The PERMA model was designed by Martin Seligman (2011) with five core elements of psychological wellbeing and happiness. Seligman (2011) suggests that these five elements can help people reach a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning. This model has been applied to workplaces and schools through positive education to evidence programs to help people develop new cognitive and emotional tools or positive psychology strategies, to build wellbeing, optimism and resilience as well as allowing the reliable measurement of well-being, through a variety of methods, including with our students, valid self- report methodology. These positive psychology strategies include exercises like keeping a gratitude journal, breaking the grip on rumination, developing your strengths, and finding meaning in small tasks, and positive self-talk (McQuaid & Kern, 2019).
Each year, our QAHS wellbeing committee decides upon an element of PERMA for intentional development. Our wellbeing committee has gifted 'Positive Meaning/ Purpose' for our 2022 focus. Positive meaning/ purpose refers to a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. When a sense of meaning is found in our work/ daily actions, a growing body of evidence suggests we will be happier, more motivated, more committed, and more satisfied, which enables better performance (McQuaid & Kern, 2019).
For our students, positive meaning/ purpose can be viewed as a defining feature of wellbeing. Having, or even searching, for a sense of purpose is correlated with life satisfaction, hope, hardiness, resilience and physical health (Steger, 2010). Having a sense of meaning/ purpose also acts as a protective factor against negative environmental influences and has been correlated with a greater sense of altruism. It is not surprising that there is research highlighting the relationship between purpose and academic achievement; purpose inspires greater grit and self-efficacy in young people. And whilst pursuing goals related to our purpose in life may cause stress at times, it is likely that purposeful individuals are better equipped to weather those storms and understand the longer-term rewards associated with them (Bronk, 2014).
Researcher and Author Emily Esfahni Smith in her book, 'The Power of Meaning' (2017), suggests that meaning can be reached through a number of different paths. These include:
• Feeling like you belong to a 'tribe' that values your contributions and provides opportunities for frequent pleasant interactions.
• A purpose that motivates you to be of service to others.
• Being able to create a story that helps you make sense of your place in the world and craft a positive identity.
• Transcendent experiences that lift you above the everyday world to feel connected to a higher reality and something bigger than yourself.
The idea of meaningful work can be a big ask for many of us. Unsure where to start, many of us choose to sit back and wait, hoping for the bolt of inspiration that clearly lays our path to meaningful work. Studies suggest our sense of meaning unfolds in small steps. It is a journey that is discovered and revealed over time; not simply a single peak experience. The journey often starts with the discovery of your interests and passions, followed by a period of learning and development, which becomes a lifetime of going deeper and stretching further (McQuaid, 2017).
Duckworth (2016), suggests that if we have not found our passions yet, a good place to start is figuring out what actually interests us. What do we like to think about? Where does our mind wander? What do we really care about? What matters to us most? If we can only think of a small direction of interest, we can give ourselves permission to explore the interest. If we have lots of ideas, map them out, laying out different pieces, seeing which interests connect together. This may assist in identifying areas that we are really passionate about, and might want to pursue further.
All QAHS staff and students have the opportunity to identify and utilize their character strengths whilst embodying the IB Learner profile. At QAHS all community members take the Values In Action Survey at www.viacharacter.org. to discover their strengths. When our strengths are in action, we feel engaged, energized and able to enjoy what we are doing- we feel we have meaning and purpose. Discovering our strengths can boost our optimism and self-belief allowing us to feel more confident and reach our highest potential. Spotting strengths in others can assist us to see the best in those around us and feel grounded in our community.
Throughout the wellbeing focus of Positive Meaning/ Purpose, the QAHS community will have opportunities to engage in a range of strategies to intentionally boost our wellbeing pillar of Meaning. Please see below the Infographic which outlines our toolkit for 2022 Positive Meaning/ Purpose, so that our community each day, can be their best possible selves.
Mrs ALita Lee