Human well being is not a matter of smiling and being cheerful.  Well-being must be deserved” –  Martin Seligman, Ph.D, Director, Positive Psychology Center and Professor of Psychology, University of Penn.

For years researchers looked at what is wrong with people, and Seligman and Peterson decided to focus on what is right with us, in their work with positive psychology.  As part of Character Day 2016, founder and filmmaker Tiffany Shlain has an interview with Dr. Seligman.  I have summarized the conversation below—so powerful, interesting facts, and at the bottom you will find a link to the interview (well worth your time).  All the quotes in this thread are from Dr. Seligman.

We want justification for feeling good, to feel as we deserve what happens to us – which opens the door for character

1st important outcome of his work:

Expanded the scope of practice around PERMA (and how he uses this concept to measure this)

P-Positive emotion

E- Engagement, to be totally absorbed

R– good relationships

M- meaning and purpose


This is how change happens:  “Policy follows from what you measure.  What you measure leads you to what you value, and policy follows

2nd important discovery from his work:

Interventions—based on the research around lottery winners and their state of happiness

“There are a dozen interventions that reliably build peoples well being, and to not sink back to zero”

New development that TAS is incredibly excited about….

Interested in learning more about positive psychology?  Starting in January 2017 Dr. Seligman and his colleagues are going to provide five UPenn courses on the web for FREE around Positive Psychology.  I have threatened my daughter that if she gets accepted to UPenn for college, that I am going to join her for one year to study under Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth and the many other phenomenal researchers and faculty.  NOW I can build an interim step and get a taste of this incredible work.  TAS is too excited, very happy and know this will be huge for my own personal well-being.

Are you a person who wakes up at 4am with worried or negative thoughts?

Dr. Seligman offers great advise at 14:45 minutes into the interview for this… Like, replace those worried thoughts with one thing that happened yesterday that went well.  Another thing he suggests doing is a “what went well exercise” before you go to bed to reflect on the day (similar to a gratitude journal, but more thought driven than written) and supplement this practice by using your phone camera to capture photographic reminders of these positive images you experience throughout the day (and maybe scroll through as part of your bedtime routine).  This solidifies the positive moments in a concrete way, allowing you to pause, reflect, remember and …

Interested in a brand new finding in empathy (check out the researcher Anneke Buffone) there are two different types:

  • 1st person empathy—how would I feel if I were in your shoes right now  (reflex)
  • 2nd person empathy- how are you feeling in your shows right now  (this takes real work…)

Got 23 minutes?  Watch this interview with Dr. Seligman, who starts out first as a dad of 13-year-old daughter Jenny, then you will  hear about his surprise from the world’s response to his work and his study of well-being.  He closes with “I’ve always wanted to be Johnny Appleseed” and Mr. Seligman, I think you have.  Thank you for your research,  I look forward to the day when I can be a student in your classroom.

“Human well-being is not a matter of smiling and being cheerful…”
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