Authentic Happiness

Authentic Happiness


Book Summary

Authentic Happiness

Martin Seligman

02 Feb, 2024


“Even if you could alter all of the external circumstances, it would not do much for you, since together they probably account for not more than between 8 and 15 percent of the variance in happiness. The very good news is that there are quite a number of internal circumstances that will likely work for you. So I now turn to this set of variables, which are more under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (and be warned that none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.” - Martin Seligman

Key Takeaways

🔵 In the 20th century, psychology was only focused on mental illness but around 20 years ago, Martin Seligman worked on scientifically understanding human happiness. He and his colleagues called this new branch of research Positive Psychology. Authentic Happiness talks about Positive Psychology and how we can apply it in our own lives to realize our potential for lasting fulfillment. It discusses creating mental well-being instead of fighting mental illness.

🔵 We can all cultivate happiness and live a fulfilled life without changing our circumstances.

🔵 Authentic happiness can be achieved by working on our fundamental strengths which Seligman called Signature Strengths, and using these strengths in our everyday life.

Big Ideas

Happier people are more successful

Happier people tend to perform better in life, they are more productive, succeed more, and have healthier relationships.

Formula to determine happiness

Martin Seligman has given this  formula to determine happiness: H=S+C+V where,

H is your enduring level of happiness. Enduring happiness reflects how satisfied you are with your life.

S is your set range. Your genes have a 50% contribution towards your happiness.  They are your set range. If better things happen, you feel happiness above this range and vice versa.

C reflects your circumstances. These circumstances include your age, gender, relationship status, wealth, and ethnicity. These circumstances account for only 10% of your happiness.

V reflects the factors under your voluntary control. These factors contribute 40% towards your happiness. They include how you think about your past and about different aspects of life and how you behave in general.

You can not change your genes and changing circumstances is not possible for everyone. But you still can be happy by changing factors under your voluntary control.

Attaining happiness above your set range

You can achieve a happy life by working on things under your voluntary control. Seligman divides these factors into three categories.


You can choose to feel good about your past by recollecting happy memories and by forgiving your past mistakes and the people who did you wrong. Happy people tend to think about the positive incidents in their past.


In the present moment, you can experience two types of happiness; gratification and pleasure.

  • Pleasure is a feeling of temporary happiness and it doesn’t last long. You can feel pleasure through certain stimuli such as hanging out with friends, eating your favorite food, or watching movies. Going after pleasure can make you addicted to the stimuli and it can lead to depression.
  • Gratification is a feeling of happiness that lasts longer and you experience it when you get fully consumed in the activities such as riding a bike, hiking, reading a book, having a deep conversation with a close one, or helping someone in need.

The key to a happy life is going after gratification and minimizing pleasure.


Feel optimistic about your future. Improve your thoughts related to your future and have hope, faith, and confidence.

Virtues and Signature Strengths

Here comes the core message of this book, practicing your signature strengths. Seligman suggests figuring out your signature strengths and using them every day in the main aspects of your life to achieve greater happiness. You need to keep practicing this to instill your signature strengths in your character that will determine your happiness.


Seligman and his fellow researchers studied all major religions and philosophies and found out they all focus on practicing six virtues. These virtues are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. You can achieve gratification if you act with these virtues.


Strengths are the routes by which virtues are achieved. Seligman categorized 24 strengths under these six virtues.

These strengths are:


  • Curiosity in the world
  • Love of learning
  • Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
  • Ingenuity, originality, practical intelligence, street smarts
  • Social intelligence, personal intelligence, emotional intelligence
  • Perspective


  • Bravery
  • Perseverance, industry, and diligence
  • Integrity, Genuineness, honesty


  • Kindness and Generosity
  • Loving and allowing oneself to be loved


  • Teamwork
  • Fairness and equity
  • Leadership


  • Self-control
  • Prudence, discretion, caution
  • Humility and modesty


  • Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  • Gratitude
  • Hope and optimism
  • Spirituality, sense of purpose, faith, religiousness
  • Forgiveness and mercy
  • Playfulness and humor
  • Zest, passion, and enthusiasm.

Everyone possesses these 24 strengths but you can be strong in one area while your other strengths might be weak. Your strong strengths are your signature strengths.

Using your signature strengths in your everyday life be it at work or in your relationships can help you live a meaningful life with fulfillment.

How Authentic Happiness changed me

Just like any other book, I tried to implement the research and teachings of this book in my life. Here are the changes I noticed in my life:

  • I forgave people who hurt me in the past. Forgiving people was truly liberating.
  • Now, I choose to recall mostly good memories.
  • I've stopped looking for ways to attain temporary pleasure, I seek the things that bring me lasting happiness.
  • I've understood my attachment style and now am developing secure attachments with people in my life.
  • My relationships are improving because I don't give off anxious energy rather I genuinely feel contented.
  • My overall mood has gotten better.

This book is packed with wisdom, I recommend you to read it.

Who is Authentic Happiness for?

This book is for you if:

  • You want to learn how to achieve lasting fulfillment.
  • You want to develop secure relationships and understand your attachment style.
  • You want to learn the ways to be a happy person because this book talks about cultivating happiness.
  • You want to find your strengths and work on them to achieve gratification.

Leave A Comment


About Martin Seligman

Martin E.P. Seligman is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is credited as the father of Positive Psychology and is the former president of the American Psychological Association (APA).


Isak Vidinghoff is a Strategic Life Coach and Content Creator. He communicates personal development strategies to help people find purpose and meaning to live their fullest potential in life.

| Let’s Connect


© 2023 Wellsquire. All Rights Reserved

| Newsletter

Sign up for inside information, exclusive content and limited discount codes