Notes on Flourish

I just finished reading Flourish by Martin Seligman. Seligman is a professor of psychology at Upenn and is one of the founder’s of the field of Positive Psychology. A few notes that really stood out – 

On Education

  • “Self-discipline out predicts IQ for academic success by a factor of about 2…If we want to maximize the achievement of children, we need to promote self-discipline.” 
  • “Underachievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes. We suggest another reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline… We believe that many of America’s children have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain, and that programs that build self-discipline may be the royal road to building academic achievement.”

On the Network Effects of Happiness

  • “Happiness was even more contagious than loneliness or depression, and it worked across time. If person A’s happiness went up at time 1, person B’s— living next door— went up at time 2. And so did person C’s, two doors away, by somewhat less. Even person D, three doors away, enjoyed more happiness.”

On GDP and Well Being

  • “The more prosperous a society becomes, however, the worse an approximation wealth is to how well that society is doing. Basic goods and services, once scarce, became so widely available that in the twenty-first century, many economically developed nations such as the United States, Japan, and Sweden experience an abundance, perhaps an overabundance, of goods and services. Because simple needs are largely satisfied in modern societies, factors other than wealth now play an enormous role in how well these societies are doing.”
  • “This divergence between well-being and gross domestic product can be quantified. Life satisfaction in the United States has been flat for fifty years even though GDP has tripled. Even scarier, measures of ill-being have not declined as gross domestic product has increased; they have gotten much worse. Depression rates have increased tenfold over the last fifty years in the United States. This is true of every wealthy nation, and, importantly, it is not true of poor nations. Rates of anxiety have also risen. Social connectedness in our nation has dropped, with declining levels of trust in other people and in governmental institutions, and trust is a major predictor of well-being.”
  • “When life satisfaction is plotted against income, some very instructive anomalies appear— anomalies that give us hints about what the good life is beyond income. Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and the other Latin American countries are a lot happier than they should be given their low gross domestic product. The entire ex-Communist bloc is much unhappier than it should be given its GDP. Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland, near the top in income, are even happier than their high gross domestic product warrants. Poor people in Calcutta are much happier than poor people in San Diego. Utah is much happier than its income suggests. What these places have in abundance that other places lack gives us clues about what well-being really is.”
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