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PERMA Tool in Positive Psychology: Why Awareness Alone is Not Enough for Happiness

Dr. Helen B Johnson

14 Mar 2023

There's a tool called PERMA in positive psychology. It basically covers all the areas that help you to feel happy and fulfilled. It tells you how to have a happy mind! There is a quiz you can do where you assess where you are at in each category (positive emotions, engaging activities, relationships, meaning, accomplishment).

Well, this is all well and good BUT to be honest, if you're not in a very good place then rating all of those areas in your life a zero out of ten is NOT going to make you feel any better is it?!

Awareness is all well and good but it is only part of the picture. We need to bring awareness but also HOPE. Duh. If someone shows you a pile of crap and then says 'ta daaaaa this is your home now forever!' it's not very motivating is it??? Positive psychology only works when we have a path to something better - and, in fact, when we can access something better in the here and now.

So imagine my absolute delight (this is sarcasm by the way) when a while back my boss at the time asked us all to do the PERMA test and share our results. My boss who only a few weeks before had absolutely ripped me to pieces in a meeting and was generally a big bully. No doubt she'd read somewhere that this was a good way of motivating your staff.

Readers, it was not.

Who wants to share their vulnerability in that context?! And by being a member of staff had I agreed to be coached by her and share my assessment of my whole life? No, I had not.

I'm all for using coaching skills in different contexts but that means using coaching ethics too - which means you need to think about whether you genuinely have consent in that context. What am I going to do? Tell my boss to piss off and mind her own business?! Hardly! So I did what any self respecting British person would do and fudged the whole thing until it was forgotten...

What are the lessons here:

1. Boundaries people!! Boundaries!

2. Positivity tools need to focus on awareness, hope, and access to the good stuff RIGHT NOW, otherwise they can be less than motivating, let's put it that way

Have you ever had a similar experience???

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