An incredibly important talk, in this video from 2004, about how to live a worthwhile life.
Seligman starts by talking about how psychology is moving from a ‘disease’ model of thinking about people to a ‘positive’ model.
The ‘disease’ model focused on what is ‘wrong’ with people. It created a structured model for identifying different types of mental illness, and developed successful treatments for some of them. But it also removed responsibility for the parts that people played in their own situations. And it focused on people in trouble, and how to make them less miserable, instead of how to make happy people happier.
Positive psychology is just as concerned with nurturing high talent as with healing pathology.
So far it has identified three ways of achieving a ‘happy life’. These have been labelled the ‘pleasurable’ life, the ‘good’ or ‘engaged’ life, and the ‘meaningful’ life. Pleasure, flow, meaning/service.
What seems to work best is when people are engaged in a meaningful life.
And because psychology is about people it means these principles apply to anything that people choose to do. (Seligman explicitly mentions Technology, Entertainment and Design):
- focus not on the problem but on what we want instead
- identify what our personal strengths are
- find ways to use them in service to something that is greater than ourselves.
Make life better, and better, and better, in work, play and love.