Ever wondered what it takes to truly and consistently flourish? The truth is, most of us find this to be harder than it looks.
I grew up pretty certain I knew what it took to be happy. A good job. People to love.
Sigmund Freud famously agreed with me, saying, “Work and love, love and work—that’s all there is.” More recently a poll by Gallup across 160 countries asked people, “What are your hopes and dreams for the future?” The unanimous answer in every city was a good job and a happy family.
So you can imagine my surprise when I scored the job of my dreams and found myself surrounded by family and friends I adored, only to realize that I was barely functioning, never mind flourishing.
Unfortunately, my story’s not unique. While life is better in many countries on almost every measure of wealth, health, education, technology, arts and so on, most of us are no happier or satisfied than we were fifty years ago.
So where are we going wrong?
I decided it was time to see if science had anything new to add to my limited formula for wellbeing. What I found forever changed the way I live my life.
Professor Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the emerging science of positive psychology, recently proposed a new theory of wellbeing that results in human flourishing. It includes the presence of:
- Positive emotions—the regular presence of feelings like joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
- Engagement—the feeling of “being one with the music,” where we use our strengths to become completely engaged in a task.
- Relationships—it turns out other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable ups.
- Meaning—the sense that we’re connected to something larger than ourselves.
- Accomplishment—winning, achievement and mastery.
Otherwise known as PERMA.
While the theory as a whole is still being tested, there is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that each of these elements can help us feel happier and lead us to feel more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative, collaborative and productive.
Seligman emphasizes that while no one element defines our well-being, the presence of each determines our ability to consistently flourish.
After completing my Master of Applied Positive Psychology with Seligman I discovered how to track my positivity ratio, uncover my strengths, create micro-moments of connection with people, craft a job that had meaning and purpose and cultivate mindsets to pursue and accomplish what mattered to me most.
I became my own research sample of one as I tried to find the right fit between what the science was teaching and the values, resources and situations unique to my life.
Despite moving countries, chucking a six-figure job, having babies and losing people I love, I can honestly say this broadened approach to well-being has enabled me to consistently flourish year after year.
You can test your own levels of PERMA at my website and receive a free six-week e-course with practical and playful approaches to using the science of positive psychology to help you consistently flourish.