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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are You Flourishing?

I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself 
in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and 
become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks. 
It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, 
or when an artist or a craftsman becomes one 
with the brush or the tool. 
~David Brooks

A person is considered to be flourishing if they perceive that their life is good, that it is going well. Flourishing is a combination of psychological well-being and effective functioning.

Individuals who are flourishing "learn effectively, work productively, have better social relations, are likely to contribute to their community, and have better health and life expectancy" (see Huppert & So, 2009).

People mired in addiction or severe forms of depression and anxiety are said to have mental health problems. They might be experiencing difficulties and unhappiness. As such, they are described as "languishing".

To flourish, an individual must have all three core features below and at least three of the six additional features (Seligman, 2011). I will briefly discuss them.

Core Features

Positive emotions. These emotions can range from amusement, awe, gratitude, to inspiration, peace, empathy, and happiness. It is fueled by the desire for enjoyment and unity, and therefore takes the whole into consideration--interacting with others and whatever is worth connecting to in your world.

Engagement. Did time stop for you? Were you completely absorbed by the task? Engagement is being in the "flow," of being focused, with emotions and mind aligned to accomplish goals and projects.

Meaning. This is "belonging to" and "serving" something that you believe is bigger than the self. Being involved in a cause (i.e., running for breast cancer, advocating to eliminate child poverty) provide meaning and purpose to one's life.

Additional Features

Self-esteem. Do you like your self? Self-esteem is a crucial feature because it affects how you think, act, and relate to others. Self-esteem is your opinion of your self, the value you place on your self.

Optimism. This is the ability to see the positive side of things, of looking at the glass half full (instead of half empty). It is being hopeful and confident about the future or successful outcome.

Resilience. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, or crisis. It is "bouncing back" into shape and to thrive despite unfortunate experiences.

Vitality. This is the state of being strong and active. It is the ability to endure, to be fully alive (not just  partly alive) and be enthusiastic about life. Goals cannot be realized without vitality in mind and in body.

Self-determination. This is the ability to make choices without external interference or pressure. Ernest Henley sums this up neatly in the last stanza of his poem, Invictus:  "I am the master of of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

Positive relationships. Human beings are meant to relate to one another. Feelings of indescribable joy, the sense of profound meaning, and the highlights of your life took place around other people. Other people provides antidote to the ups and down of life--providing shelter when life is stormy and oodles of sunshine when life is good.

The primary question to you, my dear reader, is: Are you flourishing? Do you experience the three core features of positive emotions, engagement, and meaning? And do you experience at least three of the six additional features?

Why is it important for you to flourish? To flourish is to grow, to develop, and to become the human person you were meant to be or wanted to be. Dreams are concretized when you flourish. The world is a better place when you flourish. Other people become your inspiration when you flourish. You feel good and on top of the world when you flourish. Need I say more?


Have a good week, dear readers! As usual, leave your comments below. Take care!

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