“The good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.”, Martin Seligman (founder of Positive Psychology)
A flourishing life: What is it?
Flourishing means, simply defined, experiencing positive core psychological features, e.g., engagement, meaning, and purpose (Seligman, 2012). There are five paths to build a flourishing life described under the term of PERMA: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments (Hunziker, 2018; Seligman, 2012).
PERMA: The five pillars of a flourishing life
Concretely speaking, a flourishing life means that we experience more positive emotions (P), encounter flow in activities (E), have more positive relationships (R), find meaning in what we do (M), and overperform in activities (A). The base of each one of these paths are the 24 character strengths (Hunziker, 2018; Seligman, 2012), which I analyze and discuss with my clients how to apply and develop at work and in private life.
What are the consequences of a flourishing life?
People who have a flourishing life have higher levels of well-being (Seligman, 2012). Consequently, they are more resilient to illness and changes (Marsland et al., 2006; Seligman, 2012). Moreover, given that they are happier, they are better creative problem-solvers (Rego et al., 2012) and positively influence other people’s emotions (i.e., become emotionally contagious in a positive manner) (Hashim et al., 2008).
Why are these consequences relevant to me as an executive?
- Resilience: When you are a resilient executive, you deal better with stress, which in turn reduces the likelihood of diseases and allows you to respond to changes more competently (Marsland et al., 2006). For instance, positive affect can act as a buffer against stressful life events, which facilitates adaptive coping (Marsland et al., 2006). Relevantly, adaptive coping is an important skill in our VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous).
- Creativity: Creativity leads to innovation (Serrat, 2017), which in turn positively impacts the company’s success, e.g., more innovative firms are more likely to have higher profitability (Tajeddini et al., 2006).
- Emotional contagion: As a happy executive, you may positively increase the happiness level of your team (Hashim et al., 2008). Interestingly, happy employees show higher performance (Hashim et al., 2008), while the positive mood in teams can increase group cohesion that contributes to better cooperation and coordination (Kelly & Spoor, 2007).
In conclusion, having a flourishing life as an executive brings positive professional consequences because you do not only overperform but also have increased well-being levels. Once your well-being level is higher, you contribute to the business success of your company, e.g., better adaptation to change, higher profitability, and increased team cohesion.