Episode 9

#009 - PERMA-V: How to Flourish in Work and Life

Published on: 12th October, 2020

Today, we discuss what it takes to flourish in work and life, drawing upon the vast research and practice from the world of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on the aspects of life that make it worth living and can help us increase our individual wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of any organization or society in general.

In his book Flourish, Martin Seligman discusses his theory of Well-Being and the five elements of Well-Being that make up the PERMA framework. 

  • P – Positive Emotion
  • E – Engagement
  • R – Relationships
  • M – Meaning
  • A – Accomplishments

V – for Vitality is often added to this model to cover the fact that if you're physically or mentally sick or ill, it's hard to flourish.

If you are interested in the concept of Positive Psychology and want to learn more about how you can flourish, be sure to check out the following resources:

As always, don't forget to hit the subscribe button in your podcast player of choice and feel free to drop us a line at [email protected] for on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee.


Robert Greiner 0:02

Welcome to the Wanna Grab Coffee podcast. In today's episode, we discuss what it takes to flourish and work in life, drawing upon the vast research and practice from the world of positive psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on the aspect of life that makes it worth living and can help us increase our individual well being as well as the well being of any organization or society in general. As always, don't forget to hit the subscribe button and feel free to drop us a line at [email protected].

Charles Knight 0:28

Hey, guys, how's it going?

Robert Greiner 0:31

Hey, doing well.

Igor Geyfman 0:33

Hey, what's going on, Charles?

Charles Knight 0:36

It's good to see you all again. Yeah, I wanted to talk to you all today about a book, actually, that holds a pretty special place in my heart. And it's a book that my wonderful sister in law recommended to me in a time of crisis. And it's a it's a book that really changed my life. It's called Flourish by Martin Seligman. Have y'all? Have I talked about this to y'all before? Do y'all have the book. Have you read it before?

Robert Greiner 1:06

Yeah, yeah, we you bought that book for me? 18 months ago? And so yeah, I read it when you when you bought it for me. It was great. It was really eye opening. So thank you for that.

Charles Knight 1:19

Got it. Yeah, see, I completely forgot about that.

Igor Geyfman 1:22

I haven't read it, Charles. So, I'll put it on my list.

Charles Knight 1:26

Yeah, I will link to it in the show notes. So for quite a long time, probably ever since I started my career. I've been thinking about this idea of work life balance. And there's somebody who used to work at our company who would say it's not a balance, it's work life wobble, which is pretty accurate. And I've thought a lot about recently work life integration. How can you start to blur those lines so that there isn't this separation? And it's because this notion of work and life as two separate things that never really sat well with me. I can't articulate, really why. But it always felt like I was trying to live two different lives, almost two different personalities, you know, one at work and one at home. And this book changed my life because it gave me a new way to think about my life. And it introduces this model of well-being Martin Seligman. He's got this theory of well-being and that well-being is composed of five different elements. And he's got an acronym, perma, PERMA, p for positive emotion. E for engagement, which is really about engaging with the work. So if y'all I know y'all know about the flow state, but it's really about engaging in a flow state. R is for relationships, Mis for meaning, A accomplishments. And a lot of other people add V for vitality to this. So the acronym is PERMAV. And vitality covers off on the fact that, hey, if you're not feeling well, physically, or mentally, it's really hard to flourish in life. And so I wanted to talk to you all about that. And thanks for letting me know that Robert, I bought you that book and Igor, you haven't, I think it'd be a good conversation. And I wanted to start off with a thought experiment. Okay. So bear with me here. Because that I can't remember if I said this, but Martin Seligman, he's the founder of this movement called positive psychology, which is different than psychology. And this thought experiment will kind of hammer home what's the difference between positive psychology and psychology. And so just imagine that one day you stumble upon a magical Genie. So it's a genie that can grant you superpowers. And so this Genie asks you, hey, do you want this red cape, which gives you the power to combat negatives in the world. So it's like, you would be able to get rid of poverty and famine and inequality in the world as red cape. You could have the green cape instead, which is the power to increase the positives in the world. Like harmony, justice, friendship, things like that. And you can only choose one. And so Igor, which cape would you choose?

