What Makes People Flourish?

March 27, 2014

 

What Makes People Flourish?

by Daniela Aneis

 

Since the appearance of Positive Psychology at the end of last century, the concept of flourishing has been a central one. Like flowers blossom on Spring and everything starts coming to life after the cold Winter, how can people flourish in their lives and achieve greater levels of positivity and personal growth? And so Positive Psychology sets out to answer: What makes people flourish?

What is flourishing?

According to positive psychology authors and researchers, the concept of flourishing has to do with reaching optimal human functioning. We all humans carry within ourselves great potential which is mostly locked inside us and we can’t always reach it. Through self-improvement methods and the search for the fulfillment of our potential, most of us do unlock our talents and reach a life of flourishing. So if you’re thinking you don’t have it in you to flourish, think again. Luckily we all do.

How can one flourish?

It’s basically an individual process, but researcher and “father” of the Positive Psychology movement, Martin Seligman published in his most recent book Flourishing (2011), a theoretical approach to achieving well-being and life satisfaction through a process of flourishing.

His PERMA model is based on five central states that one can achieve (actually the presence of 2 or more is enough to create greater well-being levels):

  • Positive Emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

Positive emotions play a key role in your lives as they are essential in our sense of well-being and our ability to be with others and even expand our minds and the way we think, see and feel. Engagement has to do with Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) concept of flow. Flow refers to a state of full absorption in the task at hand where time and space seem to disappear and the task represents intrinsically motivation – we do it simply because we enjoy it. We can see many flow experiences in creative people like writers and painters who spent entire days performing their work in a solitude experience and even forget to eat!

Positive interpersonal relationships are undeniably crucial to our well-being. It starts with our first attachment relationship with our mothers and it goes on for the rest of our lives (family, friends, spouses, and children). We are social beings and it is the quality of our relationships that help us perceive life as full and meaningful. Meaning which is another component of well-being, is obtained through the use of our signature strengths and talents in the service of something greater than ourselves (being a volunteer for instance).  Finally, Accomplishment – reaching one’s goals – enhances our motivation and self-efficacy feeling, propelling us to engage in more and challenging projects.

So, in practice, how can you flourish?

A few simple steps to start your flourishing process:

  • Find your talents. What are you really good at? And we all have different talents! If you don’t know what you’re really good at, it’s time to try new things until you figure it out!
  • Practice Mindfulness. Create a sense of aware towards yourself and what’s around you. Live in the present. Have you spent 2 minutes to observe that Spring is finally here again?
  • Cultivate positive and meaningful relationships in your life. Yes, again and again, friends and family are what makes this ride through life seem easier and more enjoyable.
  • Try to do something that you really enjoy. In a perfect world we would all be working in something we’re truly passionate about, something that would make work feel like a God’s gift. Unfortunately, if your 9-5 job isn’t like that, you may one consider another activity in your life that makes you feel like that.
  • Fulfill some of your dreams and projects. What is a life without dreams? Without hope?
  • Lead a meaningful life. This is actually a result of all of the above. Leading a life towards meaning is believing you’re a part of something greater, that your smaller actions are a mechanism of something greater than yourself and we all play a role in it.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaneversion/8643805338/