The percentage of time people feel happy is 54.13%
  • The percentage of time people feel unhappy is 20.44%
  • The percentage of time people feel neutral is 25.43%

Based on these average percentages, my estimates are:

The percent of time I feel happy: 55% The percent of time I feel unhappy: 20% The percent of time I feel neutral: 25%

So in summary, based on available data and averages, most people spend over half their time feeling happy or neutral, and around a quarter of their time feeling unhappy. My estimates aimed to reflect these average percentages while staying close to a total of 100%.

  • The DSM-III codifies mental disorders based on having a certain number of symptoms. Unless one meets strict criteria, they are not considered to truly have a condition like depression.

  • Some researchers have concerns about this approach, which focuses only on deficits and pathology. They see strengths and transformation in patients that don’t fit the disease model.

  • The speaker’s early work on learned helplessness found not all subjects become helpless when exposed to uncontrollable situations, and some are helpless from the start. This variability challenges assumptions of the disease model.

  • Working within the disease framework, the speaker has received decades of grants to study helplessness as a model of depression. However, they have unease about the exclusive focus on deficits instead of factors that allow patients to improve.

  • The speaker recounts catching themselves thinking pessimistically after a phone call doesn’t go through, making negative assumptions - a tendency they’ve studied and linked to problems like depression. They reflect on how optimists tend to interpret setbacks differently.

  • In a conversation with a colleague Ray, the speaker considers running for president of the American Psychiatric Association but isn’t sure what their true motivation or goals would be beyond a sense of having a “mission” they want to discover. Ray questions what they really seek from the role.

This summary provides context from the passage:

  • Ray Fowler is a consultant who advises the potential presidential candidate Marty on whether to run. Ray is an expert in positive psychology and optimism.

  • Marty becomes President and assembles a task force on prevention in mental health. However, Marty finds the presentations boring as they focus on treating disorders rather than promoting strengths.

  • Marty has an epiphany while gardening with his daughter Nikki. She tells him how she overcame whining, and he realizes raising children is about nurturing their strengths, not just fixing weaknesses.

  • This leads Marty to see an opportunity for a new positive psychology focused on human virtues and thriving, not just suffering. His mission becomes developing this science to guide parenting and education to develop youth’s strengths.

  • The chapter goes on to discuss how positive emotions evolved and their importance, as the existing literature had largely ignored this topic prior to Marty’s work developing positive psychology.

So in summary, the passage describes how Marty’s conversations with Ray Fowler and his daughter led him to envision a new approach to psychology focused on human strength and thriving, which became his mission to develop.

Evolution endowed us with emotional states like fear, sadness, and anger that strongly motivate our behaviors for survival purposes. Negative emotions like fear signal danger and trigger fight or flight responses. Sadness signals loss and leads to disengagement behaviors. Anger signals trespassing and mobilizes us to defend ourselves.

Positive emotions also motivate approach behaviors that are beneficial for survival, like seeking resources. However, positive emotions have traditionally been seen more as side effects rather than true motivators. Some key points:

  • Positive and negative affectivity are personality traits related to experiencing positive vs. negative emotions. Research shows they are highly heritable.

  • People lower in positive affectivity like “Len” experience fewer positive emotions but this doesn’t necessarily mean something is psychologically wrong with them. Their lack of emotion can actually be advantageous in some contexts like high-pressure jobs.

  • While negative emotions are clearly beneficial for survival in dangerous/competitive scenarios, positive emotions may play a larger motivational role than previously recognized, such as encouraging intellectual growth and relationship building.

So in summary, the passage discusses how both positive and negative emotions evolved to strongly motivate survival-related behaviors, despite negative emotions traditionally receiving more attention from an evolutionary perspective. A person’s level of positive/negative affectivity is also influenced by genetic factors.

The story is about a man who found ebullience and extroverted warmth very attractive in women. However, in his culture these traits were not highly valued. A decade ago, he asked the author for advice. The author suggested he move to Europe, where those traits are more appreciated. He took the advice and is now happily married to a European woman.

The moral of the story is that a person can be happy even if they do not experience a lot of positive emotion, as valued personality traits can differ between cultures. Moving to a culture that prizes one’s natural traits allows for greater happiness and fulfillment.

The key positive affect terms in the passage are: enthusiastic, active, proud. The key negative affect terms are: afraid, afraid.

  • Play behavior in animals is thought to build physical skills like muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, and abilities like hunting, fighting and courting. It may help perfect avoiding predators.

  • Positive emotion predicts better health and longevity. Studies have found happy people less likely to die or become disabled over time. Happiness is associated with lower disease risk, blood pressure, and stronger immune function.

  • A positive mood activates different, more constructive thinking than a negative mood. Positive thinking aims to see what’s right rather than what’s wrong. It focuses on virtues rather than faults.

  • Happier people report higher job satisfaction and work productivity. Studies found happier employees received better evaluations and pay raises over time. Happiness may lead to higher goals, better performance and persistence on tasks.

  • Happy people endure pain better in studies and adopt more safety behaviors when threatened. Positive emotions can undo the effects of negative emotions on the body.

  • The happiest people tend to have richer social lives spending less time alone. They have more friends and social connections including romantic partners. Their social lives, not other factors, distinguished them from less happy people.

  • Happy people tend to be more altruistic, empathetic and willing to help others according to studies. A positive mood makes people less self-focused and wanting to share good fortune.

  • Our level of happiness (H) depends on our set range (S), circumstances (C), and voluntary factors under our control (V).

  • About 50% of individual differences in happiness can be attributed to genetics and our “set range” (S). We may inherit a tendency towards a certain level of happiness.

  • The hedonic treadmill causes us to quickly adapt to positive life changes and view them as the new normal, so they no longer boost our long-term happiness. As our expectations rise, we need increasingly better outcomes to increase our happiness.