Igor Geyfman 5:04

I would choose the green one. I would choose the green one, because I have this on conventional belief that for us to experience the positive, we have to experience and understand the negative. And if we got rid of all the things that are negative, it would affect our ability to appreciate. Everything would just be neutral. And I like life with a little bit of spice. And so I'm willing, just personally, I've gone through negative things, I've gone through positive things. And on balance, when I'm going through those negative things, I hate them. They're terrible, they're hard. But when I get some distance of time on them, and I look back, at that time, when I thought was so hard, it was heartbreaking and impossible. And sad. I actually see it as a time of like, really significant growth for myself. So I don't know if I would take negative things away. But it would be really great to amplify positive things. So that's my reason for choosing the the green cape.

Charles Knight 6:12

Nice. Thanks, Igor.

Robert. How about you?

Robert Greiner 6:16

This is tough, I think that I would increase the positive side, which was that green,

Charles Knight 6:23

green, green cape?

Robert Greiner 6:24

Yeah, for a couple of reasons. One is, in the same way, that there's not a lot of appreciation in the world for instance, catastrophes that don't happen. Like if you are doing everything right, that Facebook does everything, right, there's no downtime. So you just log into Facebook, and it works. And there's a lot of people that are solely responsible for keeping Facebook up that we never think about, and that probably don't get a lot of credit. But the one that lets you put sunglasses as a filter on your picture, and creates this little tiny positive thing it gets it gets a lot of attention is the wrong word. But it's more front of mind for people that say, Oh, this thing added appreciation in my life. I like the idea of adding positives for that reason. It's like it's noticeable. I do think sort of the bigger gap between in a given life, in a situation between like the best of times, and the worst of times kind of helps with gratitude, which we've already talked about. So I think I would be adding positives, that's looking at the broader sort of society picture though, if I'm thinking about my personal life, I think there's a lot of value in removing negatives, you can have a really great career and a fantastic car. And you can have a hobby that brings a lot of positive emotion and achievement. But if your relationship with your kids is terrible, or with your spouse is terrible, or you don't have the type of friendships that you'd like to have, and so you're feeling lonely, you could have 100 things going your way. But that one thing that's really kind of miserable, it just sort of drains the joy out of everything else. So, I definitely, I'm kind of torn, which is probably obvious by my ramble here, but I think it's you need it definitely need a good balance and removing negatives can also have this perception I think of, of increasing the positives as well. But if I had to pick one, which was your question, I would pick the green cape.

Charles Knight 8:22

Yeah, I think I'm gonna go live. I heard this thought experiment before. And I immediately went to the green cape as well wonder what that says about us? It is a trick question though. The world needs both. And you're right, Robert, it needs to balance. It's like red cape superheroes. They look for problems in the world to fix. Right? I identify the problem, I'm gonna go fix it. Right. And that can certainly, you know, if you're below baseline, fixing problems, removing negatives could get you back to baseline. Green cape superheroes are those people that look for opportunities to amplify the goodness, Igor, like you said, it's those sorts of activities that push you above baseline, and it gets you above zero, for example. So when it comes to psychology, psychology it's a science, right? There's a science around diagnosing illness, remediating harm, you know, trying to return people back to homeostasis. Positive psychology is more, which is the red cape stuff, right? So traditional positive psychology is green cape. And it's really about what are things that people can do to really excel, like get to an optimal state of being and flourish and you need both, right? That's the, that's the important thing. Like if you are sick, like you have some debilitating disease, doesn't matter how much gratitude you try to muster. Like you're gonna have a hard time flourishing. And so it is this balance and that that really resonated with me, you know, I kind of had this negative association with traditional psychology, even though I've been seeing a therapist for a regular basis for quite some time, which would fall underneath that red cape side of things. But it wasn't really until I learned about positive psychology and some of the green cape exercises that are rooted in this theory from Martin Seligman what he introduces in this book that it all just started to click for me. So PERMAV and positive psychology is something that I've tried to bring to work, you know, to try to improve the the well being of our colleagues and employees. And I'm going to go back to this PERMAV acronym, is there an elements of this model that you all kind of naturally prioritize, they could just gravitate towards? And it's something that you focus on and you improve? Naturally? Or vice versa? Is there one that maybe you have not prioritized? And you feel like maybe you should? Igor, do you want to want to go first?

