What is happiness? This question recently stumped a classroom full of co-workers. On the one hand, the answer is so obvious – it’s that good feeling. It’s that feeling of pleasure, joy, warmth, and comfort. You know it when you have it. But, how is this best described in words? How is it achieved and then how is it sustained? Would you describe yourself as happy?
The pursuit of happiness is at the top of the list of personal development goals for many people. Research has now proven that happiness fuels success. Happy people are more motivated, smarter and thus more successful. Happier people are more sociable, charitable and cooperative and are better liked by others.
In his book Flourish, Dr. Martin Seligman expands the topic of the temporary emotion of happiness to include a more sustainable state of well-being. This well-being is sustained by living a life of engagement and meaning. Engagement is about flow; being absorbed in an activity to the point of losing self-consciousness. It begins with identifying your highest strengths and learning to use them more often. A meaningful life consists in belonging to and servicing something bigger than yourself: family, religion, community group, political party.
Achieving and sustaining well-being expands the positive emotions of happiness. There are 5 elements that work together to achieve and sustain well-being and these elements can be remembered by the acronym PERMA:
- Positive Emotion: Although we can’t be happy all the time, we need to make sure that we often experience positive emotions such as pleasure, happiness, contentment, peace, joy and inspiration.
- Engagement: When we are truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow. We concentrate on the present.
- Relationships: We are social beings, and good relationships are core to well-being.
- Meaning: Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves.
- Accomplishment: We strive to better ourselves in some way, whether it is to master a skill, achieve a goal, or win in some competitive event.
Want to increase those positive emotions and feelings of well-being? Identify your strengths and ensure that your career choice utilizes them. Concentrate on the present and avoid the distractions of multitasking. Build goals and take action. Use the principles of emotional intelligence to solidify relationships and contribute to a larger cause.