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How to set & achieve
Flourishing Goals

By David Penglase

For most of us, the start of a new year means setting goals… and this is good. We humans are aspirational goal seeking beings and without goals, our potential to flourish is lessened and our potential to languish increases.

Whether you’ve already set your 2016 goals, or are just getting around to think about them now, using Prof Martin Seligman’s five core elements to a flourishing life (PERMA) is a positive framework to help you make 2016 more happy, flourishing and meaningful (Seligman, 2011).

PERMA is an acronym developed by Seligman where each letter represents one of the five core elements his research has uncovered as being keys to a flourishing life.

The P stands for Positivity: It is important to note that this is not advocating trying to only experience positive emotions. While flourishing typically involves feeling more positive emotions than negative emotions, the reality of living a flourishing life will involve experiences where we will be sad, frustrated, angry and a host of other less positive emotions.

  • When Setting Goals for 2016, make sure the goal is something that you feel positive about. There is a host of research that validates setting ‘approach’ goals (goals that you want to achieve something that will make you feel good) is much more productive than ‘avoidance’ goals (goals that you want to avoid something so that you won’t feel bad).

The E stands for Engagement: The research shows that people who report they’re living a flourishing life are naturally engaged in the tasks and experiences in their professional and personal lives.

  • When Setting Goals for 2016, whether for your professional or personal life, you want to be setting goals around the tasks and experiences that you will be naturally engaged in.

The R stands for relationships: In your professional and personal life, the quality of the relationships you have will impact almost every aspect of your capacity to flourish.

  • When Setting Goals for 2016, don’t just think about the things you want to acquire or achieve, but also think about how that goal pursuit will positively impact the lives of the people you either directly or indirectly have relationships with in your professional or personal life.

The M stands for meaning: People who report living a flourishing life are more likely to report that they have a high sense of meaning in their professional and/or personal life. The research shows that one of the main sources of meaning in life is derived from the relationships we have. Meaning in life can also be gained from a number of other sources including the work we do, a cause we support, or religion.

  • When Setting Goals for 2016, ask yourself how this goal pursuit and achievement will add meaning to your personal or professional life.

The A stands for Achievement: The research on people who report they are flourishing in their lives shows that they typically have a high sense of achievement in their personal and/or professional life. This is directly related to the importance of setting goals that are aligned with your values and what’s important and meaningful to you. Researchers refer to this as goal self-concordance (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999).

  • When Setting Goals for 2016, make sure that they are goals you genuinely want to pursue and achieve because they’re aligned with who you are as a person and will help build your positive personal character.

Like any new year, each of us will experience some high points and some low points – that’s life. Using the PERMA model for a flourishing life to help us set and pursue goals is a great way to help us be more intentionally mindful in the moments that matter most.

Wishing you a most joyous and successful 2016.

Warmly, David


Seligman, M.E.P. (2011) Flourish. A new understanding of happiness and well-being – and how to achieve them. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. London.

Sheldon, K.M., & Elliot, A.J. (1999). Goal striving, need satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 76 (3), 482-497.

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