Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Perma-nent Well-Being

I came across a new acronym while reading a New York Times article this morning: "Perma," which stands for: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. It was coined by Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of "positive psychology."

Dr. Seligman, who wrote "Authentic Happiness" in 2002, has since discovered that the concept of "happiness" is too limiting. He now is focusing on "well-being" or "flourishing." These words better capture the breadth of a fulfilling life. Well-being isn't tied to a particular feeling or mood (as happiness often is) but is "a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment," he writes.

I am in full agreement with Dr. Seligman. Happiness is a byproduct of being engaged in healthy relationships and doing meaningful work. We also need to be able to contribute to the good of others. While happiness is self-centered, well-being focuses more on making a positive difference in the lives of others.

For a full and fulfilling life, we not only need to be well, we also need to do good. When our life contains the five elements represented by "perma" the result is well-being. Even though this view doesn't mention spirituality, it is implied. Spirituality is a critical component of a well-lived life. The "tripod of spirituality" (humility, compassion and gratitude) I mentioned in my previous blog is important in well-being.

We were created by a Creator for a full and rich life that cannot be characterized by happiness alone. We were created for relationship, meaning, purpose and to serve a cause greater than self.

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