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December 15, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Summary of Positive psychology Research by Martin Seligman

Here is a summary of the research findings (and areas of inquiry) in the area of positive psychology in the Positive Psychology Network Concept paper:

I. Relationships and connections.

1. Love and Intimacy: meaningful relationships, including friendships; loving and being beloved. We know these ties improve not only longevity but also the quality of life. How do these ties develop? Given the great emphasis on individuality and competitiveness in the way we rear children, how can we do a better job inculcating relational skills?

2. Satisfying work. Next to relationships, work is perhaps the most necessary component of the quality of life. How do children learn occupational attitudes in a rapidly changing labor market? What working conditions are necessary for employee satisfaction and commitment?

3. Helping Others. There is increasing evidence suggesting that people who are altruistic, who care for others and are supportive, report significantly higher happiness and over-all quality of life. Yet popular wisdom emphasizes “Taking Care of Number One” as the end-all strategy for a good life. What are the roots of altruism? What are the best practices to support it?

4. Being a good citizen. Active participation in the public arena appears to be on the decline. Yet many would argue that taking part in the “vita activa” of the community offers the best opportunities for the development of individual potentialities. Certainly it is a prerequisite for the ongoing health of the community. What personal qualities predict and support such involvement? What conditions militate against it?

5. Spirituality: connection to a deeper meaning or reality. In all known cultures, a feeling of personal relatedness with the cosmos appears to have been necessary to mobilize the hopes and energies of the populace. Is this no longer necessary in the 21st century? What new forms might spirituality take?

6. Leadership. The recognition and support of youth with leadership potential is essential for the continued growth of a culture. Yet we have very few mechanisms in place to accomplish this purpose. What can we do to enable potential leaders across a wide spectrum of fields to show what they can do?

II. Individual Qualities

7. Principles and integrity. A good life ends with a feeling of integrity — that the person has lived up to his or her dream. Yet many forces in our society conspire to compromise our principles in favor of the “bottom line”. How do children learn to abide by principles? How do adults manage to do it?

8. Creativity. Many of our institutions — schools, jobs — are organized in such a way as to stifle originality and imagination. Yet these qualities not only improve individual lives, but are indispensable to the growth of society. We shall look at best practices in various institutions to develop guidelines for preserving original thinking.

9. Perseverance. The other side of the coin of originality is perseverance. Creativity requires both. It is impossible to accomplish anything important without acquiring a certain amount of self-discipline. Current child-rearing practices are woefully short on this trait. How can we best provide young people with a lifetime of tools in self-discipline?

10. Courage. Of all the qualities people admire in others, courage tends to be on top. People who can face obstacles with equanimity, who are not devastated by the fear of death, who are willing to run risks for their principles are likely to lead a good life, and serve as models for others. Is this a trait that can be learned?

III. Life Regulation

11. Purposive Future-mindedness. Great differences exist between individuals in the degree to which considerations of the future affect their present behavior. For example, Asian students are usually more happy when they are doing something they see as related to their future goals, while Caucasian students are significantly more unhappy in such circumstances. How do we learn to defer immediate gratification?

12. Individuality. Ideally, a well-lived life should lead to the unfolding of all the person’s potentialities in an integrated, complex personality (provided such a person is also linked to others according to the ties specified in Section I. above). What turning points, at different stages of one’s life, are most important in this process of development?

13. Self-regulation. Several models of optimal life-long development emphasize the importance of self-regulation as a key to a good life. This involves some of the issues already discussed (e.g. perseverance), but it brings to the fore the role of reasoned intelligence in guiding one’s decisions.

14. Wisdom. Lately research has focused on wisdom as the capstone of a good life. Much has been learned about the pragmatics of wisdom in everyday life, but again almost nothing is known about how such a trait develops in childhood and adolescence, and how it is supported in adulthood.

From the Positive Psychology Research Network paper by Martin Seligman.

Where you can find a list of participants as well as the core concepts included in positive psychology for individuals and groups, including:

*Love and Intimacy

*Satisfying work/ Occupation

*Helping Others/Altruism

*Being a good citizen



*Aesthetic appreciation/ Pleasures of the mind

*Knowledge and understanding of areas of life larger than one’s self/ Depth and Breadth

*Being a person with principles and integrity/ Ethics



*Feeling of subjective well-being


*Purposive Future-mindedness




Outcome Measures – Fulfillments

*Subjective fulfillment

*Objective fulfillment

*Societal/Civic fulfillment and recognition

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