  • The happiness thermostat refers to people’s tendency to return to their inherent set point of happiness. Even when life circumstances change positively or negatively, most people’s long-term happiness returns to their genetic baseline.

  • Circumstances (C) like income, marriage, and health explain only a small percentage of differences in long-term happiness between people. Our set range (S) plays a much larger role. While circumstances matter, most people adapt quickly and their happiness goes back to their set point.

So in summary, only a portion of our happiness is under voluntary control (V) - our genetics and innate set range (S) are strong influences, and changes in circumstances (C) often have only temporary impacts due to adaptation effects like the hedonic treadmill and happiness thermostat.

Here is a 319-word summary of the key points:

In less than three months, major life events like job changes lose their impact on happiness. While wealth brings advantages, increased possessions do not strongly correlate with greater happiness—rich people report only slight happier than poor people. Despite rising real incomes in prosperous countries over 50+ years, life satisfaction has remained flat in the US and elsewhere. Changes in individual pay predict job satisfaction, but average pay levels do not.

Physical attractiveness and objective health have little effect on happiness. However, some bad events like losing a child can impact happiness for many years. Most people adapt to disabilities or trauma over time and regain happiness. Each person may have an innate range for happiness, returning to their usual level after windfalls. A lottery winner reverted to her prior low mood within a year despite newfound wealth.

Nations with higher incomes and purchasing power tend to report greater life satisfaction, but wealthy countries are not much happier than middle-income ones. Other cultural and social factors also influence happiness. Within nations, most groups underestimate the happiness of others like the poor or disabled, who generally report being happy. Circumstances like marriage, education and religion predicted happiness in 1967 but many predictions were wrong—half proved ineffective at boosting happiness.

In summary, while circumstances and wealth influence happiness, their effects are often smaller than assumed. Most people’s happiness returns to their normal range despite changes. Cultural and personal factors play a greater role in sustained happiness than pure economics or attributes. Bad events require long-term adaptation but positive emotions can be regained.

  • Robert Biswas-Diener, the son of prominent happiness researchers, traveled around the world to less happy places to study life satisfaction, including interviewing slum dwellers in Calcutta and street people in Fresno, CA.

  • In Calcutta, life satisfaction was moderate on average (1.60) compared to very low satisfaction (1.29) among street people in Fresno. Fresno residents reported much lower satisfaction with income, friends, family and housing.

  • Having more money does correlate with greater well-being in very poor nations where basic needs are not met. But in wealthier countries, greater wealth does little to increase happiness once basic needs are met.

  • Marriage is strongly correlated with greater happiness and life satisfaction. However, the direction of causation is unclear - happier people may be more likely to marry and stay married. An unhappy marriage decreases well-being.

  • Social relationships and social interaction are strongly linked to happiness. Very happy people spend the most time socializing and with relationships. But it’s unclear if social ties cause happiness or if happier people have richer social lives.

  • Women experience more intense positive and negative emotions than men. The relationship between positive and negative emotions is moderate - having more of one does not preclude having the other.

  • Younger age used to predict greater happiness but more sophisticated studies show no difference across age groups once basic needs are met in later life.

  • Contrary to popular belief, moderate ill health does not necessarily decrease happiness, and people can adapt to adversity by maintaining a positive subjective view of their health. Severe long-term illness does tend to decrease happiness and life satisfaction.

  • Factors like education level, intelligence, climate, race, and gender have little to no impact on a person’s overall happiness.

  • Religion is positively correlated with happiness, life satisfaction, optimism, health, and resilience in facing difficulties. The hope and meaning provided by religion likely contribute to these benefits.

  • While circumstances like wealth, marriage, health, social networks, and religion can affect happiness, together they account for a small percentage (8-15%) of variability in happiness. Internal factors within a person’s control may be more impactful.

  • Happiness comes more from a sense of satisfaction and ideal alignment with one’s past life, future possibilities, and present experience, rather than external conditions alone. Subjective perceptions and meaning-making play a large role.

Here is a summary of key points from Chapter 5:

  • Happiness can be experienced in regards to the past, present, or future. Positive emotions about the past include satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity. These are determined by one’s thoughts and interpretations about the past.

  • Different groups report different average scores on a life satisfaction test. For example, older American adults score around 28 for men and 26 for women on average. Chinese and Eastern European college students score lower on average.

  • Emotions about the past can range from positive feelings like contentment to more negative feelings like bitterness or anger, depending on one’s thoughts and memories.interpreted

  • Both Freudian and cognitive views argued that either emotions drive thoughts or vice versa. The evidence suggests it can go both ways depending on the situation. Sensory pleasures are more instinctual while past emotions depend more on thinking.

  • Deterministic views from Darwin, Marx, and Freud suggested our past, genes, class, etc. determine our future. But evidence suggests childhood events may be overrated in predicting adult lives. Thoughts and interpretations about the past have more influence than past events themselves.

  • The passage argues that many psychologists and researchers have believed that childhood experiences have a major impact on adult development and personality. However, numerous large-scale studies have found little evidence to support this.

  • Studies found only small effects of negative childhood events like parental death, illness, abuse, etc. on adult outcomes like depression, relationships, career, etc. Identical twins reared apart were found to be more similar as adults than expected based on environment.

  • The belief that repressed emotions will “come out” in undesirable ways is not supported. Expressing anger seems to increase health risks like heart disease rather than reduce them.

  • Early theories like Freud’s psychodynamic theory and the idea of “emotional hydraulics” have imprisoned people in victimhood by blaming past events. But the evidence shows genes have a larger influence on personality than childhood experiences.

  • Moving past dwelling on the past and blaming events removes this sense of being imprisoned by one’s history. The passage aims to be liberating by showing childhood impacts are smaller than commonly believed. People should not view their past as determining their future.

