Human Flourishing

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We can do more than survive. A little food, water and protection from the harsh elements is all that is needed for survival. The Psychology Fanatic blog is not about survival. We innately know how to survive. However, thriving, reaching the limits of our potential, is a different quest. Human flourishing is a loft goal. However, we can flourish. We can experience greater joys.

The creation of this blog is a product of my curiosity about human flourishing. Why, I pondered, does life hurt for so many. Perhaps, flourishing isn’t natural. We strive to survive; but do we strive to flourish?

Subjective Happiness and the Flourishing Life

Certainly, flourishing is very subjective. Two people can achieve similar goals and experience completely different emotions. Aristotle viewed flourishing much different than simple happiness. He compared flourishing with a eudaimonic happiness which included both living and doing well. Pleasure may bring a momentary rush of joy but is it sustainable? Does our pursuits of pleasure in the moment borrow from resources in the future?

Human flourishing is more than a present moment experience. Cashing out a retirement account for a dream vacation to Italy may bring momentary excitement and build lasting memories. However, the empty account may lead to future sorrow as we are forced to work longer than our bodies would like. 

Measuring costs against rewards is very subjective. Happiness is very subjective. Environments contribute or diminish happiness but are not the only factor. Our internal processing ultimately determines the end felt result. How we interpret feelings significantly impacts our subjective evaluations of personal happiness.

Thoughts and Behaviors

Albert Bandura theorized that environments, personal factors, and behaviors are constantly interacting with each other. He called this reciprocal determinism. Life is complex with a constant interaction between internal forces and external environments. 

Our internal forces, such as emotional regulation skills and attitude, interact with external forces such as relationships and opportunities, in a way that promotes or impedes human flourishing.

Perhaps, we should pursue “right thinking” as a noble path to flourishing.

Tal Ben-Shahar suggests that our use of time is a key element of flourishing. He wrote, “time-use may be the determinant of well being that is the most susceptible to improvement.” He continues, “most people fall short of their potential for happiness because they misuse their precious time.” We get lost in the business of survival and forget to dedicate time to flourishing.

Ben-Shahar explains flourishing isn’t a static state but an everlasting pursuit. He wrote this work is, “a never ending process of flourishing and growth.” He continues, “by pursuing work, education, and relationships that yield both meaning and pleasure, we become progressively happier—experiencing not just an ephemeral high that withers with the leaves but lasting happiness with deep and stable roots” (2007, p. 139).

Human flourishing is not a passive activity. We must actively maintain a state of flourishing. When our environments support and our thoughts enhance, we flourish. We achieve Abraham Maslow’s highest level of achievement–self-actualization. We live a good life by doing well. And as we do this, we flourish.

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Ben-Shahar, Tal (2007). Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. McGraw Hill; 1st edition

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