From Languishing to Flourishing

At a recent coaching conference, Martin Seligman presented a valuable workshop on Positive Psychology. Dr. Seligman is considered the Father of Positive Psychology, a field that transformed approaches in treating what was previously referred to us mental illness to approaches promoting mental health and well-being. The positive approach is also influencing the direction of many wellness programs to improve quality of life and life balance, not just focusing on chronic health conditions risks.

The initial research focused on identifying positive character strengths for well-being and resilience. The skills of well-being are essential skills to build personal relationships, happiness and meaning in life.  Millions of individuals from throughout the world participated, resulting in the identification of 24-character strengths such as zest, hope, optimism, bravery, integrity, social intelligence, and humility. The 24 individual strengths have been organized into 6 Virtues and have expanded from individual positivity to essential leadership character skills, healthy societies, and positive organizational behavior. The 6 virtues and elements are:

  • Wisdom (curiosity, learning, creativity, open-mindedness, perspective)
  • Courage (integrity, vitality, zest, persistence, action despite fear)
  • Humanity (love, kindness, compassion, social intelligence)
  • Justice (fairness, citizenship, respect)
  • Temperance (forgiveness, humility, emotional intelligence, mercy, prudence)
  • Transcendence (awe, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality, appreciation)

Positive psychology principles move individuals, organizations and societies to flourishing and thriving. Unfortunately, during the past 18 months many of those who were previously flourishing have now been diagnosed as, or have symptoms of, languishing.  Languishing is defined as a sense of stagnation and feelings of emptiness. It’s a feeling of muddling through the days, yet not fully participating, enthusiastic, or engaged. If not altered, the person can quickly become depressed and even suicidal. 

Focusing on the 6 Virtues and Positive Psychology principles result in enhanced well-being, resilience, and flourishing – the opposite of languishing! The outcomes are:

  • Improved Health and longevity
  • Better social relationships
  • Increased Work productivity
  • Better Citizenship
  • Enhanced Creativity and Productivity
  • Resilience and Optimism

As companies are opening operations and returning to full capacity, it is time to reflect on what was learned and how to find ways to incorporate the learnings in today’s work environment. This includes considering the well-being of your stakeholders to ensure that they are resilient and flourishing – not languishing. It is not enough to focus on business operations and physical safety to prevent the continuing spread of COVID. Leaders must also focus on emotional and psychological safety, and the health and well-being of stakeholders. Use caution not to skip this step or move too quickly, but to pause and consider all issues and concerns.


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