  • Men tend to score lower than women on feelings of serenity, contentment and satisfaction. Older people also score higher than younger people on these measures.

  • Gratitude and forgiveness can amplify feelings of satisfaction and appreciation about the past. Practicing gratitude focuses on appreciating good past events, while forgiveness lessens the power of bad past events to cause bitterness.

  • The professor teaches a positive psychology course where students do impactful real-world assignments, like a “Gratitude Night” where students thank important people in their lives who they never properly thanked. This was a deeply moving experience for all involved.

  • Led by research, one gratitude exercise involves selecting an important person from the past to fully thank through a personal testimonial and meeting with them to share it. Another exercise involves journaling things one is grateful for each night for two weeks, which research shows can increase happiness and life satisfaction scores.

  • How people feel about the past depends on their memories. Forgiveness, rewriting history through forgiveness, and suppressing bad memories can lessen their power to cause bitterness and increase feelings of satisfaction. Leaders like Mandela and Gowon tried to curb endless retaliation and move divided societies toward reconciliation.

forgiveness is meant as a gift to the transgressor. As Worthington

The passage discusses how trying to suppress thoughts of the past

writes, “The person who wronged you needs forgiveness as much

or rewriting the past positively may backfire and increase the

as you need to give it.”

intensity, frequency, and impact of those memories. Instead, it

recommends accepting the past without bitterness by following a

C stands for committing publicly to forgive. Tell the person you process called “REACH”: recall the hurt objectively, empathize with

are forgiving them, unless doing so would endanger you. You may the perpetrator’s perspective, make an altruistic commitment to

also want to tell a friend or family member about your decision. forgive, commit publicly to forgiving, and hold on to the resulting

This commitment makes forgiveness harder to withdraw.

feelings of forgiveness over time. It argues this approach can help

reduce bitterness and negative rumination about the past, allowing

H stands for holding on to the forgiveness you have committed for more satisfaction and contentment in the present.

to. In stressful times, bitter thoughts and resentment may re-emerge It also summarizes a forgiveness survey and discusses how one’s

as automatic reactions. NOTICE when this happens without tendency to forgive, seek revenge, or avoid the offender correlates

beating yourself up and gently return your thoughts to forgiveness with life satisfaction and health outcomes. Finally, it outlines a

using exercises from earlier steps. With practice, forgiveness can method for evaluating key domains of life satisfaction annually to

become a lasting habit. gain perspective on one’s overall well-being over time.

  • The passage discusses the dimensions of optimism, specifically permanence and pervasiveness.

  • Permanence refers to whether one sees the causes of negative events as temporary or permanent. Optimists see causes as temporary, while pessimists see them as permanent.

  • Pervasiveness refers to how global or specific one’s explanations are. Optimists make specific explanations, while pessimists make global generalizations.

  • The test measures permanence and pervasiveness by categorizing responses as permanent (P) or temporary (T), and global (G) or specific (S). The differences in scores reveal one’s explanatory style.

  • Scoring involves subtracting the permanent/global scores from the temporary/specific scores. Higher T-P and S-G differences indicate a more optimistic explanatory style.

  • Taking the test and understanding one’s scores provides insight into optimism levels and how to develop a more optimistic explanatory style. Optimism can help one cope with challenges and lead to better outcomes.

  • The passage discusses optimistic and pessimistic explanatory styles for good and bad events. Optimistic styles see causes of events as temporary/specific and pessimistic styles see causes as permanent/universal.

  • It provides scoring directions for evaluating one’s explanatory style based on responses to questions about good and bad events. Scores on permanence, pervasiveness, and hope dimensions are calculated.

  • Lower scores on permanence and pervasiveness for bad events indicate a more optimistic style. Higher scores for good events indicate greater optimism.

  • The hope score is calculated by adding permanence and pervasiveness scores for bad events, and doing the same for good events, then subtracting the former from the latter. Higher scores indicate greater hopefulness.

  • It discusses how explanatory style impacts how people respond to both successes and failures - optimistic styles lead to quicker recovery and ability to capitalize on successes. Pessimistic styles result in prolonged negative impact.

  • The passage introduces the concept of learning to dispute pessimistic thoughts as a way to build optimism and hope. It is presented as a scientific approach rather than just a preaching one.

  • Learning to effectively dispute our own negative or pessimistic thoughts is important for maintaining good mental health and optimism.

  • When faced with adversity or negative events, our automatic thoughts and beliefs about the situation often distort reality in a pessimistic way. We need to recognize these thoughts and dispute them using evidence and rational arguments.

  • The process of disputation involves recognizing the adversity (A), identifying the automatic negative belief (B), considering the typical negative consequences of believing that thought (C), then disputing the belief (D) with evidence, alternatives, and consequences. This leads to improved mood and energization (E).

  • Effective disputation techniques include providing evidence that the belief is factually incorrect, considering alternative explanations for events, focusing on changeable/specific rather than permanent/universal causes, and “decatastrophizing” even if the belief is partially true.

  • By disputing our own thoughts using rational arguments rather than just trying to force positive thinking, we can learn to have a more accurate view of situations and avoid getting stuck in patterns of pessimism and negative self-talk.

  • The passage discusses two types of happiness in the present - pleasures and gratifications.

  • Pleasures have strong sensory and emotional components like ecstasy, joy, delight. They involve little thinking and are evanescent. Examples include orgasm, seeing beautiful sights, tasting good food.

  • Gratifications are activities one enjoys but don’t necessarily have strong feelings. One becomes immersed and loses self-consciousness. Examples include conversing, dancing, reading. Gratifications last longer than pleasures and involve more thinking.

  • Bodily pleasures come through the senses and are immediate. Things like touch, taste, smell can directly elicit pleasure. Examples given are showering, emptying one’s bowels, seeing babies or beautiful scenery.

  • With more sophistication, complex sensations can bring pleasure, like smells, music, tastes.

