The team at Niko Niko, a company that helps track the mood of teams for greater, more satisfying productivity, recently wrote about Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a noted author and expert in the field of positive psychology. We are great fans of Seligman's work and were delighted to re-post this guest contribution. Note: the links are other highly relevant articles we suggest you bookmark if you don't have time to read them now!

One of the concepts Seligman has introduced and analyzed is the idea of Authentic Happiness. In his theory, happiness is actually a mix of three different elements: positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. However, he also takes the analysis further in introducing happiness as a component of well-being. That is how we arrive at the PERMA construct.

According to Dr. Seligman, well-being consists of the following:

  • Positive emotion

  • Engagement

  • Relationships

  • Meaning and purpose

  • Accomplishment

The three components of happiness are included in the well-being analysis, meaning that they are vital for our overall psychological health and responsible for generating a sense of well-being. If we focus on each aspect individually and cultivate it, then the result should be increased well-being and happiness overall and, in a work context, increased morale and productivity. 

POSITIVE EMOTION. Positive emotions are fairly easy for many people to identify: joy, gratitude, amusement, hope. There are many others that could be included in this list, and each one has its own trigger. Focusing on positive emotions does not necessarily mean eliminating negative ones. On the contrary, some think that negative emotions are just as necessary as positive ones in helping us flourish. But increasing the quantity of positive emotions you are experience on a regular basis is a good step towards increasing your overall sense of happiness and well-being. 

ENGAGEMENT The key aspect of engagement as it relates to positive psychology is something referred to as “flow.” Flow is what we call it when we are so absorbed in a particular activity that time seems to fly by. As you might guess, being engaged to the point of achieving a good flow is critical to a productive workplace, but it is also important in happiness, as it prevents boredom and other negative elements from creeping in. It also tends to signal that we are using our own strengths in accomplishing our tasks, which is satisfying.

RELATIONSHIPS. Having positive relationships with friends, family and co-workers means a few different things: enjoying their company, feeling supported by them, experiencing engagement with them, and receiving positive emotions and impressions from them. If these elements are missing, it might be time to evaluate why. Are you both putting the time and effort needed into cultivating a good connection with each other? Or is there something missing that is not fulfilling your needs with this particular relationship?

MEANING AND PURPOSE. One of the best descriptions of finding meaning in life is by Dr. Martin Seligman himself: “using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” These days, people often find meaning in a variety of places, including their relationships and families, their jobs, faith, and causes they find important. This aspect is why things like mission statements are important at work. A clerk might feel like they are “just a clerk,” but if they view themselves as part of a larger whole with a company mission that somehow benefits the community or the world, it injects new meaning into what they do. 

ACCOMPLISHMENT. Individuals view accomplishment through a retrospective lens. Did you finish a tough project? Win an award for your work? Are you able to look back and feel a sense of pride about what you’ve achieved? Accomplishment is something we can call on from our past to help drive us through our future to achieve even more. Additionally, accomplishments can help us identify our strengths, so that we can continue growing and honing them. Acknowledging and rewarding accomplishment is therefore vitally important in the workplace: first, to help employees experience appreciation, and second, to cultivate employee talents and enhance engagement.

Employers and employees should take the time to maximize the importance of each letter in the PERMA construct in order to create a sense of personal and professional well-being.