What is Flourishing?

Flourishing, according to positive psychology thought leader Martin Seligman, can be measured using the five elements of wellbeing. A person is flourishing when they satisfy the elements of the acronym PERMA. PERMA stands for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.

Let’s start with Positive Emotion. According to Seligman, for every negative thought, you should aim for at least three positive thoughts. He uses the Losada ratio, wherein people who are above the ratio are considered to likely possess healthy psychological wellbeing. It is important to note that the Losada ratio has now been debunked, but the idea of increasing positive thoughts as way to increase flourishing has not.

Second, Engagement. According to Seligman, you can achieve happiness by giving yourself completely to your activities (his cohort Csikszentmihalyi calls this “flow” and has become famous studying it).

Third, Relationships. Seligman says that the happiest people spend the least time alone. When you think about events in your life when you felt the happiest, were you with other people? Did getting a promotion rely on someone else recognizing your worth? Healthy relationships are an important part of how we relish our memories and grow as individuals.

Fourth, Meaning. This means belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves. When you buy happiness, say for example shopping, that instant feeling of joy is fleeting. Once you are done shopping, any positive feeling quickly fades. But when you engage in altruistic activities, the feeling of happiness tends to last longer.

Last but not least, Accomplishment. Seligman emphasizes that self-discipline is more of an indicator of success than IQ. Determination, persistence, and passion has been shown to generally outweighs IQ in achieving goals.

In summary, if you are trying to increase your levels of happiness, you should practice positive thinking, try to be fully engaged in your activities, foster meaningful relationships, engage in altruistic activities, and be passionate and determined about achieving your goals.

Mike’s Note: Martin Seligman’s Challenge to Coaches and Positive Psychologists

If you have ever visited my personal website you know that I am a big fan of positive psychology and Seligman’s work. His theories on wellbeing offer assessment techniques that can be practiced in the field to help clients lead more meaningful and happier lives.

One of Seligman’s popular theories is the notion that it is folly to spend our lives trying to improve or fix our weaknesses. Seligman believes humans have a pre-disposition to have feelings of sadness, anger and frustration. Instead of focusing on correcting what is wrong, Seligman believes we should instead divert that energy to playing to our strengths. In other words, one can look at happiness and flourishing not as the absence of a disorder, but how we use our inner strengths well, and relish in what makes us delighted (more often).

Seligman’s book, Flourish, gives tools for people to find their “signature strengths” and, once discovered, use these attributes to lead more fulfilling lives, cope with stress better and improve relationships with others. There are also free assessments at https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.

Flourish 2051

Flourish 2051 is Seligman’s initiative and mission to spread flourishing throughout the world. He believes that by 2051, about fifty one percent of the world’s population could be flourishing if we all get to work now on improving wellbeing globally. I committed to doing my part and Unstick.Me is one of several manifestations of my contribution towards Seligman’s challenge.

Let us know how you are contributing to increasing flourishing in the world by leaving message in the comment section below.