Opportunities, from Martin Seligman

Jan 10, 2008, 12:00 AM, Posted by

Martin Seligman, PhD, is currently Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. His areas of academic focus include positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, and optimism and pessimism. He is well known in academic and clinical circles and is a past president of the American Psychological Association and the author of more than 20 books including his most recent, Authentic Happiness.

Seligman suggested that Pioneer think about a key re-framing of its focus.  As he put it:

It looks to me that you are about disease and not about health and you make the unwarranted assumption that health is the absence (or prevention) of disease.  Most Americans want better health and I do not think this equals wanting less disease.  Less disease is part of it, surely but we want more zest, fitness, reserve, vitality, and wellbeing.  By analogy, as a clinical psychologist, I occasionally helped my patients get rid of depression, anxiety and anger.  I assumed when I did so I would get happy people I did not; I got empty people and that is because the skills of fighting the disorders are almost orthogonal to the skills of positive emotion, engagement and meaning. Being disease free is not by analogy being physically healthy.

So I think you should get serious about health, not just disease, and support cutting edge research and health care practice (I decidedly do not mean “fringe” or alternative practices) in this arena.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.