What enables some people to emerge from challenges with their lives recreated, and even strengthened, while others crumble in a crisis?
This is such a vital question for anyone who is seeking a rewarding relationship with their career, leadership, loved ones, and life if general. We live in a world where things change at unprecedented speeds; and resilience and flexibility are becoming essential life skills, without which we never be able to live beyond our survival zones, let alone in our comfort zones.
Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, studied resilience and wellbeing to answer this very question. He developed the PERMA Model, which contains five factors to help you build resilience and wellbeing - Positive emotions, Engagement, (healthy) Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Positive psychology shifts traditional ideas of psychology from working on fixing what is 'wrong', to focusing on what works, on strengths, on skills, and on enhancing the positives. The PERMA model is one of the tools that we can implement in our lives to help us mange our stress and to create success, regardless of the volatility in the world around us.
Let’s look at each element of the PERMA model.
POSITIVE EMOTIONS Positive emotions like happiness have an obvious connection to wellbeing. When we feel positive emotions we perform better, we respond more helpfully in our relationships, and we are more willing to hope for the best future, and to take risks to achieve that future. How do we bring about positive emotions? The short answer is to do the things that make you happy. Make space in your life with the things that bring you joy and that makes you smile. Don't overcomplicate it. Keep is simple - food, friends that build you up rather than drag you down, music, gardening, movies, exercise. Whatever it is that makes you feel good.
ENGAGEMENT Have you ever had a time when you were enjoying what you were doing so much so that you were completely absorbed by it? So in engaged, that the past and the future just fell away and you felt completely in the present?
This experience is called “flow” - a state of being fully engaged with a task and, according to Seligman, engagement is one of the five crucial building blocks of wellbeing, and creating a life and career in which you flourish. We all achieve flow doing different things – sport for some, music for others, a hobby or a work project. Figure out what in your life gives you a sense of engagement. When you know what brings you to a flow state, you also have the clues that will lead you to your strengths and to your zone of genius.
RELATIONSHIPS [Positive] We are designed for belonging. We need connection, intimacy, and emotional and physical contact with others. Relationships therefor play a pivotal role in our wellbeing and in the cultivation of our self-esteem and our sense of safety. We struggle when our relationships are destructive, draining, one-sided, or we are just isolated. Conversely, if your relationships make you feel supported, included, understood and cared for, you feel free to share and to pursue your ideas and ideals, without being preoccupied with the repercussions you may have to suffer for them. Becoming deliberate about cultivating relationships that allow you to be yourself more fully, allows you to shape your overall life satisfaction.
MEANING Seeing and working towards a meaning that is bigger and more important than just your own happiness is essential. Having a purpose to your life brings satisfaction, even if working towards that purpose does not directly bring positive emotion, flow, or any of the other building blocks of wellbeing. This might be a religious pursuit, a hobby, community work, the pursuit of a goal that feels intimate and important to you, or simply developing the relationships that feed your curiosities and fill your soul. Being with like-minded people working towards a common goal that you really believe in brings significance to your life.
ACCOMPLISHMENT The final building block that allows us to flourish is accomplishment, or a sense of mastery over something. Gaining mastery over something is important for its own sake, even if the accomplishment is not linked to any of the other building blocks of wellbeing. It’s important to know that we can do something well, that we can set a goal and reach it, and enjoy that feeling of success.
People who integrate the PERMA concepts have been shown to do better generally, and even after setbacks. Typically, they are less likely to experience depression, fall prey to burnout, or post traumatic stress. They even have a lower risk of premature death
So take a moment to think through the ways in which you can apply the PERMA model to your own life.
By being deliberate, intentional and consistent in filling your life with positive emotions, engagement, good relationships, meaning and accomplishment you set yourself up to navigate life's ups and downs more steadily, and to engage in life more fully.
If you’d like a tailored approach to building up your resilience and wellbeing reserves, contact me at email@example.com to find our more about my programme, Qualified to BE You or schedule your complimentary session with me here.