5 Ways to Flourish in the Workplace

5 Ways to Flourish in the Workplace

Use the PERMA model to evaluate your professional flourishing

For many people, work isn’t synonymous with “happiness.” However, you should feel a sense of well-being, or better yet – flourishing – at your job.

Flourishing is when people experience positive emotions, psychology, and social status most of the time, living within an “optimal range of human functioning.” It includes favorable mental health and overall well-being – both of which are pivotal for us as healthy human beings.

Dr. Martin Seligman – the foremost authority in the field of positive psychology – believes that flourishing is the key concept to focus on.

“I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction,” Seligman said. “I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well-being, that the gold standard for measuring well-being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing.”

Seligman is well-known for his PERMA model, an acronym that describes five “measurable” elements that contribute to a person’s general well-being. All five are necessary for flourishing. These include:

Positive emotion





Let’s examine each of these elements to discover five ways to flourish in the workplace.

Positive Emotion: Consider how your work makes you feel

How do you feel when you’re at work? Stressed? Challenged? Successful? Do you feel overwhelmed or ready to meet any challenge? Do you approach your coworkers with an attitude of teamwork and positivity?

It’s no surprise that positive emotions are pivotal for your well-being. After all, we all know how negative thoughts affect our mood and overall attitude.

Try to recognize positive emotions while you’re working, such as the joy you experience when you learn something new. Try to adopt an attitude of gratefulness – appreciating each moment – and keep a sense of humor.

Once you’re more attuned to these positive emotions, it can be easier to recognize them and stay in this positive mindset throughout your day, which will promote flourishing.

Engagement: Prioritize work that interests you

Do you feel engaged during a typical workday, or do you find yourself getting easily distracted?

When we are fully engaged, we are tuned in to what we are doing and actively participate in the flow of events and ideas within our sphere. We feel useful and focused.

The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard has been studying how engagement affects flourishing.  They have found that people want to be engaged at work because it creates a feeling of satisfaction and makes time go faster.

Relationships: Choose your coworkers wisely

While we don’t always get to choose our own coworkers, we can choose to NOT work in a place where our coworkers are toxic.

Humans are deeply relational creatures. We are uniquely designed to relate to others – to care for, connect, and bond with other human beings. This extends to the working world.

How do you feel about your coworkers and the people you spend most of your working hours with? Do they energize or drain you? Do you dread running into your coworkers? Or does the chance to meet up and exchange ideas thrill you?

The answers to these questions can be a good barometer for your overall well-being in the workplace.

Meaning: Choose a job that is meaningful

You can get a good bead on your professional well-being by asking yourself one simple question: Is my job meaningful?

Meaning matters! Workers are much more likely to find themselves flourishing in an environment where they feel they are making a difference through meaningful work that has an important mission or makes a significant impact.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a surgeon or a clergyman to be content. It carries over into almost any job. Just consider what meaning your job gives YOU. How do YOU feel about what you do? What emotions does it evoke? The answers to these questions will help you grasp how much meaning your job gives you.

Achievement: Set goals for yourself

What goals are you seeking as part of your job? Are you making measured strides to meet those goals? Do they align with your heart and passions? Or have you given up setting goals and just slog through each day until you “clock out.”

It turns out that the sense of accomplishment you get from achieving your goals – and having the motivation to finish a difficult task – contributes enormously to your general well-being. This is especially true in the workplace.

Additionally, when you chase after intrinsic goals – goals that fuel your heart and passions (such as growth- or connection-oriented goals), you receive a larger return on well-being than if you chase external goals such as money or fame.

On-the-job Well-Being Matters

It is vital to be mindful of well-being and flourishing at work because it can affect your life for the better.

According to Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele, director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, “Work affects flourishing, not only because work provides the goods and services that we need to live full lives, but also because it can offer meaning, rich relationships, and opportunities to build character.”

VanderWeele said prior research has shown that work is one of the “most important pathways” to complete well-being.

So, the next time you wonder whether you’re flourishing at your job, ask yourself these questions based on Seligman’s PERMA model:

  • How does my job make me feel?
  • Am I engaged at work?
  • How do I feel about my coworkers?
  • Is my job meaningful?
  • What are my goals?

Your answers may surprise you and give you a clearer picture of your general well-being.