Flourish with PERMA

Apr 30, 2012

Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his latest book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, submits that an individual person possesses a sense of “well-being” if he or she is supported by five elements called PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.

Seligman’s new theory of positive psychology is designed to increase the amount of flourishing in one’s own life and in their community. He defines flourishing as PERMA plus at least three of five other qualities: positive self-esteem, optimism, resilience, vitality and self-determination. Scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being.


Household Goods is flourishing! Household Goods as a corporate entity, as well as those who make it function, possesses all the elements and qualities identified by Seligman:

  • Evidence of positive emotion as characterized by Household Goods’ nickname  “HuG-room”
  • Engagement and meaning–helping families start new lives in new homes
  • Positive relationships with social workers and their clients, with donors of goods, with financial supporters, and within the intergenerational diverse corps of volunteers
  • Creating and realizing a non-profit corporate entity to accomplish the mission

Positive self-esteem is evident in the appearance of the Recycling Center. The building and grounds look like a school campus rather than a warehouse. It is also evidenced by the well-lighted furniture store-like interior

Optimism has reigned while challenged by management of continuous growth in supply and demand

Resilience was demonstrated this past summer when sudden discovery of abundant sources of inventory led to critical space deficiencies that were resolved by labor intensive day-to-day management including coping with of off-site storage and resorting to a rented circus tent in the parking lot.

Vitality pervades all departments: incoming receiving, outgoing distribution, client appointment making, pick-up scheduling and trucking, volunteer recruitment and coordination, back room sorting, collectible items sales, furniture restoration, public relations, grant writing, and capital campaigning

Self-determination was evident in the process of establishing a permanent home through difficult negotiations in acquiring the present building.

We often exclaim, “Household Goods is such a happy place!” Seligman announces, “I actually detest the word ‘happiness,’ which is so overused that it has become almost meaningless.” In context with Seligman’s theory, we should proclaim, “Household Goods is flourishing!”

Read a discussion of Seligman’s theory, is provided by Bruce Frankel here.

-by Ira Smith