This topic, above all others, is the most difficult to explain and to do broad justice to the actual sense of meaning. Why on might ask; simply because flourishing can only be evaluated and described by the individual. In his book Flourish, Dr. Martin Seligman brings up an important point about the association to the Well-being Model as opposed to the Authentic Happiness model in Positive Psychology, the point being, regarding flourishing, the motive is not to increase happiness in self and in the world, but to increase flourishing (positive growth) in self and in the world1.

The ability to flourish is defined as the ability for a person to grow as a human being through good times and through life struggles. It is a very individual journey of living as experienced and valued by the individual. How one gets there is connected by the holistic recognition that happiness and flourishing are connected to elements such as finding individual meaning through relationships, courage, leisure time, what we love to do in life, building creativity, love, and connections. Flourishing is the product of the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life passions, and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life.

Appreciably, in the research of this area in Positive Psychology, the work of Felicia Huppert and Timothy So highlighted and crafted the core features and explanations associated with flourishing. The authors defined flourishing as a product of characteristics a person possesses or recognizes as resources.  The criteria included a model of specific core features that must be present, and 3 of six additional features that complete the recipe. The core features include:

·       positive emotions

·       engagement, interest

·       meaning/purpose

The additional features include (three of six must be present):

·       self-esteem

·       optimism

·       resilience

·       vitality

·       self-determination

·       and positive relationships1,2

While the core list might seem like benchmark thresholds, we must mention again that these can only be evaluated and defined by the individual. For example: some people are overtly happy and this shows through energy and enthusiasm; a bubbly person if you will, while others may happily fade into the background enjoying the moments from the bleachers. Given the different ways of being in the world, both can equally evaluate their life on the positive emotion side. The same holds true for the idea of engagement and interest. Some people enjoy difficult tasks that stab to the core of challenging body, mind and spirit to great depths, while others find engagement and interest in small moment to moment experiences that hold curiosity, attention or concentration; perhaps even daily conversation at the bus stop. Some people might see these bus stop conversations as trite or trivial, searching for a grand meaning in life, while others capture glimpses, smiles and conversations as small pieces to make up their meaning in life.

The additional six features (where just three are needed) add to the recipe of flourishing, and are features defined by how we recognize and use resources, and process information that generates favorable or positive outcomes through motivation, behaviors, revaluation and adjustment.

The idea of flourishing is not something someone either has or does not have, it is an action-based process of knowing that in order to flourish one must engage in practices that develop momentum in flourishing. While it is debated that Albert Einstein actually coined the phrase “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, it is certainly seen a fitting phrase for understanding how one comes to flourish in life. If a person feels stuck or a lack of positive momentum in their life, then action is needed to move the train out of the station.  As it just so happens, flourish, in the verb sense of meaning is acknowledged as the state of growing and thriving, or being in such a state. In all instances something must happen for the state to be realized. Whether it is to reach out and make positive human connections, or to develop a sense of self-love, it is the process of un-sticking one’s self from a current state and taking action to grow as a human being.


1 Seligman, M.E.P. (2012). Flourishing. New York: Free Press.

2 Huppert, F. A., & So, T. T. C. (2011). Flourishing across Europe: Application of a new conceptual framework for defining well-being. Social Indicators Research. doi:10.1007/s11205-0119966-7.


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’


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