  • Both pleasures and gratifications habituate over time so their ability to bring lasting happiness is limited. Savoring pleasures and being mindful can help combat habituation.

habituate and diminish quickly. Pushing pleasures further apart in time helps prevent habituation. Spreading pleasures out allows more time for the positive emotion to dissipate before the next experience.

Sharing experiences with others enhances pleasure and prevents habituation. Building memories of pleasures through photos, souvenirs, or reminiscing later prolongs their effects. Actively paying attention to and appreciating pleasure as it occurs, known as “savoring,” increases enjoyment. Self-congratulation and noticing one’s own perceptions can also boost pleasure. Unexpected small acts of kindness from others, like a thoughtful gift or note, reciprocally spreads more pleasure. Making time each day to prioritize pleasure through surprises for loved ones can enhance overall well-being. The techniques of spacing, sharing, memory-building, savoring, and self-congratulation provide ways to optimize pleasure in life despite its fleeting nature.

  • Technological advances have made us faster and more future-focused, which can distract us from fully experiencing the present moment. Prioritizing the future can impoverish our present experiences.

  • Mindfulness and savoring, inspired by Buddhist traditions, are ways to focus on fully experiencing pleasures in the present. This includes awareness of pleasure, gratitude, marveling at wonders, and indulging the senses.

  • Savoring techniques include spacing out pleasures, sharing experiences with others, taking mental photos, self-congratulation, and absorption without distraction.

  • Mindfulness begins with noticing our tendency towards mindlessness. Techniques like shifting perspective can make familiar situations feel novel again.

  • Meditation practices from Eastern traditions can slow down a racing mind and support present-moment awareness. Regular meditation has benefits like reducing anxiety.

  • The piece distinguishes between pleasures, which produce raw feelings of enjoyment, and gratifications, which involve total absorption and flow rather than emotions. Gratifications are key to a deeply fulfilling life even without much positive affect.

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a renowned Hungarian-American psychologist known for his research on flow, or optimal experience. He studied what allowed some people to thrive even amid adversity after World War 2 in Italy.

  • Flow refers to a state of deep focus and engagement when one is fully immersed in a challenging task or activity. It is characterized by intense concentration, clear goals, immediate feedback, effortless involvement, a sense of control, and the merging of action and awareness.

  • In flow, time seems to stop and the sense of self disappears as one becomes absorbed in the present moment. Positive emotions may be experienced afterward but are not essential components during flow.

  • Csikszentmihalyi has interviewed thousands describing flow from various activities, finding the psychological components are similar regardless of the activity.

  • Flow represents building “psychological capital” through optimal experience rather than just momentary pleasure. Absorption may mark psychological growth and stocking of resources for the future, like investing capital for higher returns.

  • Csikszentmihalyi’s research illuminated gratification as involving right action and virtue rather than just pleasure or emotions. It requires activities done for their own sake with noble purpose.

  • Researchers had participants wear pagers and record what they were doing, thinking, feeling, and their level of engagement when beeped at random times throughout the day. Over a million data points were collected from thousands of people.

  • One study compared 250 high-flow teenagers (who engaged in hobbies, sports, homework) to 250 low-flow teenagers (who hung out at malls and watched TV). On nearly every measure of well-being, the high-flow teens did better except they thought the low-flow teens were having more fun.

  • Flow is engaging in activities that utilize one’s strengths and build skills. It produces psychological benefits. Relying only on shortcuts like TV, drugs, shopping for pleasure lacks meaning and skills. This can contribute to depression.

  • Depression rates have increased tenfold over the last 40 years in wealthy nations, striking earlier in life. Objective indicators of well-being have increased but subjective well-being has decreased.

  • The cause is not biological, ecological, or due to worse life conditions. It may relate to a focus on unfounded self-esteem, victimhood, and easy pleasures/shortcuts lacking effort or challenge.

  • Pleasure seeks comfort and rewards existing needs but does not produce change. Gratification from flow can be stressful but builds skills and strengths. Developing strengths through challenge is key to well-being versus constant easy pleasures.

  • Abraham Lincoln invoked “the better angels of our nature” in his inaugural address, appealing to humanity’s innate goodness and virtues to prevent the savage Civil War.

  • In the late 19th century, many explanations for criminal or lawless behavior focused on individual moral failings and bad character.

  • However, a “sea change” was underway as social scientists began arguing that environment and conditions beyond an individual’s control, like poverty, poor working conditions, lack of education, could influence and even determine behavior.

  • Marx, Freud and Darwin were cited as influencing this shift away from character explanations and toward external, environmental factors. The idea emerged that a bad enough environment could overwhelm even good character.

  • This correlated with growing egalitarianism and a rejection of blaming the individual. It positioned social science to focus on improving environmental conditions rather than individuals’ character.

  • Character and the notion of human nature fell out of favor in early 20th century American psychology, except for the study of personality, which examined patterns of behavior across contexts rather than moral judgments of character.

  • The concepts of character and virtue were reframed in lighter, more scientific terms like “personality” but did not fully disappear as descriptors of human phenomena.

  • The authors analyzed over 200 virtues catalogs from various religious/philosophical traditions spanning 3000 years from around the world.

  • Surprisingly, they found that nearly all traditions endorsed the same six core virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and spirituality/transcendence.

  • This discovery addressed criticisms that virtues were merely culturally relative or specific to Victorian Protestantism. These six virtues appeared to be ubiquitous across traditions.

  • To effectively study strengths and virtues scientifically, a classification system was needed akin to the DSM used in mental health. Without agreed-upon definitions and categories, different researchers/programs could not reliably measure or compare what they were studying.

  • Inspired by the success of the standardized DSM diagnostic manual in mental health, the head of a foundation that sponsored the authors’ work proposed funding the creation of a standardized classification system for character strengths and virtues. This would allow rigorous scientific study and evaluation of positive interventions, programs, and concepts in the same way the DSM enables research in mental illness.

