PERMA METHOD OF HAPPINESS

  • Personal and organizational wellbeing should be our basic mission, because it is good for every person, for organizations and for the world. 
  • The capabilities that create wellbeing are different from those that relieve pain. 
  • The “PERMA Method” serves to measure, understand and work directly on human wellbeing: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement.

Suffering and wellbeing are part of the human condition, but the capacities that create wellbeing in people are not the same as those that relieve or overcome pain.

It is important not to be confused and to understand that eliminating the conditions that limit our happiness is not the same as building the good conditions that make our lives truly worthwhile. It is highly probable that throughout life we will need both capacities, but it is certain that the more we work on those that contribute to our wellbeing, the more difficult it will be for us to have negative moments, and the more prepared we will be to manage them if they come.

Traditionally psychology has focused on treating human suffering and mental problems. But people want to thrive and not just survive; and so psychology should give a lot of importance to this part, because we need and can aspire to cultivate the best version of ourselves and live a meaningful life, maximizing our capacity for love, compassion, creativity, curiosity, learning, resilience, integrity and wisdom.

This is why I am such a fan of Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of “Positive Psychology”, who among many other things, developed the “PERMA Method” to measure, understand and work directly on human wellbeing, and which is applied to individuals, organizations and even social policies.

PERMA is the acronym of 5 words that correspond to five essential blocks to measure and work on our vital well-being: POSITIVE EMOTION, ENGAGEMENT, RELATIONSHIPS, MEANING, and ACCOMPLISHMENT.

First of all, we must understand that there are very different ways to achieve a “happy” life (whatever content each one wants to give to this word). A good life for one person is not necessarily good for another. That is why good positive psychology is descriptive and not prescriptive. And it is not so much about saying what we should do or value, as it is about understanding and finding the key factors that make well-being possible, and that will better enable us to make good choices and live a fulfilling life aligned with our values and interests.

I try to summarize the axes of the PERMA system so that it can be easily understood and we can apply it both in our lives and in our work, for ourselves and the people around us (family, friends, teams, organizations, etc.):

1) POSITIVE EMOTION

This refers to the individual’s ability to be positive and optimistic about the past, present and future.

Certainly, some people have more facility than others to connect to positive emotions, and this range is given to them by their genetics. But we must be aware of this and know that there are factors that can be worked on to greatly expand our natural range.

We know that we can’t be happy all the time, but we must also make sure that we have enough positive emotions to be well. And if we don’t have them, let’s stop, think and work to have them. Let’s identify people, events, things or circumstances that make us connect with this positivity.

Homework: The goal is to find ways to incorporate positive emotions in our daily life, and not to postpone our happiness. And this always in relation to our past (good memories, gratitude, forgiveness…), present (enjoy, take care of ourselves, mindfulness…) and future (being optimistic, preparing ourselves well and being confident).

2) COMMITMENT

This refers to how each person performs activities that absorb them physically and mentally.

When you concentrate your abilities, strengths and attention on a challenging activity because you really want it and not out of obligation. You focus more on the process than the result.  Here you enter into “Flow”: you flow into an activity that makes you happy, which can be a big project or a small thing like a good conversation, fixing a bike, playing an instrument or gardening.

Homework: It is key that we dedicate our efforts and abilities to activities that really interest us. Otherwise, we will not flow, and even if we get results, we will move away from our wellbeing and suffer. Logically, this is key both in our personal life and, above all, in our professional life. Dedicating a large part of our life to something that does not interest us is leading us directly to the negative side of this whole vital equation.

If there is one thing we should be radical about in this life, it is dedicating as much time as possible to activities that make us feel happy and engaged.

3) RELATIONSHIPS

Refers to the relationships we build that bring us love, support and trust.

All experiences that contribute to wellbeing are often amplified through our relationships, and are one of the best antidotes to life’s downturns.

Evolutionarily we are social beings, and connecting or collaborating with others increases our survival. That is why it is key to develop strong relationships by enhancing our capacity for love, compassion, kindness, empathy, teamwork, cooperation, solidarity, commitment, etc.

Homework: We must review and strengthen our positive relationships. And do it in all the important areas of our lives: family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues (we spend many hours there and we cannot live them in a toxic or negative way).  And if we see that some relationships are not positive, let’s analyse them and work on them as a crucial issue; and if it is not possible to change this relationship, and it sucks a lot of energy from us, let’s move away from them.

4) MEANING

This refers to how to create and connect with meaning in life through our values and purpose.

Usually meaning and purpose come from being connected to or in service of something greater than oneself. There are many ways to find one’s purpose, and our happiness and well-being in life will be closely related to finding our own. Some of the most common are: religion, family, science, politics, social or environmental causes, etc. Here we only have to take into account that the purpose is really authentic and that we do not adopt one just because it is easy and comfortable for us.

Homework: Ask yourself if your life and work has a meaning; if it is connected to something greater than yourself. Your personal growth and well-being will essentially depend on finding this purpose and knowing how to take steps (even small ones) to move forward and connect with it.

5) ACHIEVEMENT

This refers to the tasks or goals that we want to achieve and that make us feel proud.

In any field (personal, professional, cultural, sporting, social, etc.) we need to set goals to have a path and be motivated to move forward.

It is how we humans work and it applies to small and big tasks.  That is why they are so important and why we should treat them with the utmost awareness.

Our dreams in life are not achieved all at once, but step by step, and our goals are there to move us towards them.

Homework: It is important to set goals that focus on our wellbeing, and connect us to our positive emotions, purpose and good relationships. Often we simply strive for goals that are not in line with these key factors for our happiness. And it is important to regulate ambition and real interest in these goals, so that we are not driven by appearances, ego or what society demands or expects of us as life success. What counts is our life and our balance of wellbeing, not what others see of our life.

Analysing these five blocks of the PERMA method will allow you to consolidate key factors that you are already doing well, and to review others that you have pending.  Surely you can evolve a lot in all or some of the key points.

Wellbeing in life should be one of our basic missions (in ourselves as individuals and in our organisations). And not only because we will be happier and healthier on a personal level, but also because it has real direct consequences for our environment, our work, our organisations and our society. In short, the wellbeing of each person is good for the world.

By |2024-04-11T11:43:25+02:0011 de April de 2024|Global, Leadership|1 Comment

One Comment

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