What is human flourishing? The Teacher Collection
What does it mean for a human to flourish? Martin Seligman defines human flourishing using the PERMA model, which includes 5 factors of a meaningful life.
What is human flourishing?
If you look up the basic definition of flourishing, you’ll find textbook responses like “developing rapidly or successfully”, “thriving” or “developing in a healthy or vigorous way.”
But what does that look like?
It’s widely agreed that a flourishing plant will be green, perky and full of new growth. A flourishing coral reef will be full of bright, vivacious colours and an abundance of fish. A thriving business will have a roaring profit and a steady stream of clients.
But what does it mean for a human being to flourish? And how can you tell if you’re flourishing – both mentally and physically?
The theory of personal flourishing isn’t as straightforward as the patterns we observe in nature. What’s flourishing for one person may not be the same as another. This is why phycologists have dedicated their entire careers to defining happiness, wellbeing and flourishing.
One psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, is recognised for his work in positive psychology, happiness and flourishing. His 2011 book, Flourish, summarises what creates a pleasant and meaningful life.
He introduced the PERMA model, which stands for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.
So, let’s break it down.
Perhaps one of the most straightforward pillars, this is the degree in which we experience positive emotions. Of course, our emotions fluctuate daily, but some of us have a tendency to think more positively than others.
Practicing gratitude or reframing your negative thoughts are a few of the ways we can contribute to our positive emotions.
Have you ever felt so absorbed in a task that you’ve lost track of time? Engagement is when you become completely immersed in a moment. You’re in a state of flow.
You might have observed this in the classroom or at home, when a child becomes completely immersed in a task suited to their skills and strengths. While it may be tough to get their attention, this deep level of engagement will help to foster overall flourishment.
Humans are social creatures. Relationships give us joy, meaning, laughter, belonging, support and guidance. From an evolutionary angle, relationships with our friends and family contributed to our survival – so it’s little wonder why relationships have a profound impact on happiness and wellbeing.
The ability to attribute purpose and meaning to your life is a shared trait of flourishing individuals. Purpose isn’t a goal, but a deep sense of self that drives our behaviour and reminds us we’re a part of something bigger.
There’s an invigorating feeling when you achieve something you’re working towards, isn’t there?
Setting goals – big or small – and achieving them has an impact on our overall flourishing. Accomplishments make us feel satisfied and build on our self-confidence, whether that’s in the workplace, a hobby or a sport.
The final word
By being conscious of these components of flourishing, you can draw awareness to your emotions, positive relationships, purpose, ambitions and activities that set your soul on fire. Flourishing looks different to everyone, and as humans, we’re constantly growing and expanding and to reach a state of flourishing.
I’m Lill, a rural teacher, life-long learner and the founder of The Teacher Collection. I started The Teacher Collection as a support network to strengthen the emotional and mental wellbeing of teachers, children and adults. As a teacher who has grappled with overwhelm and burnout – I have a firm interest in creating a safe space for guidance and support. Thank you for being here.