Move over, happiness.
There’s a new KPI in town.
With this KPI, we’ll thrive as entrepreneurs, parents, leaders, and humans. What is it, you ask?
As entrepreneurs, we are always chasing something. At times, what we’re chasing is clearly defined and measurable: funding, customers, employees, growth, an exit.
Other times, not so much. How do you measure the existential pursuits? The “why’s” and “what for’s” and “what else” questions often peck at us, like birds of prey. How many more successes, achievements, creature comforts, investments do I need to pursue to feel whole?
These questions serve an important purpose. We are working against the odds--day in, day out. We want to create something that has never been done; to build something that would not exist otherwise. It’s a tall task and these challenges attract problem solvers who see above and beyond the status quo to a better future.
A singular focus on a goal, sheer willpower, and white-knuckling it through the ups and downs is how most entrepreneurs persist. I love that aspect of the journey. But, at some point, after we’ve met many of our milestones, and missed many others, those questions peck harder at us, causing us to pause, to wonder: “What’s the point of all of this?” Needless to say, I couldn’t answer that question. Was it to hit my business growth goal, my savings goal, serve my growing family, retire early and chill, mentor more aspiring entrepreneurs, find more ways to give back to the community?
Enter “Flourish,” a life-changing book by Dr. Martin Seligman. Seligman is a leading psychologist and well known in the scientific community for his theories of positive psychology and well-being. He was elected President of the American Psychology Association in 1998.
“Flourish” explores the secret to well-being through an exploration of the human psyche, challenging the well-known theories by Freud, Nietzsche, Socrates, and others. According to Seligman, all of their monolithic theories offer singular statements for the purpose of the human psyche. As in, the human psyche exists solely to build wealth, or solely to maximize happiness. It does not.
Well-being through PERMA
Seligman presents a different approach to finding fulfillment in our lives. He argues that happiness should not be the sole focus. Rather, we should focus on overall well-being in order to flourish. He presents a model to examine our well-being, an easy to remember acronym called PERMA.
P – Positive Emotion
E – Engagement
R – Relationships
M – Meaning
A – Accomplishments
Seligman’s theoretical model of happiness (PERMA) helps us understand these elements and what we can do to maximize each element to reach a life full of happiness.
- The PERMA Model: Your Scientific Theory of Happiness
My immediate reaction as an entrepreneur was, “Holy SH*T!” First, I had never acknowledged that all of these things were important. Second, I never allowed myself to contemplate and consider how each PERMA element affected my well-being and overall contentedness.
PERMA has been a total game-changer for me. Whenever I think through goals - personal, family, and professional - I consider my well-being first. Similar to the emergency advice given to airplane passengers: put on your own oxygen mask first. I have to accept that some things don’t drive return to shareholders. I also have to accept that it’s okay to want to achieve my goals as an entrepreneur and that my well-being isn’t just based on me playing with my kids. Essentially, I understand it’s a balancing act and that all facets of well-being should be tended to overtime to truly flourish.
A local journalist recently asked me what excited me the most about Durham’s potential as a city. I immediately strayed away from thoughts like “growth, startup fundraising, and huge exits,” and went towards how we have an opportunity to produce a well-rounded community of entrepreneurs, business owners, citizens, and residents that can all thrive and flourish together.
So, how can you apply this theory in your daily life?
Check out “Flourish” by Dr. Martin Seligman. Understanding the concept of well-being and how to flourish has given me perspective -- the ability to step back and think about the bigger picture. As entrepreneurs and business leaders, this does not mean you sacrifice your business goals; it simply means that you can celebrate wins in other areas of your life, too. Focusing on your well-being helps you become more resilient. As a result, you’ll be happier, healthier, more well-rounded when approaching business AND personal challenges, greatly increasing new opportunities for success while making the world a better place along the way.
Watch Seligman’s Talk About His PERMA Model
What impact has the PERMA model had in your life? What other models have helped you flourish?
A special thank you to Don Azevedo for the book recommendation.
Upcoming Events: Lunch & Learn - Crafting Top-shelf Bourbon on a Budget with IoT
Join Smashing Boxes Senior Engineer, Entrepreneur, and Pinetop Distillery Co-Founder Grady Knight as he presents how Pinetop Distillery overcame significant barriers-to-market-entry through a unique value-engineered manufacturing process using connected devices and sensors.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
310 South Harrington Street