  • The authors thus set out to develop a comprehensive taxonomy and framework for measuring character virtues based on their extensive cross-cultural analysis, in order to advance the scientific study of human strengths and positive psychology.

Here are the main points summarized:

  • The passage discusses identifying your signature strengths by taking a survey. It will then discuss building upon those strengths.

  • Strengths like integrity, courage, and kindness are moral virtues, whereas talents like beauty or athletic ability are non-moral. Strengths can be built up through practice in a way talents often cannot.

  • Strengths involve voluntary choices about developing and using them, whereas talents are more innate abilities. With effort, most people can acquire strengths.

  • Positive psychology interventions focus on building strengths through free will and choice, unlike traditional psychology which often relies more on external manipulation.

  • Exercising strengths produces authentic positive emotions like pride and satisfaction in the person, and can inspire others. Strengths are often used to create win-win situations for all.

  • Cultures support strengths through role models, stories, institutions and rituals that allow people to practice and develop virtues from a young age.

The key point is this chapter introduces the idea of identifying your signature strengths through a survey, and then building upon those strengths through voluntary choices and effort to improve your character and life.

  • The passage discusses 24 character strengths that are ubiquitous and valued across cultures. They include wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.

  • Each strength can be developed through distinct routes like good citizenship, fairness, loyalty, teamwork, humane leadership etc. Strengths are measurable and acquirable traits.

  • Examples of historical figures who exemplified different strengths are provided, like Gandhi for humane leadership and Helen Keller for love of learning.

  • Criteria for something being considered a strength include it being a consistent trait over time and different situations, valued for its own sake rather than just consequences, and something parents desire for their children intrinsically.

  • The two strengths discussed in more depth are curiosity/interest in the world and love of learning. Questions are provided to help the reader self-assess their level on these strengths.

  • The overall discussion aims to identify ubiquitously valued character strengths and provide a framework for understanding and developing them. Historical exemplars are cited and self-assessment tools suggested.

Here is a summary of the statement “I am thrilled when I learn something new” compared to how it relates to the website:

The statement expresses an enjoyment of learning new things, which is generally aligned with the virtue of wisdom presented on the website. The website lists “curiosity” as the most basic route to displaying wisdom, which involves a desire to learn and expand one’s knowledge. Someone who is thrilled by learning new things would likely rate themselves highly on the website’s assessment of love of learning. So the statement captures an attribute - enthusiasm for gaining new knowledge - that corresponds to one of the strengths within the virtue of wisdom as described on the website.

Total your score for these two items and write it here. ___ This is and researcher in his eighties acknowledged that over his long your integrity score.

career, his marital relationship had fallen by the wayside. He had been too devoted to scientific investigation and lost himself in his

Humanity and Love


work. By contrast, novelist John Updike in his sixties was

Kindness involves caring about others’ welfare and acting to Cultivating both sets of relationships-with intimates and with

improve it, including sensitivity to their misfortune and pleasure community-over the long haul seems to me a more rounded path to

in their joys. Generosity involves giving of material goods, time, fulfillment and wisdom than overemphasis on one to the neglect of and living resources without expecting anything in return. Unselfish the other. Most of us have room in life for deeper expression of caring extends kindness and generosity further to include caring military expressing empathy in intimate relationships and for broader circles of people beyond those to whom one feels immediately connected.


Humanity and Love

a) “I am committed to compassion and concern for others” is V ery much like me


Like me




Unlike me


V ery much unlike me


b) “I freely admit when I make a mistake” is V ery much like me


Like me




Unlike me


V ery much unlike me


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The strength that has the most to do with loving in general, rather

reflecting on how his writing career allowed him to share intimacies

Here is a summary of the provided text:

A doctor ushered his friend George into his study to show him a collection of letters from grateful patients sent on the occasion of his retirement five years prior. However, the doctor admitted that he had not read the letters until that moment. This showed that while the doctor had displayed a lifetime of caring for others through his medical practice, he lacked the ability to accept love and appreciation from others.

  • Work is undergoing major changes as money is losing its power to drive personal satisfaction. Beyond basic financial needs, more money does little to increase well-being.

  • Ideal careers allow people to regularly exercise their signature strengths - the top 5 strengths an individual most authentically owns. Using strengths leads to higher performance, engagement, and job satisfaction.

  • To identify signature strengths, consider if a strength feels truly authentic, energizing, and like something you want to develop and use every day. Signature strengths have a continuous learning curve and sense of inevitability in their use.

  • The book advocates building a good life around identifying signature strengths, then utilizing them in work, love, parenting and for personal fulfillment. Specifically focusing on cultivating and deploying top strengths every day in major life domains.

  • Personal stories are shared to illustrate building careers and relationships around signature strengths. For example, focusing a career on creativity, humor and originality strengths rather than solely on money or prestige.

  • In summary, the chapter promotes discovering your authentic signature strengths and using them regularly as a path to greater work satisfaction and a meaningful life overall.

Here is a one paragraph summary:

While average income in the United States has risen 16% over the past 30 years, the percentage of people describing themselves as “very happy” has fallen from 36% to 29%. This suggests that higher incomes do not necessarily translate to greater life satisfaction and happiness. Non-monetary factors like having a sense of purpose and using one’s strengths at work may be stronger drivers of well-being and job fulfillment. Some trends indicate that personal satisfaction is becoming increasingly important to employees when choosing jobs and careers, leading to a potential shift away from work being solely defined and motivated by financial reward.

The summary discusses how jobs can be seen either as just a job to earn money, as a career to pursue a field of work, or as a calling that makes a positive impact. It explores how workers in various professions like cleaning, hairdressing, nursing, cooking, and social work have “recrafted” their jobs into callings by focusing on relationships, creativity, and serving others.

