Martin Seligman

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, defines PP as “an umbrella term for the study of positive emotions, positive character traits and enabling institutions”.

Key Components for Wellbeing
Key Components for Wellbeing

After a lifetime of research, Seligman now believes the topic of positive psychology’s well-being and the ‘gold standard’ for measuring well-being is flourishing. Well-being according to Seligman has five measurable elements that build it. The acronym PERMA describes the five key elements:

  • Positive emotion (of which happiness and life satisfaction are elements)
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

According to Seligman’s revised theory of positive psychology, happiness which was previously its centerpiece is now only part of a wider concept of well-being. The goal of well-being is to increase the amount of flourishing in one’s life and on the planet. To flourish an individual must have all of three ‘core features’:

  • positive emotions
  • engagement and interest
  • meaning and purpose

An individual must also have three of six additional features:

  • self-esteem
  • optimism
  • resilience
  • vitality
  • self-determination
  • positive relationships


Many free assessments are available from the Authentic Happiness research center at the University of Pennsylvania

You can follow the trajectory of Seligman’s research and thinking by reading his books in the sequence in which they were published.

Learned Helplessness
Learned Optimism
Authentic Happiness




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