Igor Geyfman:

Sure, I think the one that I naturally prioritize is relationships, it's something that motivates me to get out of bed in the morning. It's something that really fulfills me as a human being. And connecting with people having positive relationships, socializing, I tend to do it. It's like needing air. And that's kind of my my point of view on relationships. And so those come really naturally to me, the one that I struggle with, is vitality, I really have to put intentional thought and effort into it. Otherwise, it won't happen.

Charles Knight:

Robert, how about you?

Robert Greiner:

The dimension that I am most aligned with, certainly achievement, we've talked about this in the past. I'm very focused on sense of accomplishment, not even so much, checking off individual tasks throughout the day, but really sort of focusing on big goals and seeing those kind of broken down and completed over time, very much. It doesn't matter if I'm learning how to play golf, and I'm getting into clubs and flex and the plane and all of that, or focusing on a work objective around taking on a new role starting a new project, getting a promotion, anything, it's like my brain is just automatically locked into how to maximize that experience. And I get a lot of satisfaction out of going really deep, applying a lot of energy into something and seeing that sort of achievement come through over time. And so that's been nice. And I think luckily, I would say this happens on accident, or has happened on accident, which is it's not always focused on money. And so it's nice to not be just myopically focused around achievement, but in a given situation in a given year, based on what I'm working on. Achievement can mean a different thing. But it's always this sort of almost aggressive pursuit of an outcome which is kind of nice in a in a personal and professional life, but definitely has its potential downsides as well. And then yeah, on the on the tough side, definitely vitality, I really have to focus on putting in the energy and effort to get up get moving, get enough sleep, eat the right kind of foods, my default habits around vitality are terrible. And that over time, can can take a toll and negatively impact the other dimensions of this PERMA framework. Right. And so that's definitely something especially in the Coronavirus, lockdown, we have people that we work with who have lost 40 pounds, and I'm probably a little less healthy than I was when the whole thing started. Definitely something to focus on for sure.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I'm with you, Robert, if I think about my professional career. The vast majority of it so far has been focused on accomplishments, the way that I talked about accomplishments, it's simply the setting and achieving of goals. That's a very broad definition. And sometimes it's talked about as achievement, and accomplishments, like the A can either be achievement or accomplishment. And it's really around this idea of goal setting. And this is one where, where I got into trouble early on in my career, because I was so focused on getting promoted like that, that was a very strong motivating factor for me. Whether it was money or title or positional power, at different points in time, it was any one of those things, but I was only I was only really focusing on achievement within the professional domain. And often what I had to sacrifice was my own vitality. Like I still remember the first time I started drinking coffee, which is funny because now we have a podcast, called Wanna Grab Coffee. And I love coffee. But I turned to coffee early on in my career, because I just could not handle the stress and the pace at which I was moving. And I felt like I needed a stimulant. To help me. Doesn't sound all that profound. I'm sure a lot of people struggle with vitality, we know what we should do. And yet, we find it difficult to do. But it's those sorts of insights to see the trade off, that I was making implicitly, in my life, saying, hey, I'm focusing on accomplishment, that gives me a sense of meaning, I will sacrifice my vitality and my relationships to do so. That was the sort of thing that was happening in my brain without me even knowing it. It was just kind of default, like I don't know, through societal trends through my kind of upbringing, my natural tendencies, my personality, whatever, I was stuck in this rut. And this model helped me to see and be able to articulate what are some of the downsides of doing that in a very narrow way. And so now instead of just making and achieving goals in the professional world, I do that personally too. What are some goals that I have around being a father, around being a partner, but around being a friend, a son, a brother, a colleague, it's helped me to think more holistically about my life, right? I don't see life as separate from work, they are one of the same, because I'm just me, right? I just, I'm just me, whether I'm between the hours of eight and five on a work day, or if I'm laughing and making jokes with my kids on the weekend.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, you've hit a couple of really big points there. One, is if you find meaning in your work, and what you do for a living, that idea of integrating into your life and not compartmentalizing, I think certainly healthy boundaries are needed. That's not what we're talking about here. But that work life integration idea that you've talked about. That's that's a way to derive meaning. I derive a tremendous amount of meaning from my work, but also being a husband and being a father and being a friend. And so that's just a component of who you are, and what your being is in this world. So I I'm definitely a fan of that. And then I think, yeah, to your point, any, any positive psychology variable, taken too far focused on at the expense of others will create the exact opposite effect that you're looking for, it will introduce those negative components into your life. So there's a good balance that's needed across each dimension. If you could quantify a score in each one, if you had too much of a by numerical gap between two dimensions, that probably is an indicator that your life is out of balance, and dysfunction, or unhappiness or sort of this catastrophe has a way of creeping in. So I definitely think taking a look at that framework holistically. And seeing where you're out of balance and leveling up. The ones that are low, in addition to understanding what you like and letting that be free to a degree as well are two healthy things to do.

