As we approach the end of the year, we suddenly find ourselves reflecting on the goals we accomplished this year while looking forward to the goals we plan to accomplish in the coming year. Perhaps we want to eat a bit healthier or work out more frequently. Maybe we want to foster a better work-life balance or go back to college for that degree we’ve always wanted. Regardless of the size and complexity of the goal, we often pursue them with one overarching ambition: a fulfilling life.
But what exactly defines a fulfilling life, and what components of our lives contribute to it? This question is what the PERMA model of well-being seeks to address.
What is the PERMA model of well-being?
Dr. Martin Seligman—one of the leading authorities in the field of positive psychology and director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center—developed the PERMA model of well-being as a means of explaining the components that comprise well-being and contribute to a fulfilling life.
There are five components:
- Positive emotion: Within reason, we can work to increase our positive emotions regarding the past, present, and future by practicing gratitude, optimism, and mindfulness.
- Engagement: We can elevate our well-being and fulfillment when we are in a flow state (i.e., being fully immersed in and attentive to an activity we enjoy). Flow states can occur while reading, playing music, conversing with friends, etc.
- Relationships: The presence of intimacy and social connections in our lives can bring about feelings of belonging.
- Meaning: From our contributions to something beyond ourselves (e.g., family, social causes, religion, etc.), we can derive a sense of purpose.
- Achievement: When we make an effort to accomplish realistic goals, we can experience fulfillment and pride in ourselves.
Since the PERMA model only serves as a framework for fostering a greater sense of well-being and fulfillment, each of us will derive different degrees of well-being and fulfillment from each of the five components.
How can the PERMA model of well-being help?
When considering your goals for the New Year, try to avoid setting unrealistic ones that cannot be accomplished alongside the ebb and flow of day-to-day life. Instead, set realistically attainable goals over time that are contextualized within the five components of the PERMA model of well-being.
“I will try my best to express gratitude for one aspect of my life each week.”
“I will call my parents every Sunday to check in on them.”
“I will volunteer once a month at the local shelter.”
“I will attend more get-togethers with my friends.”
When we establish and accomplish realistic goals within the context of Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, and Meaning, we experience fulfillment through our Achievement of said goals. With the help of the PERMA model, we can further improve our sense of well-being and fulfillment one step at a time.
About the Author: Christian Wertman currently works as a behavior therapist in the field of applied behavior analysis. Christian received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Francisco State University and has aspirations for a career in clinical psychology.