Flourishing

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A composer can have all the talent of Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.
Martin Seligman

To most it sounds almost trite to say “you find what you do looking for”. But simple as the statement is, it’s true! I’m not talking about winning the lottery or wishing you could have been a professional ball player or award-winning ballerina. Instead, I’m referring to the general attitude one has toward life.

There has been a slow positive change for me that has accelerated over the last ten years. Living did not suddenly get easier, nor did nirvana take me over. What is different about my outlook is I expect good things. And when difficult things happen, I count on the positive lesson that will come as a result.

Close to ten years ago one of my heroes, psychologist Martin Seligman, wrote a book titled “Authentic Happiness”. In it he said, “… scientific evidence makes it seem unlikely that you can change your level of happiness in any sustainable way. It suggests that we each have a fixed range for happiness just as we do for weight. And just as dieters almost always regain the weight they lose, sad people don’t become lastingly happy, and happy people don’t become lastingly sad.”

What a huge bummer when I read that the first time. I had just begun to earnestly focus on improving my attitude toward living and the statement took the wind out of my sails for a week or two. Dr. Seligman’s book “Flourish” released in 2012 set this right.

Dictionary meanings of the word flourish are: grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way; thrive: to be successful; prosper. Sometimes to flourish looks a lot like happiness, but much of the time it doesn’t.

We have this notion of happiness being filled with smiles, giddy delirium and a state of perpetual bliss. Real life does not look like that way. Often one flourishing is intensely focused, deadly serious and appears to be driven by some unseen force.

An inspired artist creating what pleases him or her rarely shows a face we’d label as happy. Being in the groove and creating good work can bring an inward satisfaction for the artist that is very difficult to outwardly judge by anyone else.

In “Flourish” Dr. Seligman offers a take on well-being he summarizes with the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Each of these elements, he believes, is crucial to a full, well-lived life, even if it sometimes involves struggle and leads, in the short-term, to unhappiness.

Outwardly I don’t appear as a blissed out happy freak, yet I am quite content. When I look at Dr. Seligman’s PERMA list (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relation¬ships, Meaning, and Accomplishment) I can easily see why I feel as good about life as I do. I have a more than adequate supply of every one. Certainly there are a lot of things that are not as I wish, but that really doesn’t matter. I choose instead to anticipate all the good coming my way, live each day well and be grateful to be ‘flourishing’.

People who believe they cause good things
tend to like themselves better than people
who believe good things come from
other people or circumstances.
Martin Seligman

About James Browning

A seeker working to grow each day and be a better version of my self. Through sharing I commit myself deeper to my ideals and beliefs.
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