Psychological Self-Help

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3. Seligman puts very little emphasis on the individual actually
developing (growing) his/her desired traits, strengths and values.
Surely learning desired skills and increasing traits, like practical
intelligence, industriousness, fairness, self-control, gratitude,
optimism, etc. should be part of increasing one’s level of happiness. 
Consider your career: it is an important part of your life for 30 to
perhaps 50 years. Seligman’s prescription is to make it your "calling."
A calling involves using your best strengths and virtues to achieve
excellence in such a way as to be personally fulfilling, respected by
others, and a significant contribution to society. The concepts of
are very important. He gives encouraging examples of people who
have converted their job into a meaningful mission. Changes at work
are sometimes possible but for many of us major changes in the
nature and goals of our work are impossible to make. We have to
make a living and the person paying us expects specific outcomes. As
an example, careers in law are discussed by Seligman partly because
it is the highest paying profession while lawyers are often unhappy. He
says they tend to be suspicious pessimists thinking a lot about
avoiding assorted catastrophes that might strike their clients or them
personally. The life of a lawyer is generally not filled with doing good
and stamping out injustice in the world as they might have thought
when they chose the career. More often they are expected to make
money, which is often a cynical, selfish, ultimately unhappy pursuit. 
Love is another big area of our lives. David Myers (2000) writes
"there are few stronger predictors of happiness than a close,
nurturing, equitable, intimate, lifelong companionship with one's best
friend." To understand your relationships better, Seligman provides a
Close Relationships Questionnaire by Chris Fraley and Phil Shaver at
( From an early age, we tend to
be secure, avoidant, or anxious with others; secure is better. But how
do you cultivate feeling secure? It is common in a romantic
relationship to see your partner more positively than his/her friends
do, called the "romantic illusion." Seeing, valuing, and appreciating
your partner's strengths and good points are an important part of a
happy relationship. So, dwell on their positive traits, not their faults.
View the partner’s displeasing acts as being caused by temporary
factors (he/she is tired or in a bad mood, not he/she is always a
grouch). Nice acts can be seen as due to his/her permanent traits
(he/she is caring and bright). Communication skills, especially
empathy responding and "I" statements, are vital parts of a
relationship (see Useful Skills). Much advice and many useful
references are given in Love, Marriage & Sex
Many people will tell you that raising a family was the most
important part of their lives. Seligman has definite ideas about
childrearing. Seligman, Reivich, Jaycox and Gillham (1996) wrote a
book, The Optimistic Child. Seligman and his wife, both psychologists,
have earnestly tried to apply positive psychology while raising their
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