Professor Belli | Spring 2022 | City Tech | ENG 3402: Topics in Literature

Do you want to Flourish or just be happy?

Right off the bat Martin Seligman promises you will flourish in life by reading his book. Seligman writes, ” The appeal of what I write comes from the fact that it is grounded in careful science: statistical test, validated questionnaires, thoroughly researched exercises, and large, representative samples. In contrast to pop psychology and the bulk of self-improvement, my writings are believable because of the underlying science”(pg 1).  By stating all this information to start with I believe he is building your confidence in him and his work. Reading how well thought out and researched his theory is, you think to yourself “Well he must really care about people flourishing, you don’t spend all that effort on something that isn’t worth a lot.” Then he goes on to bring to light how psychologists are humans who need well-being too. They can also get depressed, I mean if you were listening to others problems every day I am sure you would feel some of their pain and get a bit depressed. Seligman goes on to bring up a great point about positive psychology which is we should be teaching it everywhere. His examples were to teach it to tenth graders, parents and drill sergeants. I mean the list could go on and on. My feeling is that his point is that if you teach it everywhere then you can make the world and everyone in it flourish in life therefore making the world better.


Seligman first chapter, first paragraph he gives out his own email. To me this is to establish that he really means what he says, he wants everyone and everything to flourish. In choosing to lead his ideas in the way of being straight forward he gains attention of someone who can help him achieve his goal. And Martin doesn’t start small, in response to PT’s  question of what he wants to do he writes, “I wanted to find out when genocides do or do not occur, by comparing the settings surrounding the dozen genocides of the twentieth century to the fifty in settings so rife with hatred that genocide should have occurred but did not. Then I would edit a book about how to avoid genocide in the twenty-first century”(pg 6).  Choosing such a big, important topic and trying to tackle it in a way to prevent something as big as genocide makes it, well atleast for me, makes it more believable and makes you trust that he actually cares about what he is trying to do, which is to make sure the world and everyone in it flourishes. Trying his best to break it down on how to make it happen and have it continue to happen.


In the end this book, while being categized as a self-help book seems to be way more than that. I mean I could go on and on picking quotes from the chapters but I don’t think I could do them justice. I also feel more like whatever I type just comes out more like a research paper.  Doing research on the research Martin Seligman has clearly spend years passionately doing in order to help others.

1 Comment

  1. dmondel

    Hi Katie. I like the points you highlighted; I find them interesting such as the confidence he has to make such a promise and back it with scientific proof. Like you said this can really make a reader such ourselves confident about the message of the book. about this path to flourishing. I also like the fact that you highlighted how he means business by sharing his personal email address, his goals, and all those massive info to us.

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