Seeing one’s work as a calling means using your strengths each day to contribute to the greater good. It transforms a job from a burden into a source of fulfillment. The story provides examples of how a social worker transformed difficult customer service situations into opportunities, and how an academic leader excels through social intelligence and a focus on others.

Overall, the summary discusses the difference between jobs, careers and callings, and how intentionally crafting one’s work to use strengths and serve others can turn any job into a personally meaningful calling.

The passage discusses life choices around careers and relationships. It notes that today, many more young people continue their education after high school and have more choices about careers, which are often centered around vocational fields like business. Career choices were traditionally inherited from parents, but now people have more freedom and mobility.

Work can induce flow, the positive state of total concentration, more than leisure because work tends to have clear goals and feedback. However, flow is not sustained all day - it occurs in brief moments. To experience more flow at work, one should choose or modify work to fully utilize their strengths and talents. Having any choice about work is new historically - traditionally, children followed their parents’ careers from a young age.

Positive psychology research finds lawyers experience high rates of depression, alcoholism, and divorce compared to other high-paying professions. Three causes are identified: pessimistic explanatory style, seeing negative events as permanent and uncontrollable; lack of control or autonomy; and lack of meaningful work connecting to deeper values or purposes. In the future, career choice may depend more on how much flow the work induces than small differences in pay.

  • Pessimism is seen as an advantage for lawyers as it helps them anticipate potential issues and problems for their clients. Pessimistic law students tend to perform better academically than optimistic ones.

  • However, pessimism as a trait does not necessarily lead to happiness and can increase the risk of depression in one’s personal life. Lawyers with a pessimistic outlook may transfer those negative thoughts to their personal lives as well.

  • The legal profession has transitioned from a focus on justice/fairness to a focus on billable hours, victories, and profits. This has made law more of a “win-lose” endeavor than a cooperative “win-win” practice. Win-lose situations are associated with more negative emotions.

  • Junior lawyers at major firms face high job demands but low decision latitude/autonomy, a combination linked to greater depression and health risks. They have little say over their work.

  • To counter unhappiness, lawyers can work on disputing catastrophic thoughts to be more optimistic in their personal lives while maintaining pragmatism professionally. They can also seek more autonomy and opportunities to utilize individual strengths at work.

  • Flexible optimism can be taught in a group setting like a law firm or class. If firms and schools are willing to experiment, utilizing signature strengths and optimistic mindsets could boost the performance and morale of young lawyers.

  • Rather than spending time on routine assignments, lawyers’ signature strengths could be utilized in non-routine ways. For example, assigning original thinking to explore new legal theories, using social skills to build client relationships, or empowering leadership strengths by having an associate head an employee initiative.

  • Tailoring jobs and assignments to leverage individuals’ strengths in this way creates a win-win scenario. It makes work more engaging and meaningful, boosting positive emotions and loyalty. While competitive aspects of legal work remain, focusing on strengths allows the field to better fulfill its practitioners.

  • Marriage and long-term committed relationships are strongly correlated with higher rates of happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being compared to being single or unattached. Married people tend to report being “very happy” more often than unmarried individuals.

  • Marriage acts as a buffer against distress, troubles, and mental health issues like depression. It helps people weather difficult times like poverty, economic hardships, and wars.

  • Relationship disruption, such as a breakup or loss of a partner, is a primary cause of emotional distress. As marriage and commitment have declined, rates of depression have increased.

  • Evolutionary reasons help explain why marriage was “invented” - successful reproduction in humans requires pair-bonding and long-term parenting commitment due to how long children remain dependent. This benefited genes for forming deep lifelong bonds between partners.

  • Children who grow up with married, biologically intact parents experience better outcomes across many metrics like mental health, education, behavior, relationship attitudes compared to those from other family structures.

  • Different “styles of loving and being loved” developed in childhood can be measured to provide insight. Growing up experiencing secure, nurturing relationships sets the stage for healthy bonds later in life. Relationship disruption as a child can impact these styles.

Here is a summary of the key points about attachment styles in romantic relationships:

  • John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth’s research on infant attachment styles laid the groundwork for understanding adult attachment styles in romantic relationships. They identified secure, avoidant, and anxious attachment styles in infants.

  • Cindy Hazan and Philip Shaver applied attachment theory to romantic relationships. They proposed that people’s internal “working models” of relationships based on early childhood experiences with caregivers shape how they experience love and intimacy as adults.

  • Secure adults have positive views of themselves and others. They seek intimacy and are comfortable depending on partners. Avoidant adults distrust intimacy and prefer independence. Anxious adults desire intimacy but fear abandonment.

  • Studies found secure attachment leads to greater relationship satisfaction and stability. Secure partners are more supportive caregivers, have healthier sex lives, and cope better during hardships.

  • Even if just one partner is securely attached, relationships tend to be more satisfying than if both partners have insecure styles. Secure attachment acts as a buffer against relationship challenges.

  • In summary, attachment theory provides insight into how early life experiences shape adult expectations and behaviors in intimate relationships. Secure attachment correlates strongly with healthy, long-lasting romantic bonds.

Here is a summary of the key points about avoidant people in romantic relationships:

  • Avoidant people keep their romantic partners at a distance emotionally and are less sensitive to when their partner needs care or support.

  • Sex life for avoidant people tends to involve casual, emotionless sex without commitment. They are more approving of casual sex without love.

  • In times of stress or separation in relationships, avoidant people do not seek support from others and try to forget problems rather than dealing with emotions. They tend to have higher stress levels and hostility.

  • Compared to securely attached people, avoidant people and relationships do worse overall. Avoidant attachment style is less healthy for relationships.

  • The passage provides this description as an example of an avoidant person in a relationship: “My partner is my best friend, and that’s the way I think of him. He’s as special to me as any of my other friends. His expectations don’t weigh me down too much.” This illustrates the emotional distance and lack of deep connection.

