PERMA Flourishing Inventory (Science of Well-being Week 1 Optional Rewirements)

The Science of Well-being course’s Week 1 Rewirements also recommended, but not required, other tests in the greater Authentic Happiness Inventory. The course especially recommended the PERMA™ (an acronym for Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment— the basic dimensions of psychological flourishing). Since they asked those who take it to keep score, I took it to get the most out of the course.

But first, I had to find out what psychological flourishing was. From Wikipedia, flourishing is described as “a state where people experience positive emotions, positive psychological functioning and positive social functioning, most of the time,” living “within an optimal range of human functioning.” If I were to describe it in plain language, it’s how positive someone is in a general lifestyle range (rather than in distress or euphoria moments or spans of time). Further from Wikipedia, flourising is a descriptor and measure of positive mental health and overall life well-being, and includes multiple components and concepts, such as cultivating strengths, subjective well-being, “goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.” Flourishing is the opposite of both pathology and languishing, which are described as living a life that feels hollow and empty. It is a central concept in positive psychology, developed by Corey Keyes and Barabara Fredrickson.

If you want to know more about the dimensions, which I will cover with my PERMA results, I found a more comprehensive description on the Positive Psychology Program site.

 

The PERMA

Instructions for the PERMA were pretty simple.

Please read each of the following questions and then select the point on the scale that you feel best describes you.

The scale was a 0 to 10 scale, with a descriptor at each end like never and always. The scale was a little strange to adjust to as I am used to 1 to 10 scale, likely as most others, and because there was no numbers with all the radio buttons in the scale. To make sure you put the score you want, you had to count those buttons. You also had to remember the first button represented 0, so that the “middle” button was the sixth button. It’s probably easier to think 0 to 10 than 1 to 11, to have a true middle point on the scale (since 5 and 6 on a 1 to 10 scale are each on one side or the other of the scale, not in the true middle), but it was still a bit odd feeling to use it. Once I got over that, though, it was easy to use. The questions were a little tougher as there were some real tough “big picture” questions for how you felt about life, love, purpose and such, on a scale. Some might just click off something in the range, but I thought about it to confirm my initial feeling. Most times, it only changed by one digit to either side of the intuitive choice, so no real conflict to deal with. 🙂

 

How I did on the PERMA and what I thought of it

Scoring was like with the Authentic Happiness Inventory I did before this, except for each of the 5 dimensions of “flourishing” (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment).

 

For Positive Emotion

This element of the model is one of the most obvious connections to happiness. Being able to focus on positive emotions is more than just smiling, it is the ability to be optimistic and view the past, present, and future in a positive perspective. More on the Positive Psychology Program site.

On an index score from 0-10, I scored 8.67. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I am generally feeling more “positive” than:

  • 83% of web participants
  • 83% of males (my gender)
  • 79% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 83% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 82% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

I thought my relative scores would be in the 90s as with the Authentic Happiness Inventory, but I probably underestimate my lack of love situation described in that blog post that I have learned to quite underplay in my life. It seems it’s not as subtle as I tend to make it out to be, but it’s not much more obvious, either. Fine-tuning sort of difference, as far as I’m concerned.

 

For Engagement

It is important in our lives to be able to find activities that needs our full engagement. Engagement in the activities in our lives is important for us to learn, grow and nurture our personal happiness. More on the Positive Psychology Program site.

On an index score from 0-10, I also scored 8.67 like for Positive Emotion. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I am generally more “engaged” than:

  • 77% of web participants
  • 74% of males (my gender)
  • 74% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 77% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 75% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

I didn’t know what to expect for this because for all the things I do in life that I love, I cannot expect to be as engaged as someone would be for children and/or spouse that most people my age would have in their lives. I was also a little harsh on myself for how judged accomplishing most of my goals. I do, but often a little later than I hope and/or planned, so I counted them as a “failure” to give myself a 7 instead of something higher, but semantics, as far as I’m concerned. I only care about the results here for curiosity, not ego or other impact.

 

For Relationship

Relationships and social connections are one of the most important aspect of life. Humans are social animals that thrive on connection, love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. Building positive relationships with your parents, siblings, peers, and friends are important to spread love and joy. Having strong relationships gives you support in difficult times. More on the Positive Psychology Program site.

