How to flourish
I have very much enjoyed reading the latest research of the highly acclaimed and awarded Dr Martin Seligman in his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. His work, researched through Pennsylvania University, on happiness and well-being has undergone recent revisions.
As always, I am fascinated by that which creates optimal learning contexts and healthy states of wellbeing. As parents you constantly express your desire to have a daughter who is happy, demonstrating high self-esteem and succeeding. In this outcome, we are of one mind as educators and parents. Yet this state of wellbeing is the end point. We need to define the underlying experiences, skills and attributes that see these outcomes realised.
I therefore share with you the features essential to seeing our girls and ourselves flourish as defined my Dr Seligman:
• Positive emotions as experienced when eating small amounts of chocolate or laughing at a good joke. Generally, the sensation of happiness is short lived.
• Engagement when we are in a state of flow and totally engrossed in a project or activity. Time disappears, challenge is high and learning is empowering when in this mind set.
• Meaning achieved through contributing and serving beyond self. This might be to an organisation, family, church group or charity and involves thankless giving and contributing with no expectation of extrinsic rewards.
• Accomplishment where we pursue success, winning, achievement and mastery for their own sakes.
• Positive Relationships we must forge with other people. These bonds and connections need to be established with family, friends and school or work colleagues. There is very little that we do alone that brings us joy and a positive demeanour.
It is the latter two elements that Seligman has added to his researched list of features. With such a list we can see that when learning is good hard fun, by giving, in succeeding and relating, such outcomes will be achieved. Strong interpersonal and organisational skills coupled with a keen motivation to learn and acquire knowledge are the essential skills we as educators and parents seek to imbue in our girls.
Further, I was most interested in Seligman's research that showed that success within and beyond the schooling context correlates best with the amount of effort given to any learning task. Another key element of success is our capacity to not only acquire new information quickly but to then slow and deepen our thinking to allow for planning, reflection and refinement. These two elements are not always acknowledged by the girls as essential to success.
I commend to you the research work and writings of Dr Martin Seligman – a copy of both his books is in the parent section of our Palmer Library. By working to develop these identified traits in our girls we will do much to inoculate them against anxiety, stress and depression. How reassuring it is to know that to see our girls flourish is achievable with the acquisition of teachable skills, knowledge and attributes.