Charles Knight:

I'm a big fan of this idea of growing by leveraging strengths, as opposed to simply trying to shore up weaknesses. And this conversation that we've had a lot in the past in a variety of different domains. I didn't answer my own question, I focus a lot on accomplishment and achievement. And I use that to level up in areas where I am not naturally inclined to focus like positive emotion and relationships. And so it's really around how can I set goals to increase positive emotion through gratitude practice, for example, like we talked about, or through setting a goal to meet three new people in a year, which is how I've made some of my nearest and dearest friends. How can you take what you naturally do and use that to shore up and increase some of these other elements? Meaning, I think is it's interesting because Martin Seligman, he talks about how for a lot of people there's a spiritual component to this, but it doesn't have to be, it could be completely an entirely secular, and the way that they define meaning here is that you are part of something greater than oneself. And if you derive a lot of meaning from being a part of a family, that's great. But if you're if you're a big fan of the mission of the company that you're working for, that's meaning. If you get inspired by social movements and trying to take care of the earth and deal with climate change, right, that that's a source of meaning as well. And I think that that one I've thought a lot about over the years. And in, I was only able to do that, because I covered off on some of these other things. You know, I've built strong relationships. For example, like with you two, I've figured out, what I'm good at, in life, which allowed me to increase the level of engagement, that I bring to bear in work and outside of work, I've certainly focused on vitality to try to give me the energy to do all the things that I try to do. The great thing about the book, there are very specific, scientifically backed and researched exercises that underpin each of these. So, we're not talking about that now. But I would highly encourage people to go check out the book, you can also Google, positive psychology and PERMA and get access to those things. But this isn't just some new age Wui thing, right? There's, there's some legitimate theory and research and data collection and interventions that can really, really move the people or the needle for people in their lives.

Robert Greiner:

I like what you said. And the reason this book resonated with me so much is it provides a nice framework, a metaphor with which you can use to make decisions in your life, you don't even have to understand all of the psychology and data and information behind this model. You can simply take it and say okay, positive emotions, experiencing happiness, satisfaction, self regard, serenity, engagement, having interest in pursuits that deeply captivate us, relationship, experiences, affection, friendship, love, human connections. Meaning is like, just like you said, believing and working towards something that transcends ourselves, achievement, sense of accomplishment, vitality, taking good care of our bodies and minds. Those things are universally positive. And they're good buckets and categories to really take and measure where you're at in your life and where you want to be. And I think a lot of times, we do things just on autopilot, we do things by default. And we're not. There's a whole dimension that we just don't even think about, or like you said before, I sacrifice relationships by default, as a result of pursuing achievement. That's a wonderful thing to know about yourself. And so if you if you take the framework, and you look through it, like okay, where am I strong, what resonates with me, where am I weak, it can help focus where you direct your future effort. And you don't even have to believe in any of this stuff. But it's helpful to know in a world where you can, you can do whatever you want infinite possibilities, this will help you be intentional and focused around what direction you want to take your life in a way that forces you to think about your values, what you care about, and what you want to accomplish. And so that's what really resonated with me how I'm wired, I loved being able to just sort of put things in buckets and say, Oh, yeah, that this part makes sense. To me. This is where I'm weak. What can I do? Can I leverage my strengths in a way that can help me level up an area I'm out of balance. So there's a lot of goodness just in the framework without even needing to go into the psychology. But then you go, and you look at all of the practices and all of the research and all the information around how this model, this way of thinking, this way of practicing psychology, this way of conducting yourself in life has made such a tremendous impact to the positive on so many people. That's like, oh, man, there's something here. I think whatever level you choose to engage with this framework, it will benefit you in the long term.

