Well-Being in Positive Psychology

I purchased and read Martin Seligman’s, “Authentic Happiness” when I was a student counsellor. I was not impressed. Yes, I was interested in Positive Psychology as a shift of interest away from the “problems” (and more medical) model that had been the emphasis of psychology since the 19th Century. Yes, I wanted to see an emphasis on the “good life” (which was also the emphasis of the earliest Greek philosophers), but what I couldn’t accept was “happiness” as a motivation in and of itself. Things, events, relationships, accomplishments and other interactions can lead to feelings of “happiness”, but looking for happiness will always be illusive, because it is not a thing in itself (it is also completely subjective). Martin has understood the flaw in this approach and has revised his theory to make “well-being”, rather than happiness, the goal of Positive Psychology.

Martin, in his book “Flourish”, says that well-being is analogous to weather. Weather is not a thing in and of itself, but is a concept (or “construct”) which includes more basic elements, such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc. Well-being is a comparable construct, in that it is composed of elements (some more subjective than others). These elements for Martin, include:

  • Positive emotion (happiness and life satisfaction are aspects)
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Accomplishment

Martin refers to this as PERMA and says, “No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it. Some aspects of these five elements are measured subjectively by self-report, but other aspects are measured objectively.” (Source: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/learn/wellbeing, Accessed 29 August 2018)

As I read “Flourish”, I began to imagine these elements within one’s work. This site is about the application of these elements (and psychology more generally) to work and creative endeavours.