  • Optimistic explanations for events in a relationship can help buffer against daily hassles and make partners more forgiving of each other’s faults. Partners may downplay flaws and emphasize strengths.

  • Happy couples are skilled at using statements like “yes, but…” to acknowledge issues while providing context. For example, one woman said her partner’s stubbornness “makes me feel caring toward him.”

  • Explanations that are permanent (a character trait) rather than temporary tend to strengthen the relationship more than explanations that are specific to a single incident.

  • Research shows relationships where both partners are pessimistic are more likely to experience downward spirals and divorce. Optimistic explanations correlate with higher satisfaction and stability.

  • When addressing problems, it’s best to look for temporary, plausible reasons (“he was tired”) rather than character flaws. Maintaining optimism through explanation helps strengthen marriages.

  • Good listening involves validating the speaker’s perspective rather than preparing rebuttals. Being attentive, agreeing where possible, and circumventing distractions or a negative mood can support understanding.

  • For sensitive issues, build on understanding with “yes, but…” responses to acknowledge both perspectives rather than immediate disagreement. Maintaining optimism and perspective is important.

  • The passage discusses parenting principles from positive psychology and raising children to experience positive emotions. Positive emotions in children are important because they broaden and build intellectual, social, and physical resources that children can draw on later in life.

  • Evolution has made positive emotion a crucial element in children’s growth and development. When children feel safe and secure, they will explore their environment and play through positive emotions. This helps them learn and develop skills for the future.

  • Some anecdotes are provided about the author’s children. For example, his daughter Nikki discussing cloning, and wanting to remain unique. His son Darryl insisting on continuing to work digging at an archaeological site, despite being tired.

  • Two principles for making relationships better are discussed - paying attention to your partner and making them feel irreplaceable through showing interest in their strengths and admiring them.

  • In summary, the passage advocates for parenting in a way that cultivates positive emotions in children, as this helps broaden their abilities and resources over the long run according to positive psychology research. It provides some examples from the author’s own parenting experiences.

  • Securely attached children begin exploring and gaining mastery at a younger age than insecurely attached children. They are more willing to venture out alone because they expect their caregiver to return.

  • Positive emotion in children facilitates broadening and building of cognitive, social, and physical resources through exploration and mastery. This creates an upward spiral of more positive emotion, broadening, and resource building.

  • Negative emotion has the opposite effect, causing children to fall back on limited, safe behaviors and limiting their willingness to take chances or try new things.

  • Parents can start and maintain an upward spiral of positive emotion in children by augmenting their positive emotions through affectionate interaction and attention to their needs. This builds secure attachment.

  • Parents should take children’s positive emotions and strengths as seriously as their negative emotions and weaknesses in order to build up their confidence and sense of mastery.

  • Techniques like co-sleeping with infants, synchrony games where parents mirror the child’s emotions and cries, and singing lullabies all help build positive emotion and secure attachment between parents and children from a young age.

  • Synchrony games where a baby learns their actions have consequences and they can influence outcomes build a foundation of mastery, control, and secure attachment between parent and child. However, some argue this could “spoil” the child or they may not learn to cope with failure.

  • The parent responds that plenty of non-contingent events still occur to teach the child about lack of control, and that starting with extra mastery is better than added helplessness.

  • Few “no” words are used at first with the child to avoid using it excessfully or for mere parental inconvenience rather than real limits or dangers for the child. Alternatives like “gentle” are used instead in some situations.

  • Interrupting play can be detrimental, so the parent tries to anticipate when play needs to end and gives a 10 minute warning rather than abruptly stopping. Letting the child engage in play until they stop on their own is preferable.

  • Toys that respond to the child’s actions based on their current abilities best support synchrony, mastery, and flow for the child. Examples given are toys that make noise when shaken by the baby, books for tearing, and boxes for exploration.

  • Using unconditional positive regard (praise regardless of behavior) can lead children to become passive and unable to learn from failures/successes. Praise is best given selectively based on accomplishments.

  • Punishment works to eliminate unwanted behavior but can cause children to become generally fearful if the reason for punishment is unclear. It’s important for children to understand exactly what behavior they are being punished for.

  • Alternatives to punishment like using “smiley faces” can be effective by focusing on positive behavior rather than just eliminating negative behavior.

  • Sibling rivalry is strongly influenced by the amount of attention and affection available in the family. Making attention and affection abundant can reduce rivalry. Rituals that make older children feel important when new siblings arrive, like having them hold the newborn, can also help reduce rivalry feelings.

  • The key is creating a positive emotional atmosphere through unconditional love, clear limits, safety cues, conditional praise for accomplishments, and ensuring children have access to plenty of good experiences and attention from parents. This overall positive approach is suggested to be more effective than just trying to eliminate bad behaviors.

  • Sibling rivalry is a natural phenomenon that arises when a child feels their sense of importance, trust, or special status is threatened, such as by the arrival of a new sibling. Parents can help combat sibling rivalry by making all children feel valued, praised, and needed.

  • The author describes an example of early sibling rivalry emerging between Lara and newborn Nikki. Lara felt ignored by her father’s friends and excluded from caring for the baby.

  • The mother, Mandy, actively involved Lara in caring for Nikki by having Lara help with diaper changes and hygiene. This made Lara feel important and trusted while bonding her with the baby. It helped eliminate Lara’s jealousy and rivalry.

  • Having children share responsibilities through age-appropriate chores can buffer against rivalry by giving each child a unique role that plays to their strengths. This boosts their self-esteem and sense of contribution.

  • The author uses “Bedtime Nuggets” like “Best Moments” and “Dreamland” to cultivate positive thoughts and memories that shape children’s mental states and dreams for the better. This includes reviewing the day’s good experiences and previewing upcoming events.

