BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2019
Many seek but do not find a flourishing life. They just survive. Human flourishing is within our reach.
What is a Flourishing Life?
Flourishing has a ring. Humans have debated what it means to flourish for millenniums. Plato, Aristotle, Buddha and Jesus each provided thoughts on the ultimate fulfillment of human existence, achieving our potential.
Yet thousands of years after the best human minds have guided, taught and yearned for flourishing, many still believe that something is amiss. Life feels wrong. We agonize over existence and seek magical cures. The purpose of Flourishing Life Society is to spread a more comprehensive understanding of human flourishing, a philosophy of more than positive emotions, but a life of goodness, flowing from both inside the mind and spreading through outward manifestations.
Flourishing "means to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience" (Fredrickson & Losada 2005).
Humans are amazingly adept at survival. We meet challenges, working through obstacles, and somehow find a way to make it through. Children survive traumatized beginnings, taking parched emotional environments, adapting to the lack, and moving to adulthood. We are resilient. We are creative. We are resourceful. Yet, while we innately know how to survive, we don't all of flourish.
Flourishing maximizes the experience of living, finding more from surrounding environments, regulating disrupting emotions, and finding confidence in self and relationships. A garden may grow; but a flourishing garden explodes in color and fruit, expanding over boundaries, and reaching high above the ground. A flourishing life is living within an optimal range of human functioning, experiencing positive emotions and life experiences most of the time.
How Do We Flourish?
Life is complex. A simple list of steps may be helpful but often miss the creativity, individualized, and dynamic journey necessary to flourish. After over a decade of intense research, I have stumbled on a handful of characteristics that highly correlate with a better life (mindfulness, relationships, emotional intelligence, healthy behaviors).
Each of these categories deserve comprehensive investigation and practice. Much advice on the internet is severely antidotal, suggesting simplicities without considering complex factors such as biology, learned behaviors, and self-deceptions. We struggle with accurate self-assessments, biological givens, and habitual failures. Although difficult, we can find freedom from much of the pain and disappointment. We can flourish.
Like a branches on a lemon tree weighted with fruit, we can flourish, producing goodness. A goodness that is both felt in our hearts and flowing forth, blessing others and the world. This is the good life. This is a flourishing life. This is fulfilling our creative potential, adding more energy and goodness to an overly taxed world.
Flourishing is a process, not a final destination. We flourish during our day to day living, not at some great destination. The idea of a process conflicts with the dreamy hopes of an eventual resting place, where we finally experience nirvana or paradise. The good news, however, is we can begin enjoying the fruits of flourishing immediately instead of waiting for some far off and vaguely understood concept.
The journey of a flourishing life zigs and zags through several key areas of development. As we immerse ourselves in the process, we must repeatedly confront critical slices of human existence.
We can walk through this adventurous journey together, experiencing the many joys, while successfully processing the sorrows. With each step, we find peace, knowing that the valleys and mountains crossed are our legacy, giving substance to our character and depth to our wisdom.
Come, come with me and let's flourish together.
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Fredrickson B.L., Losada M.F.. (2005) Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist 2005;60(7):678-86.
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