On an index score from 0-10, I also scored 6. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I am generally doing better in the Relationship dimension than only:

  • 26% of web participants
  • 28% of males (my gender)
  • 29% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 27% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 24% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

This low score of mine isn’t about having bad relationships, or being bad in them, but rather lacking them. No spouse, no children, and not feeling a need to have a lot of close friends beyond the very small group I have now. I’d rather do and learn things rather than spend more time with people beyond those friends, if they weren’t going to turn into a romantic relationship, with exception for some great people out there, of course, given I’ve generally abandoned that option living in Nova Scotia as stated in the Authentic Happiness Inventory blog post. So aside from people I see at work, general errands and a few friends and community groups, which isn’t all that little when added together, I’m leading the life of a hermit by choice… albeit in downtown and a big apartment complex. 🙂

Then, with all family and extended family 4+ hours of flying time away if there were direct flights from where I live, it’s no wonder I have a low relationship score compared to others. However, this I will say. What relationships I do have in my life, from the casual acquaintance to supervisor to a few close friends to family, they tend to be very solid. I may not see most of these people often, like family and even the close friends who all have families and kids and don’t live near downtown, I know they are there for me when and should I ever need them for help. If this were a measure of relationship quality, I can guarantee you I can genuinely say I am far ahead of the vast majority of people!

 

For Meaning

Having a purpose and meaning to why each of us is on this earth is important to living a life of happiness and fulfillment. Rather than the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth, there is an actual meaning to our life. Such meaning gives people a reason for their life and that there is a greater purpose to life. More on the Positive Psychology Program site.

On an index score from 0-10, I also scored 9.67. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I am generally doing better in the Meaning dimension than:

  • 92% of web participants
  • 91% of males (my gender)
  • 90% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 91% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 92% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

For someone without a spouse and/or kids for whom to live as a purpose in life, I think I can claim this is a pretty remarkable score. I gave a summary of how I saw my purpose and meaning in life in the Authentic Happiness Inventory blog post. That clarity and focus on purpose and meaning in life, along with self-discipline of which I have a lot, are what makes the deficiencies in my life, like love prospects, almost negligible. Having a job like I currently have which I love, which compensates me fairly, and with fantastic colleagues, also helps in this score because work is an important part of life for most people that definitely contributes to meaning in some way, even if only to have financial means to survive. That might not be very spiritual, but arguably more essential than anything since survival and quality of life might well depend on it.

 

For Accomplishment

Having goals and ambition in life can help us to achieve things that can give us a sense of accomplishment. You should make realistic goals that can be met and just putting in the effort to achieving those goals can already give you a sense of satisfaction when you finally achieve those goals a sense of pride and fulfillment will be reached. Having accomplishments in life is important to push ourselves to thrive and flourish. More on the Positive Psychology Program site.

On an index score from 0-10, I also scored 7.67. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I am generally doing better in the Accomplishment dimension than only:

  • 45% of web participants
  • 47% of males (my gender)
  • 39% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 43% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 39% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

I obviously didn’t do something right here because there is no way more than half the web participants have accomplished more than I have! This wasn’t about if you’ve raised any kids or such generic things where I might have missed out on for comparison for accomplishment. This is if you get your goals done and other things for accomplishments. I did rate myself a little harshly because I tend to have many things going at once so it tends to take me longer to accomplish my goals, and I let my answers reflect that. However, often being tops in class, lots of scholarships over the years, top 5% marathon running and 31 marathons, varsity level athletics, awards in writing, math, science, work, lots of success in some diverse careers, being a registered public speaker, a leader in some capacities, lots of skills and knowledge, sewed and designed half my wardrobe, Rhodes Scholar nominee, above average education and salary, etc. Seriously, I’m someone some people describe as being good at everything I do. Half of any general group of people aren’t more accomplished than that, I can guarantee you that! So I’ll just take that score for its text and leave it at that rather than to try and explain it.

 

Other PERMA scores offered

The PERMA test on the UPenn site also offered four scores in addition to the 5 dimensions of flourishing. I couldn’t find much about them but I’ll do my best to explain that I can.

 

For Negative Effect

This measures tendencies toward feeling, sad, anxious, and angry, which is not the same as not feeling positive emotions because you can be generally devoid of positive emotions without the negative emotions. See Peggy Kern PERMA Profiler PDF.

