Martin Seligman Quotes

Who the Heck is Martin Seligman?

Martin Elias Peter Seligman is an American psychologist, educator, and author of self-help books. He focuses on positive psychology and well-being.

Seligman wrote the books 'Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment', 'Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life' and 'Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being'.

Born August 12, 1942

Books by Martin Seligman


Best 85 Quotes by Martin Seligman

“Flow occurs in your life when your highest skills are matched to challenges that quite exactly meet them.”

Martin Seligman

“I'm trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.”

Martin Seligman

“If we just wanted positive emotions, our species would have died out a long time ago.”

Martin Seligman

“It's a matter of ABC: When we encounter ADVERSITY, we react by thinking about it. Our thoughts rapidly congeal into BELIEFS. These beliefs may become so habitual we don't even realize we have them unless we stop to focus on them. And they don't just sit there idly; they have CONSEQUENCES.”

Martin Seligman

“On the relationship side, if you teach people to respond actively and constructively when someone they care about has a victory, it increases love and friendship and decreases the probability of depression.”

Martin Seligman

“Once a depressed person becomes active and hopeful, self-esteem always improves. Bolstering self-esteem without changing hopelessness, without changing passivity, accomplishes nothing.”

Martin Seligman

“One of the things psychologists used to say was that if you are depressed, anxious or angry, you couldn't be happy. Those were at opposite ends of a continuum. I believe that you can be suffering or have a mental illness and be happy - just not in the same moment that you're sad.”

Martin Seligman

“Optimism generates hope.
Hope releases dreams.
Dreams set goals.
Enthusiasm follows.”

Martin Seligman

“Optimism is a tool with a certain clear set of benefits: it fights depression, it promotes achievement and produces better health.”

Martin Seligman

“Pleasure is the least consequential. Engagement and meaning are much more important.”

Martin Seligman

“Positive thinking is the notion that if you think good thoughts, things will work out well. Optimism is the feeling of thinking things will be well and be hopeful.”

Martin Seligman

“Positive, optimistic sales people sell more than pessimistic sales people.”

Martin Seligman

“Psychology is much bigger than just medicine, or fixing unhealthy things. It's about education, work, marriage - it's even about sports. What I want to do is see psychologists working to help people build strengths in all these domains.”

Martin Seligman

“Psychology should be just as concerned with building strength as with repairing damage.”

Martin Seligman

“Reaching beyond where you are is really important.”

Martin Seligman

“Self-esteem cannot be directly injected. It needs to result from doing well, from being warranted.”

Martin Seligman

“Some find that very optimistic people have benign illusions about themselves. These people may think they have more control, or more skill, than they actually do. Others have found that optimistic people have a good handle on reality. The jury is still out.”

Martin Seligman

“Ten years ago, when I was on an airplane and I introduced myself to my seatmate, and told them I was a psychologist, they'd move away from me. And now when I tell people what I do, they move toward me.”

Martin Seligman

“The aim of Positive Psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.”

Martin Seligman

“The clearer the rules and the limits enforced by parents, the higher the child's self-esteem. The more freedom the child had, the lower his self-esteem.”

Martin Seligman

“The drive to resist compulsion is more important in wild animals than sex, food, or water. The drive for competence or to resist compulsion is a drive to avoid helplessness.”

Martin Seligman

Products by Martin Seligman

“The fundamentalist religions simply seem to offer more hope for a brighter future than do the more liberal, humanistic ones.”

Martin Seligman

“The pleasant life: a life that successfully pursues the positive emotions about the present, past, and future.”

Martin Seligman

“There are physical characteristics which are inherited. These include things like good looks, high intelligence, physical coordination. These attributes contribute to success in life, and success in life is a determinant of optimism.”

Martin Seligman

“There is one aspect of happiness that's been well studied, and it's the notion of flow. Ask yourselves, when for you does time stop? When are you truly at home, wanting to be no place else?”

Martin Seligman

“We deprive our children, our charges, of persistence. What I am trying to say is that we need to fail, children need to fail, we need to feel sad, anxious and anguished. If we impulsively protect ourselves and our children, as the feel-good movement suggests, we deprive them of learning-persistence skills.”

