Thinking prospectively, Seligman and his co-authors propose that the role of memory is not to remember the past but to prepare us for the future. Our memories are not accurate recordings of what has happened but narratives we invent “for the forward guidance of thought and action . . . Memory is for doing.”
Our emotions, which we tend to think of as a response to things that have happened, may also be primarily about guiding us towards the future. Our emotional reactions (fear, anger, regret, sadness or joy) are experienced viscerally in the body, preparing us for what is to come, “not simply to register a response to what is present now or what has come before.”
The Creative Life is full of new possibilities, discoveries, exploration, experimentation, self-expression, and invention. It’s a habit, a way of being, a style of existing. But is the Creative Life full of well-being?
Depends on how you define well-being.
In recent years, psychologists have taken a deeper look at well-being. The traditional approach to well-being focuses on hedonic pleasures and positive emotions. However, while positive emotions often accompany happiness, the mere experience of positive emotions is not necessarily an indicator of happiness, and the presence of negative emotions doesn’t necessarily decrease one’s well-being. This deeper approach to well-being, often described as “eudaimonic well-being”, focuses on living life in a full and deeply satisfying way.
What are the dimensions of eudaimonic well-being? Psychologist Carol Ryff makes the case for no less than six dimensions of eudaimonia:
- Autonomy (“I have confidence in my opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus”)
- Environmental mastery (“I am quite good at managing the many responsibilities of my daily life”)
- Personal growth (“I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world”)
- Positive relations with others (“People would describe me as a giving person, willing to share my time with others”)
- Purpose in life (“Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them”)
- Self-acceptance (“I like most aspects of my life”)
As it turns out, the Creative Life is associated with quite a few dimensions of eudaimonia.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” — World Health Organization (1946) Many poets, philosophers, and thinkers throughout history have recognized the intimate link between physical and mental health.
Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being — and How to Achieve Them by Martin Seligman — review
That is what positive psychology is about – it goes beyond the treatment of depression and anxiety to ways in which we could all live more rewarding lives. The exercises it offers include the systematic practice of kindness, gratitude to others, counting your blessings, and exploiting your strengths rather than attacking your weaknesses. It also teaches resilience and optimism. These two characteristics are apparently better predictors of a person’s educational achievement than their IQ. And they can reduce your annual chance of dying by 20%.
Life will never be perfect. I still see news stories that distress me. The traffic in my city is maddening. I wish I could speed up my recovery. But with just one simple exercise, I’m rediscovering the serenity of that old prayer: accepting the things I can change, working without complaint to change what I can, and being wise enough to know the difference.
And all it took was a little gratitude.
Positive Psychology Center
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths and other positive capacities of psychological capital such …
Our goal is to employ resilience training to reduce the number of those who … Although I’m now called the father of positive psychology, I came to it the long, …
This doesn’t feel like a normal academic conference. True, the three-day Positive Psychology Summit is a sellout, with 425 attendees thronging the meeting …
We’re surrounded by messages of authenticity that seem, somehow, inauthentic. Instagram photos boast #nofilter and food companies promise to serve up “real” ingredients, whatever that might mean. In the face of such mixed signals, how can you tell if you’re being truly genuine, or simply mimicking some of these false, empty messages of authenticity?