Seligman’s New Well-Being Theory: PERMA


In his forthcoming book, Flourish, Martin Seligman reveals his latest approach to well-being.

Readers of his Authentic Happiness (2002), the book which brought Positive Psychology out of the academic closet and into the mainstream, will remember the three pathways to happiness, which were:

1. Positive Emotions  – leading to a pleasurable life

2. Engagement (or flow) – leading to an engaged life

3. Meaning (and purpose) – leading to a meaningful life

All three together lead to ‘the Good Life’.

Now Seligman has updated this model to include two more elements: Relationships / social connections and Accomplishment. The model is now called ‘Well-being Theory’ because Seligman believes that ‘happiness’ is too woolly.

Well-being Theory can be remembered with the acronym PERMA:

1. Positive Emotions

2. Engagement (or flow)

3. Relationships/social connections

4. Meaning (and purpose)

5. Accomplishment

NB – PERMA is only a theory, and not everyone in the positive psychology world agrees with it! Accomplishment in particular causes a fair amount of discussion. Seligman suggests (and indeed recommends) that all 5 facets can be measured both subjectively you can get online and objectively, but these measures have yet to be agreed.

Image: Glädje (Joy) by Henrik Ström

One Response

  1. Russell Davis Says:

    Looking back it is not surprising that he has added social connections given we are social beings. Although only a model I think it is useful and it is good to see senior politicians and schools taking this seriously. It may not be perfect but I thin k it is better than what most schools promote (good results = happiness).

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