Martin Seligman

“We're not prisoners of the past.”

Martin Seligman

“When an individual responds actively and constructively (as opposed to passively and destructively) to someone who is sharing a positive experience, love and friendship increase.”

Martin Seligman

“When it comes to our health, there are essentially four things under our control: the decision not to smoke, a commitment to exercise, the quality of our diet, and our level of optimism. And optimism is at least as beneficial as the others.”

Martin Seligman

“When the individual has a lot of money to spend, individualism becomes a powerful and profitable worldview.”

Martin Seligman

“When we take time to notice the things that go right - it means we're getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day.”

Martin Seligman

"Authentic Happiness" Quotes

“Authentic happiness derives from raising the bar for yourself, not rating yourself against others.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“By activating an expansive, tolerant, and creative mindset, positive feelings maximize the social, intellectual, and physical benefits that will accrue.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Happy people remember more good events than actually happened, and they forget more of the bad events. Depressed people, in contrast, are accurate about both.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“In your own life, you should take particular care with endings, for their color will forever tinge your memory of the entire relationship and your willingness to reenter it.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Just as the good life is something beyond the pleasant life, the meaningful life is beyond the good life.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Money, amazingly, is losing its power... Our economy is rapidly changing from a money economy to a satisfaction economy.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Not only do happy people endure pain better and take more health and safety precautions when threatened, but positive emotions undo negative emotions.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Positive emotion can be about the past, the present, or the future. The positive emotions about the future include optimism, hope, faith, and trust. Those about the present include joy, ecstasy, calm, zest, ebullience, pleasure, and (most importantly) flow; these emotions are what most people usually mean when they casually – but much too narrowly – talk about 'happiness'. The positive emotions about the past include satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“Positive Psychology takes seriously the bright hope that if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life, with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort, and ecstasy, rather than be entitled to these feelings by the exercise of personal strengths and virtues, leads to legions of people who, in the middle of great wealth, are starving spiritually.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

Products by Martin Seligman

“The good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as a right of all Americans, as well as on the self-improvement shelves of every American bookstore. Yet the scientific evidence makes it seem unlikely that you can change your level of happiness in any sustainable way. It suggests that we each have a fixed range for happiness just as we do for weight. And just as dieters almost always regain the weight they lose, sad people don't become lastingly happy, and happy people don't become lastingly sad.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“To be a virtuous person is to display, by acts of will, all or at least most of the six ubiquitous virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

“When well-being comes from engaging our strengths and virtues, our lives are imbued with authenticity.”

Martin Seligman
Authentic Happiness

"Flourish" Quotes

“Both positive and negative ways of thinking are important in the right situation, but all too often schools emphasize critical thinking and following orders rather than creative thinking and learning new stuff.
The result is that children rank the appeal of going to school just slightly above going to the dentist. In the modern world, I believe we have finally arrived at an era in which more creative thinking, less rote following of orders—and yes, even more enjoyment — will succeed better.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

“Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

“I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction. I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well-being, that the gold standard for measuring well-being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing. This theory, which I call well-being theory, is very different from authentic happiness theory, and the difference requires explanation.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

“It turns out, however, that how much life satisfaction people report is itself determined by how good we feel at the very moment we are asked the question. Averaged over many people, the mood you are in determines more than 70 percent of how much life satisfaction you report and how well you judge your life to be going at that moment determines less than 30 percent.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

“Well-being cannot exist just in your own head. Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

“What determines how much time and deliberate practice a child is willing to devote to achievement? Nothing less than her character.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

“You go into flow when your highest strengths are deployed to meet the highest challenges that come your way.”

