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Authentic Happiness
December 31, 2019
The conqueror is regarded with awe; the wise man commands our respect; but it is only the benevolent man that wins our affection.
-William Dean Howells

In his book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman writes: “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.”

In an early childhood program, one way to foster authentic happiness is through positive relationships among staff. In an article in the Exchange Essentials collection, “Friendships,” Nancy Rosenow tells this story:

“Walking into the early childhood program I've been associated with for over 30 years, I overheard the following conversation between three-year-old Abby and her mother, Susan.

Abby: "Look, there's Mrs. Miller."

Susan: "How do you know her?"

Abby: "She's a friend of my teacher. Mom, don't you know that all the teachers are friends here?"

What a profound statement! It stopped me in my tracks. I thought about the kinds of things we adults unwittingly convey to children every day. If Abby, at age 3, can sense the strong and (mostly) positive relationships among staff members on our team, then it's just as likely she can sense when there's tension and unease. And, when human beings work together, there will inevitably be times when relationships feel challenging. In staff's efforts to make positive connections among coworkers a valued goal, children learn how to form positive relationships by example.”

Source: Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman (2002). New York: Free Press

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