Charles Knight:

That's awesome. Robert, thanks. I know we're getting close to time, maybe let's wrap up with you said relationships come pretty naturally to you. I'm wondering if you could share final thoughts. And then also maybe a practical tip for people who want to improve their relationships, either personally, or professionally, or both.

Igor Geyfman:

Maybe it's also useful to, you know, I want to talk about what I'm working on, because I said, you know, vitality doesn't sort of come naturally to me. And sometimes I have to do a reset on this is one of those times where for the last three or four weeks or so I just haven't physically been feeling well. And I think that is a combination of my activity levels. Paired with my eating habits might be a good time for reset, and I like doing resets that are extreme, that then helped lead me towards kind of a more sustainable, better path forward. Right, but, but I like having those things as a break between the old and the new. And so I decided for the rest of this month, I started Monday doing a vegan diet. And really even with the vegan diet, really minimizing processed foods, so refined sugars, all those sort of things, that's sort of a tip on on my weakness. And on on the strength of around relationships are things that come naturally, I would say, my big belief is that relationships are built one on one. And so setting up time for you, and the person with whom you'd like to have a better relationship, to have an interaction. It's definitely easier to do it in person. But I feel it's almost as effective to do it virtually. And it's easy to skip that. Right? We think, Oh, it's virtual. It's hard, I don't need to do it. I've been on zooms all day, I don't want to do another zoom. You don't have to do a zoom, do a phone call. But connecting with people, one on one is the kind of the basic building blocks of creating really great relationships. And so the more you can have those one on one interactions with people, the better your relationships are going to be. And I really do believe that relationships are a function of time spent one on one, so you put in the time, you're going to have positive outcomes. It's not rocket science.

Charles Knight:

That's nice. Thanks, Igor. Robert.

Robert Greiner:

My one recommendation would be to read the book. It's called flourish. I think it's really helpful. If you don't want to don't have the time. Just look at the perma v model. And ask yourself two questions. Where am I strongest? And where am I weakest? And it's helpful to know those things. And then the more you can learn about yourself, I think the better off you'll be. And that may spur you to action to make a change in the area that you're weakened or to think about ways to leverage your strengths. in all areas of life. That's what I'd recommend. Definitely check out the framework. Think about it a little bit. Reach out to us if you have any questions we're by no means experts in this space. But we do love talking about interesting concepts and ideas. Happy to to continue the discussion.

Igor Geyfman:

And I think there's an episode on why the three of us really believe in focusing on the strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses. I'd like to do that sometime.

Charles Knight:

Agree. Alright gang, I think this is a good spot to wrap up. Appreciate the conversation. hope y'all have a good day.

Igor Geyfman:

Thanks, Charles.Thanks, Robert. See y'all.

Robert Greiner:


That's it for today. Thanks for listening. And don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and follow us on Twitter at Wanna Grab Coffee. If you have a question or comment and want to reach out directly drop us a line at [email protected].

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Wanna Grab Coffee?
Join us for weekly discussions about careers, leadership, and balancing work and life.
A podcast about all of the topics we discuss during our mid-day coffee breaks. We bring you stories, thoughts, and ideas around life as a professional, leadership concepts, and work/life balance. We view career and leadership development as a practice that spans decades and we are excited to go on this journey with you.