Martin Seligman is basically the Godfather of the Positive Psychology movement. He’s written a number of seminal books on the science of well-being.
When Seligman first kicked off the Positive Psychology party, he wrote a book calledAuthentic Happiness. A decade later, he updated his thinking with a book calledFlourish.
Short story: A good life isn’t just about maintaining a positive emotional state represented by that big yellow smiley face. A good life is about moving toward your highest potential —flourishing — and that DOESN’T always feel like sunshine and rainbows.
(Of course, the ancient Greeks made a similar distinction with their two different types of "happiness”:hedonia andeudaimonia. We’ll save that for another discussion.)
So, Seligman tells us there are five key facets to the science of flourishing. He captures them in a handy-dandy acronym:PERMA.
Here’s a quick look:
P is for Positive Emotion. Although experiencing apermanent, never-ending positive state isn’t necessary (or possible), having a consistent level of positive emotional affect is a key aspect of well-being. So, smile! Enjoy your life.
E is for Engagement. Want to feel great as you flourish? ENGAGE with your life. Create more and more moments of flow as you stretch toward goals that matter and give your best self to the moment.
(Note: Want to feelreally good? Engage in your core VIRTUES. The whole science of well-being is grounded on the universal virtues of all major religious and philosophical traditions.)
R is for Relationships. Science is unequivocal: Healthy relationships are a core component to a healthy, flourishing life. Invest your time here. Give someone a hug today and tell them how much they mean to you.
M is for Meaning. We need to have a connection to a deep sense of purpose in our lives. What deeply inspires you? Bring that to mind each day and make your life an expression of those values.
A is for Achievement. Want to flourish? Then we’ve gotta stretch ourselves with goals that challenge us and experience the joy of achievement. What’s firing you up these days? Are you creating micro wins and celebrating the process?