On an index score from 0-10, I scored 1.33. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I have more negative effects in my life than only:

  • 6% of web participants
  • 8% of males (my gender)
  • 11% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 8% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 8% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

This is what I would pretty much peg myself at among people, with single digit percentages being less negative than me. I’d probably have given you even smaller percentages. Not having known about this Negative Effects score previously, I did think of the Positive Emotions dimension to have partly included this and that’s probably why I overestimated my Positive Emotions relative standings among other PERMA takers. I am realistic about things that don’t turn out well for me so as to analyze and learn, though, rather than just generally saying it’s all OK and letting them pass, so that is probably fair that my Positive Emotions isn’t as high as I might have thought. That’s not to say I’m negative about it, though. Just not always positive like most Parents of millennials like there’s nothing wrong with what the kids did when the best outcomes aren’t achieved. 🙂

 

For Health

Although not part of the PERMA model itself, physical health and vitality is another important part of wellbeing. The Profiler measures a subjective sense of health – feeling good and healthy each day. See Peggy Kern PERMA Profiler PDF.

On an index score from 0-10, I scored 9.67. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I generally feel better about my health (but probably also am likely better in health) than:

  • 93% of web participants
  • 92% of males (my gender)
  • 91% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 92% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 91% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

I don’t chronic conditions or allergies. I have great cardio and endurance. My weight, muscle tone, cholesterol levels are super. I’m very coordinated. I lead an active lifestyle with a good diet. My genotyping results from 23andme are also spectacular! I don’t know what more you’d generally want for health! No wonder I’m doing so well compared to other PERMA takers. To be honest, if they were to objectively measure health, you might have to add decimals on to 99 for those results to properly show! 😉

 

For Loneliness

Not much is said about Loneliness as a result in the PERMA aside from the (8) health, negative emotion, loneliness, and overall happiness questions act as filler questions and provide more information to the 15 PERMA dimension questions (3 per dimension). See Peggy Kern PERMA Profiler PDF.

On an index score from 0-10, I scored 2. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I feel more lonely, generally, than:

  • 33% of web participants
  • 35% of males (my gender)
  • 41% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 38% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 38% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

Despite a score of only 2, I feel more lonely than about 1/3 of all web participants. If the loneliness I rarely feel were enough to be more than 33% of web participants, that’s great news because the rest have a lot of room for more loneliness without it being so strong that it’s disabling to their lives. However, I am not sure that’s true that 1/3 of the population, as represented by the web participants (for which there must be many), feel less lonely than I do. The higher score of 41% of participants in my age group is surprising since many, if not most, would have family at my age, with kids still young enough to be home. That said, there are more singles now than people in relationships so maybe not. My age is also the age of broken marriages or trying to date with kids, which is probably harder than dating as a single… unless you’re Asian male in Nova Scotia, of course. 🙂

 

For Overall Happiness

Seeing as the (8) health, negative emotion, loneliness, and overall happiness questions act as filler questions and provide more information to the 15 PERMA dimension questions (3 per dimension), I’m not taking this as an aggregate result, but rather the results from a few questions. See Peggy Kern PERMA Profiler PDF.

On an index score from 0-10, I scored 9. The scale describes 9-10 as very high; 7 or 8, high; 6, slightly above average; 5, average;  4, slightly below average; 2 or 3, low; and 0 or 1, very low. Presumably drop off the decimal of your score or round appropriately, whichever you like, to fit into the descriptors because they are not clear. Then, compared to some demographics, I am generally doing better in the Accomplishment dimension than only:

  • 82% of web participants
  • 82% of males (my gender)
  • 80% of participants in my age group (not sure range used)
  • 83% of participants in my profession (“other” professional)
  • 82% of participants in my educational attainment (Masters degree)

These relative percentages are a bit higher than the aggregate results of the Authentic Happiness Inventory that I took yesterday, where my results were in the mid-70 percentage range. I thought that was low, but considering I feel the results should have been in the 90+ percentage range for happiness any way you want to test it, I still think these results to be a bit low. However, I am willing to accept I am wrong and the results here and in the Authentic Happiness Inventory to be truer. That’s because those madly in love would definitely be happier, or in fairly happy families (compared to ones that feel like a burden despite how much the adults may love the kids), or any number of almost euphoric general happiness. There should be enough of them to be one in 4 or 5 among the population who would fairly be able to say they are happier than me. I may not have much to complain about in life, but a fair bit of my happiness are not of the really deep kind like a partner and/or kids, either. I have family my age and older, some extended family, a good job, freedom in life and finance, and a few friends, among the deeper things that provide me with happiness. Most of the rest, though, are like hobbies, which can’t be compared to partners and kids for extent of happiness if the partners and kids even come remotely to what they’re supposed to bring someone for happiness.

 

To see more posts related to the Science of Well-being course, please click here.

And click here if you want to register for the Science of Well-being course, by Professor Laurie Santos, free on Coursera!

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