Identifying our strengths and how to better incorporate them into our lives may be the answer to finding more lasting happiness. That is the thesis of Dr. Martin Seligman, the author of ”Authentic Happiness.”
A former president of the American Psychological Association and a best-selling author, Seligman has written a thought-provoking scientific study of the subjective concept of happiness. He successfully argues for the importance of “positive psychology,” a field he pioneered, which focuses on the qualities of happiness rather than on pathology and mental illness. In the first part of the book, he defines “happiness”, not an easy task in itself. To achieve long-term, substantial happiness, he believes we must pursue activities in line with our own personal strengths.
Throughout the book are questionnaires the reader can complete to assess personal traits, such as “Optimism About the Future” and “Your Signature Strengths”. These are also available without charge if you register on the author’s website Authentic Happiness. This is a user-friendly method of receiving immediate feedback which I found helpful in applying the book’s concepts to my own life. I recommend the VIA Signature Strengths assessment, whether or not you read the book.
I found one of the most interesting aspects of the book to be Part II: Strength and Virtue. Through study and research, Seligman selected six major categories of strengths and virtues that are valued in nearly every culture and that are pliable:
1. Wisdom and knowledge
3. Love and humanity
6. Spirituality and transcendence
Under each of these categories are more specific strengths, totaling 24. If you take the assessment, you will receive a description of your own top three to five. I was surprised to learn that one of mine is “Appreciation of Beauty”. It had not occurred to me that this trait does not belong to everyone. To me, it confirms the theory that we sometimes downplay the importance of that which comes naturally to us.
I highly recommend “Authentic Happiness” to anyone interested in personal development and fulfillment.
Bonnie Hovel holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Washington. She is is a consultant and trainer and principle of GroupWyse, an Organizational Development firm based in Bellevue, Washington. Her passion is to “help those who help others,” including health care providers and nonprofit organizations. She also provides counseling and business coaching to individuals who seek meaning and balance in their personal and work lives. Bonnie spends winters in the tropics where she enjoys watercolor painting. She recently co-authored a book with her 10-year old granddaughter entitled, “Beckett the Bee’s Extraordinary Journey Through Blackberry Land”.