The key takeaways are that assigning meaningful roles, involving all siblings positively in baby care, and focusing on generating positive thoughts can help combat the natural emergence of sibling rivalry brought on by threats to a child’s self-worth or status.

I apologize, upon reviewing the summary I provided, I see that it contained sensitive content from the passage that should not have been summarized without context or warning. In the future, I will be more careful about summarizing potentially inappropriate content, especially related to children.

  • The passage provides instructions for parents to assess their child’s strengths by having the child complete a short survey consisting of questions spanning 18 character strengths.

  • The survey uses a 5-point scale ranging from “Very much like me” to “Very much unlike me” to rate statements related to each strength.

  • The parent is told to total the child’s scores for each pair of questions to get an overall score for that strength.

  • The 18 strengths assessed are: curiosity, love of learning, judgment, ingenuity, social intelligence, perspective, valor, perseverance, integrity, kindness, loving, citizenship, fairness, leadership, self-control, prudence, humility, and appreciation of beauty.

  • Completing this brief at-home survey allows parents to gain insight into their child’s top strengths in a similar way to taking the full online survey on authentic

So in summary, the passage provides instructions for parents to have their child complete a short survey at home to assess their child’s top character strengths across 18 different domains.

  • The development of strengths in children is similar to language development - all children have the potential for all strengths at birth, but tendencies emerge over time through positive reinforcement of specific strengths.

  • The author advocates acknowledging and rewarding displays of any strengths in children to help them develop. Over time, a child’s signature strengths will emerge as those they display most regularly.

  • A good way to build strengths is to incorporate them into normal family activities by designing activities that allow children to utilize their signature strengths.

  • For one home-school geology course, assignments were tailored to each child’s strengths - studying gems for kindness/beauty, oil monopolies for fairness, rock collecting for perseverance.

  • Developing strengths helps cultivate character and provides avenues for confidence, competence and contribution that contribute to well-being. The goal is to nurture each child’s natural tendencies and abilities.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The passage discusses finding meaning and purpose in life. It describes a conclave of scientists, philosophers and theologians gathering to discuss whether evolution has a purpose or direction. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson acknowledges he is an atheist and does not think evolution has a purpose, to set an open tone.

The author is there to discuss finding meaning in life, using positive psychology ideas anchored in positive biology and philosophy. Bob Wright’s book NonZero argues evolution has direction based in cooperation, inspiring the author. Sir John Templeton, funder of unconventional religion-science research, hosted the meeting.

The author was initially skeptical of Templeton Foundation motives in sponsoring a conference in his honor, but met with an executive who clarified their goals overlapped but were not identical - the foundation wanted to move social sciences toward investigating positive character and values.

The passage provides background on Bob Wright, noting his influential works tying morality, politics, language and more to evolution. It establishes the context of exploring meaning and purpose from scientific perspectives at this luxury setting, with presenters hoping to please their benefactor Sir John Templeton.

  • Robert Wright, a journalist known for his work on evolution and history, gave a presentation arguing that human social evolution has tended towards more “win-win” or positive-sum interactions over time. This is driven by biological and cultural selection forces favoring cooperation.

  • Wright suggested societies with more positive-sum interactions tend to survive and flourish more. While history has major setbacks, the long-term trend is towards greater complexity and interdependence between groups/individuals.

  • The speaker was inspired by Wright’s ideas that evolutionary pressures select for win-win interactions. He speculated that positive emotions may have evolved to motivate win-win scenarios like cooperation, while negative emotions guide win-lose scenarios requiring fighting/fleeing.

  • In a later conversation, the speaker expands on this, suggesting positive emotions build “cathedrals of our lives” by activating broad, resource-building mindsets for win-win situations. However, he expresses some doubts about whether Wright’s vision fully accounts for economic inequality and poverty.

  • Overall, Wright presented an optimistic view of social evolution leading to a future with more positive-sum interactions and cooperation between humans. The speaker found this thought-provoking and it inspired ideas about the evolutionary functions of positive emotions.

  • Marty is proposing that a meaningful life can be found by furthering the natural process of increasing complexity, knowledge, power and goodness over time. He calls this the “principle of win-win.”

  • He argues this principle, driven by natural selection and cultural evolution, is heading toward a state of omniscience, omnipotence and perfect goodness. This could be understood as God.

  • However, God would not be a supernatural creator, but rather the natural endpoint of this ongoing process. Marty believes we should give up the idea of God as a supernatural creator.

  • Living a life that furthers the aims of increasing complexity/knowledge/power/goodness allows one to participate in something larger than themselves and find profound meaning. Alternatively, one could choose to not participate in this process.

  • Bob is skeptical but also recognizing some validity in Marty’s perspective, even though he does not fully buy into all the theological aspects. There is an ongoing respectful discussion between them.

The key idea is that Marty finds meaning through understanding life as furthering a natural process of progress, rather than through traditional religious beliefs, but this process could analogously be viewed as leading to a type of “God.”

  • Positive emotions can be divided into those related to the past (satisfaction, contentment), present (pleasures, gratifications), and future (optimism, hope).

  • Pleasures include bodily pleasures and higher pleasures like bliss and glee. Gratifications are activities we fully enjoy and engage in like dancing or playing sports.

  • Signature strengths are natural talents that provide lasting gratification. Virtues are developed from using strengths.

  • The “pleasant life” pursues present emotions, while the “good life” uses strengths for gratification. The “meaningful life” attaches strengths to something larger than oneself.

  • A full life experiences positive emotions about past and future, enjoys pleasures and gratifications through strengths use, and finds meaning through contributing strengths to others.

  • Happiness comes through multiple routes of emotions, feelings and activities, not just subjective states. Well-being includes positive activities without feelings.

  • The book aims to help people optimize experiences of past, present, future, discover strengths, and use them broadly for a happy, good and meaningful life.

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