Optimal Human Being: An Integrated Multi-Level Perspective

Optimal Human Being: An Integrated Multi-Level Perspective

Optimal Human Being: An Integrated Multi-Level Perspective

Optimal Human Being: An Integrated Multi-Level Perspective

Synopsis

Ken Sheldon's ambitious new book addresses two complementary questions: how can individuals best integrate the different levels and facets of themselves to achieve "optimal human being", and how can researchers best integrate the different levels of analysis within the human sciences to understand "optimal human being" in general. In the process, the book supplies two comprehensive new frameworks-one for viewing the human sciences as a group, and the other for viewing personality theory within that group. Within these consilient frameworks organismic, cybernetic, and evolutionary theoretical perspectives are used to discuss the meaning and causes of optimal human functioning. Chapter one provides a historical overview and suggests provisional definitions of optimal human being. A multi-level model, introduced in chapter two, moves from lower, more biologically based levels of analysis to higher, more socially based levels, demonstrating how these different levels of analysis interact to determine behavior. Chapter three considers one level of this hierarchy, personality. In this chapter the author proposes a new way of looking at personality by examining four key "tiers" in personality theory: organismic foundations, personality traits, goals/intentions, and selves/self-concepts. In chapters 4-7, Dr. Sheldon focuses on each of these levels of personality and demonstrates how each one relates to the state of optimal human being. The next two chapters consider two higher levels of analysis relevant to personality-social interaction and culture. The final chapter summarizes and integrates the earlier conclusions while proposing a comprehensive new profile of optimal human being. Intended for researchers and students interested in human potential in a variety of disciplines including social and personality, clinical, developmental, and industrial/organizational psychology and other social sciences, the book will also appeal to educated readers interested in personal change and self-improvement. In addition, the book will serve as an excellent text or supplement in a variety of courses including personality, positive psychology, well being, personal development, and motivation.

Excerpt

Given the perennial salience of human misery, failure, intolerance, and brutality, it may be nai've to write a book dealing with the concept of optimal human being. Sometimes it seems that there is precious little optimal functioning going on. Indeed, given my own faults and failings (just ask my children), I have to wonder whether I could possibly be justified in undertaking such a task. What makes me think I have the requisite wisdom and authority, or that I am personally evolved enough to write about such a topic?

Obviously, I persisted. I was motivated to continue not by a desire to become a savant or talk show guru, but rather by a desire to share some fascinating new ideas about the nature of human nature. These ideas suggest that an optimistic and appreciative view of human nature is warranted. People are, literally, amazing—we already have all of the abilities we need to solve our problems, we simply need to learn to use these abilities more effectively. I hope to convince my readers that optimal human being is not so mysterious or far from our grasp as we might think—in fact, many people have already achieved it. Of course, one can always improve no matter how well one is doing—but many of us are doing quite well already, better than we think.

I was also motivated to communicate the emerging scientific data that supports these positive ideas concerning human nature. Of course, many self-help books are written on these topics every year; books extolling the virtues of the transcendental self, the inner child, right-brain wisdom, the seven habits, and so forth. These books provide elaborated and sometimes ingenious theories about optimal human functioning, make no mistake about it. However, few of these tomes rest their case on empirical research, nor do they tie their advice into the evolving paradigms of mainstream science. Thus, unfortunately, they fail to advance their arguments be-

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