What does it mean to "flourish"? In recent times, the idea of human flourishing was inspired by thought leaders in the positive psychology movement; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Martin Seligman being two whose work I am most familiar with, and the notion that the way we look at life, is, well, the way we look at life!
Are you flourishing?
Download the Flourishing Scale Self-Assessment.
Positive psychology is not about pretending everything is perfect. However, it is about choosing to intentionally focus not only ones' inherent strengths (sometimes called "virtues", Kristie Pretti-Frontczak and I call them "superpowers"), but on the nature of life itself.
“I think you can be depressed and flourish, I think you can have cancer and flourish, I think you can be divorced and flourish." - Martin Seligman
So, when we think of flourishing, it is not about perfection at all, but about moving towards the mindset, behaviors, and conditions that not only help us become self-aware and connect to others in supportive ways, but that bring us into a state of flow and overall wellness.
If we look at this from a systems perspective, flourishing in one place supports flourishing in another. From the work by Fowler & Christakis (2010), we know that emotions are contagious and that pockets of happy people cluster together. So the more we choose to run that circuitry and create the neural pathways that enable feeling good as our "default", we are changing not only ourselves, but the world around us.
Indeed, the earth is our global community, but our sphere of influence is right where we are: a family is a community; a school is a community; a workplace/company is a community; a neighborhood is a community....and flourishing communities require individuals who are willing to tame the mind's programming and learn mindfulness and emotional intelligence, among other gentle but very effective and powerful skills.
Flourishing communities require two general conditions:
First, that each individual in the community become whole, integrated, or "coherent". Undergoing this transition enables them to access and consistently operate from their higher intelligence. Then, the community itself must "cohere" which simply means to come together in a meaningful way. Without each person having done their own inner-work or "soul work", it is difficult to establish the conditions for flourishing.
The second condition is the practice of "allowing", or "holding space for" the emergence of the greatest good. This is the most challenging part (due to our impatience!), but it is not impossible once you begin to add contemplative practices to your life and work.
MASTERHEART STUDY GROUPS support individuals through this process.
The fine print*
*We cannot create "community flourishing" or any kind of flourishing until we shine a light on violence. Author and educator Parker J. Palmer offers my favorite definition of violence and it is this: "Violence is what happens when people don't know what to do with their own suffering."