Saturday, May 28, 2011

It Doesn’t Take 127 Hours to Flourish

When I first thought about what to say about flourishing, it seemed important, but dry.  Martin Seligman’s new book, Flourishing, identifies 5 critical facets of well-being.  I’ve also been considering what I wanted to say about 127 hours, the amazing film about the amazing experience of Aron Ralston trapped in a canyon in Utah.  And then it came together.  The Ralston portrayed in the film displayed so many of the characteristics of happiness and flourishing. 

Positive emotion – James Franco as Ralston ventures into the Utah desert and exudes positive feelings like pleasure and joy.  They practically explode from his being.

Engagement – You can feel his experience of flow, as he practically flies through the difficult terrain on his bike or on foot.

Relationships – Ralston falls a little short in this department, one of the themes of the film.  Seligman says you have to have positive relationships, i.e., someone you can call in 4:00AM.  Ralston has his mother, but he shirks his responsibility to her a bit, recognizing this and his desire to relate differently with others.

Meaning – Finding meaning and purpose in one’s activities, something bigger then ourselves is something Ralston discovers during the course of his ordeal.

Accomplishment – Achieving goals for the sake of accomplishing something you desire is also so clearly presented.  Ralston just loves doing it.  You can tell.  It doesn’t matter what’s going to come of it.  He’s going to get out there and succeed. 

Flourishing is more than happiness (which is more than just feeling good).  It also includes other things that are important to us humans.   One of those things is accomplishing something for accomplishment’s sake.  Another is the importance of relationships; good things tend to involve others. 

Consider how you fare in each of the areas.  What can you add or change?  Do you need more activities that generate positive emotions?  More challenging projects?  Work on your relationships?  More meaningful pursuits?  A greater sense of accomplishment?

When you consider taking on a new task, relationship or project, consider how it might contribute to your satisfaction in one or more of the five areas.

Do something today to boost your well-being.  You can start with a listen:

Lovely Day.  Bill Withers

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