My launch event workshop will be in part a tribute to the many influences that have bought me to this point of confidence and self-belief about the contribution I can make in service of positive human endeavour.
If that sounds rather grandiose then that is how I feel; which takes me to my first point of tribute:
No. 1 Martin Seligman
I pay tribute to Martin Seligman for his contribution to the science of the human mind in the form of his pioneering work in the field of positive psychology.
Through his scientific study of what made happy people happy he identified the highest stage as being The Meaningful Life (third in line after first, The Pleasant Life and then the Good Life). Each phase can be enjoyed in itself- one can attain the Pleasurable life and move no further, or both the Pleasurable and Good life and move no further; but the highest form the Meaningful Life is a culmination of all three.
In the pleasurable life one has satisfied basic needs (here Seligman’s work rests on that of Maslow), and live in full appreciation of them. In the Good life we have cultivated a number of ‘signature strengths’ and know how to use them to hence our lives. However, lasting happiness and fulfilment is found by those who cultivate the Meaningful Life in addition to appreciating the foundations of a comfortable existence, and a possessing a strong sense of self-worth. The meaningful life is attained when we gain satisfaction from contributing to something greater than ourselves.
No. 2 Victor Frankl
Having recently discovered Frankl I have nothing but awe and admiration for him. He survived three concentration camps and after the 2nd WW went on to complete his work in the therapeutic field by developing Logotherapy: the Search for Purpose and Meaning. In distinction to Seligman, perhaps, Frankl knew from his own experience that meaning and purpose can be experienced, not only on the foundations of gratification of basic needs, since these certainly will not have existed for him while in the camps. He insisted that humanities’ primary concern is not he search for enjoyment, or supremacy, but to discover the meaning of existence. Each person finds this for themselves in their own way.
Frankl believes that all human beings have an innate desire to purpose and meaning in life and develop psychological problems when this natural tendency is denied or distorted. Even in the most extreme circumstances we can still chose how to respond. For him this meant that even after he had been reduced to nothing more than a number, to skin and bone, he felt the freedom to choose not to accept his oppressors view of who or what he was; thereby asserting his personal sense of meaning a purpose.
No. 3 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Csikzentmihalyi’s contribution is the evidence based concept of flow. He asked the question, what makes us happy, and in similar vein to Seligman concluded that once our basic needs where met money, nor the pursuit of it, can bring happiness. Happiness comes from finding out what we love and what brings meaning to our lives and in creating the opportunities to live in the state of total immersion in what we love and do well, continually improving our skills and strengths in this area through embracing challenges and seeking growth.
While there are both obvious and nuanced differences between each of these contributions to positive psychology they are united by one powerful thing: each is based on the evidence that happiness is an acquired and cultivatable state that we attain through our own efforts, habits of mind, and behaviours.
Exploring and applying these ideas in my work as a coach is a significant part of what brings meaning to my life and which puts me into a state of flow.
At my launch event tomorrow (Wednesday 24th, 2016) I will be facilitating a blind constellation in which participants will be encouraged to explore their current relation to their own ‘Life Purpose’.