What Makes Us Flourish?
Quick. Think for a moment. How much well-being do you feel at this juncture of your life? Would you say that you are flourishing in certain aspects of your life? Which ones?
Felicia Huppert and Timothy So of the University of Cambridge define flourishing as having: 1) positive emotions, 2) engagement/deep interest in something, 3) meaningful activities or a sense of purpose, and 4) at least three of the following: self-esteem, optimism, resilience, vitality, self-determination and positive relationships.
Martin Seligman, in his new book Flourish (Free Press Publishers) says that flourishing consists of five elements: positive emotion (happiness and life satisfaction), engagement (being completely absorbed in a task so that you lose self-consciousness), meaning (what you do has great meaning to you; belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself), sense of accomplishment or achievement and positive relationships with other people.
So I have created a series of questions designed to help you explore the different components of flourishing. The more answers you create for each question, the more valuable you will find this exercise. This will be more rewarding if you write your answers down, so find paper or a computer. Then answer the following questions:
Taking everything together, how happy would you say you are?
What aspects of your life bring you the greatest sense of happiness or well-being?
How satisfied are you with your life?
Which parts of your life do you find most rewarding?
Which parts do you find most challenging?
Which activity, relationship or endeavor in your life has the potential to teach you the most?
Which offer you the greatest opportunities for personal growth or self-betterment?
Generally speaking, do you feel that what you do in your life is valuable and worthwhile?
In which activities do you spend most of your time?
How do you fritter away your time?
To what are you intensely interested?
Which activities do you notice that time just fly s by because you get completely absorbed by them?
What have you done—or are you doing—that will outlive you? Do any of these represent what you think of as your legacy? What is your legacy?
To which groups or causes are you devoted to?
Are there any causes or people you would be willing to die for?
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments?
What are you still looking to accomplish?
On a day by day basis, when you lay your head down to sleep, what daily events are you most proud of or grateful for?
Looking at the totality of your life, what are you most proud of or grateful for?
Who are the most important people in your life? With whom do you share love and devotion? With whom do you belong?
Who do you have the best relationships with? Whom do you want to improve your relationship with?
Generally speaking, how resilient are you?
When events hurt, overwhelm or disappoint you, what do you do in order to bounce back? How difficult is it to bounce back? What helps you the most when you’re trying to bounce back?
Overall, are you on your own side? Are you friendly to yourself? Is your self-talk encouraging and helpful? Do you build yourself up more, or tear yourself down?
Look over your answers to the above questions. Taken together, these cover most of the elements that determine the sense of whether you’re flourishing in your life—and how to enhance your feelings of well-being.
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