Martin Seligman
Flourish

"Learned Optimism" Quotes

“After seven years of experiments, it was clear to us that the remarkable attribute of resilience in the face of defeat need not remain a mystery. It was not an inborn trait; it could be acquired.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Bertrand Russell said that the mark of a civilized human being is the ability to read a column of numbers and then weep.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Curing the negatives does not produce the positives.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Depression, I have argued, stems partly from an overcommitment to the self and an undercommitment to the common good.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Experiments also prove that optimists do better in school, at work, and in sports.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope: Temporary causes limit helplessness in time, and specific causes limit helplessness to the original situation.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“First, you learn to recognize the automatic thoughts flitting through your consciousness at the times you feel worst.
Second, you learn to dispute the automatic thoughts by marshaling contrary evidence.
Third, you learn to make different explanations, called reattributions, and use them to dispute your automatic thoughts.
Fourth, you learn how to distract yourself from depressing thoughts.
Fifth, you learn to recognize and question the depression-sowing assumptions governing so much of what you do.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals choose the way they think.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“I believe that traditional wisdom is incomplete. A composer can have all the talent of Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

Products by Martin Seligman

“If I promise you one thousand dollars to turn to this page, you will probably choose to do so, and you will succeed. If, however, I promise you one thousand dollars to contract the pupil of your eye, using only willpower, you may choose to do it, but that won’t matter. You are helpless to contract your pupil. Page turning is under your voluntary control; the muscles that change your pupillary size are not.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“In a society in which individualism is becoming rampant, people more and more believe that they are the center of the world. Such a belief system makes individual failure almost inconsolable.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Optimism is invaluable for the meaningful life. With a firm belief in a positive future, you can throw yourself into the service of that which is larger than you are.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“People who believe they cause good things tend to like themselves better than people who believe good things come from other people or circumstances.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Pessimistic prophecies are self-fulfilling.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“The genius of evolution lies in the dynamic tension between optimism and pessimism continually correcting each other.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“The optimist believes that bad events have specific causes, while good events will enhance everything he does; the pessimist believes that bad events have universal causes and that good events are caused by specific factors.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“The optimistic style of explaining good events is the opposite of that used for bad events: It's internal rather than external.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“The skills of becoming happy turn out to be almost entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, or not being angry.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“To the scientists of the Renaissance, your critic was really your ally, helping you advance upon reality. Critics in science are not like drama critics, determining flops and successes. Criticism to scientists is just another means of finding out whether they're wrong, like running another experiment to see if it confirms or refutes a theory. Along with the advocacy principle of the courtroom, It is one of the best ways human beings have evolved to get closer to the truth.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“When we need spiritual furniture, we look around and see that all the comfortable leather sofas and stuffed chairs have been removed and all that’s left to sit on is a small, frail folding chair: the self. And the maximal self, stripped of the buffering of any commitment to what is larger in life, is a setup for depression.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“Whether or not we have hope depends on two dimensions of our explanatory style; pervasiveness and permanence.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

“While you can't control your experiences, you can control your explanations.”

Martin Seligman
Learned Optimism

"The Optimistic Child" Quotes

“In the struggle to cure syphilis in the first decade of the century, Paul Ehrlich concocted a drug, 606, that worked by poisoning Treponema pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis. It was called 606 because before it Ehrlich concocted 605 other drugs, none of which worked. Ehrlich, presumably, experienced 605 defeats but persisted.”

Martin Seligman
The Optimistic Child

“Raising children, I realized, is more than just fixing what is wrong with them. It is about identifying and amplifying their strengths and virtues, and helping them find the niche where they can live these positive traits to the fullest.”

Martin Seligman
The Optimistic Child

"What You Can Change and What You Can't" Quotes

“Alcoholics are, in truth, failures, and their failure is a simple failure of will. They have made bad choices, and they continue to do so every day. By calling them victims of a disease, we magically shift the burden of the problem from choice and personal control, where it belongs, to an impersonal force—disease.”

Martin Seligman
What You Can Change and What You Can't

“Here are the twin premises of the inner-child recovery movement:

- Bad events in childhood exert major influence on adulthood.
- Coming to grips with those events undoes their influence.”

Martin Seligman
What You Can Change and What You Can't

“Pessimistic labels lead to passivity, whereas optimistic ones lead to attempts to change.”

Martin Seligman
What You Can Change and What You Can't

Products by Martin Seligman

“Practiced regularly (twice a day), relaxation or meditation prevents angry arousal.”

Martin Seligman
What You Can Change and What You Can't