contributions to our happiness but many pleasures soon lose their
thrill, so don't overdo having fun and space your fun out over time.
Like Seligman, Csikszentmihalyi (2003) emphasizes in his new
book that a very important part of happiness is a worthy, ethical job
which is satisfying, challenging, and where you can get into flow.
quietly gratifying and often demanding, pushing our abilities to the
limit. Also, be mindful that we often choose the easy way and pleasure
over gratification; there are powerful commercial and cultural
inducements to maximize the fun we have. Some people feel a
desperate need to just have fun much of the time. However, for most
people, it is their productive, altruistic activities using their good traits
and personal strengths that give us the most satisfaction, i.e.
gratification, in life. When you are nearing death, would you be more
likely to say "I wish I had partied harder, drank more beer, goofed off
more, and done more to have fun?" or say "I'm really glad I showed
genuine concern for so many people during my life, that I really
worked to develop my good qualities as fully as possible, and used so
much of my time, morals and strengths to help others in need?"
From here on Seligmans book is devoted to recognizing your own
good character traits, building strengths and virtues, and using them
optimally in lifes three great arenas: work, love, and raising children.
That is a good formula for happiness but there is a great need for
more research about this approach:
1. Seligman measures each person's 4 or 5 more important
"signature strengths" by using self-ratings, which are notoriously
inaccurate (but better than nothing!). See his Web site
dont know themselves that well, they exaggerate their strengths and
deny their faults. They don't realize other valuable skills; they may
think certain weaknesses are strong commendable traits. A review of
the specific signature strengths Seligman tries to measure will help
you recognize what characteristics we are talking aboutand how
poorly a couple of self-ratings would measure them: Wisdom.
Curiosity. Love of learning. Open-mindedness. Good judgment.
Practical intelligence. Social-emotional intelligence. Courage. Bravery.
Industriousness. Honesty. Loving. Accepts love. Generous. Fair. Loyal.
Leadership. Temperance. Self-control. Cautious & prudent. Modest.
Transcendence. Appreciate beauty. Respect excellence. Gratitude.
Optimistic. Sense of purpose. Forgiving. Sense of humor. Zest for life.
These are great traits but they are often not accurately measured.
Much better tests can and will be developed if objective items and
ratings by others are also used.
2. Seligman focuses only on the rated strength of current
strengths. What about strengths and values that the person doesnt
have now (and would rate low) but would very much like to develop
and use in the future?