The Psychology of Real Happiness

Psychologist Martin Seligman helped change his profession's focus from what's wrong with people to what's right with them.

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Many people want to change their job or their life. They feel stuck, and they don't know how to do that. You're saying you don't need to necessarily find another job but .

Recraft what you're doing in line with your signature strengths. There are both exercises and self-assessment devices on our website - so it's good link.

You speak in your book about faith and spirituality. What role do they play in happiness?

Quite a number of roles. First, there's been evidence for a long time that people who are seriously religious are less depressed and happier and more optimistic. Secondly, people who are seriously religious are at a tremendous advantage with the third kind of happy life, the meaningful life. They use their signature strengths in the service of something much larger than they are, and that is a tried-and-true route to life satisfaction. But part of my concern is the enormous number of people who, like myself, have no religious beliefs, and yet want to lead a meaningful life. That's what the last chapter in the book's about.


I was reading your last chapter, and I sensed that here was a lifelong nonbeliever who seemed to be approaching some kind of view of God that he could accept. But then when I got there, I didn't quite understand what it is that you found. I was wondering if you could elucidate it a little.

It was a major change in my life, and a big discovery for me. And I would like to share it and say it in a way that's compelling for people who are secular. I have come to believe that there is a secular view that leads to God, and it leads to meaning because it's grounded outside yourself.


In most religions, God has four properties: He or She is the Creator of the universe, and also omnipotent, omniscient, and righteous.. The objections to the idea of a creator are legion. But if you accept the Big Bang theory of creation, you are left with a God who isn't a creator-but is omniscient, omnipotent, and righteous. The question is, does such a God exist? The answer would seem to be "Not now"-because you're basically stuck with the problem of why there is evil in the universe and the question of how there can be free will if God is omnipotent. But will there ever be such an entity? The answer is yes, in the longest of runs.


It more or less fell into place when I read Bob Wright's book


. He describes life as a positive sum game in which complexity wins out. Evolution works strongly in favor of growth and complexity. In human history, we are going from knowledge to omniscience, from potence to omnipotence, from ethics and religion to righteousness..So, in my view, God comes at the


of this long process. This may not happen in our lifetimes or even in the lifetime of our species. But we can choose lives that are part of this pathway to God, lives that are meaningful and sacred. They're in the service of God coming

at the end

. That's the theology that I can accept.

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Interview by Wendy Schuman
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