Five Strategies For A Flourishing Life

May 28, 2019

Every time I go to my local book store (I’m a bit old fashioned and love browsing the shelves) I’m astounded by the sheer volume and diversity of personal development and self-help books that are available. I’m an avid reader and consume these types of books on a monthly basis. I’d love to say I can read one book a week but with a busy career and family life, I’m realistic in terms of my free time. I often struggle to decide which one to pick.

In my view, many seem to be saying the same thing. I’m usually looking for one of two things: a new strategy which I can implement in my own life or a fresh perspective on an old strategy that I can adapt to my life.

Since my early studies in psychology, I’m always keen to know what scientific evidence backs up the data and the assumptions being made by an author. I believe that feeding my mind is one of the most important gifts I give myself. It’s quality time with no distractions. I love to sit in my comfy chair and become totally absorbed in a great book. But more often than not I’m sitting on the sideline of my kid’s basketball training sessions trying to grab some reading time. There are not enough hours in the day.

Now I’m guessing that you too love to read and wish you had more time to spend over a great book. Perhaps you’re more disciplined than me and read more than one book per month. Or perhaps like many (myself included) you’re picking up nuggets of information from blog articles and posts from people you follow online. It’s astounding the amount of information we all have access to.

With the increasing quality of video content now available I can view and learn from brilliant thought leaders in a fraction of the time. Perhaps the challenge is ensuring that what we’re reading or watching is relevant, well researched and impactful. With so little free time, we all want to spend it wisely.

I’ve just finished reading Flourishing – how to achieve a deeper sense of well-being, meaning and purpose – even when facing adversity, written by Dr. Maureen Gaffney. For those of you in Ireland, you may recall her two-part tv programme by the same name which aired on RTE a few years ago. Dr. Gaffney is an acclaimed clinical and academic psychologist who worked in both Trinity College and University College Dublin. She also worked with a diverse portfolio of corporate clients including Intel and Boston Scientific, to name a few.

Her work and her book focus on gaining understanding on what enables people to perform at their best, be resilient in the face of problems or setbacks, and to flourish under fire. I can honestly say that her book contains so much insight and scientifically backed evidence that I could pick one small section and write a weekly article on it and still be writing in twelve months time. It’s jam-packed with life-changing strategies and insights. In my view, it’s a ‘must read’.

I’ve tried to pick five strategies that resonated for me personally and which I’ve incorporated into my own life to make positive change. In her book, Dr. Gaffney outlines ten strategies to nurture a flourishing life.

No 1: Build Your Capacity For Happiness

Focusing on our capacity to increase our happiness is a critical factor to survival and flourishing. It seems obvious. When life is good we’re happy. When we focus on different elements in our life such as our careers, projects, family and friends we do so with the belief that if we’re successful in these areas it will make us happy. But research has also shown that this also works the other way around. When we create the capacity for happiness ourselves it makes us flourish and contributes to our feelings of success. Happiness engenders success. Happy people actively work to find the positive in a negative or uncertain situation. What’s your strategy for achieving more happiness in your life?

No 2: Set Yourself Goals – take on three life projects

As humans, we need to have challenges in our life. We rise to challenges. Having life projects will increase your happiness and satisfaction providing you with structure and meaning, as well as a sense of direction and personal control. I used this approach with my son to improve his reading and writing and we achieved astounding results. His skills improved significantly and our relationship became much closer and deeper as a result of spending quality time together. I would never have taken this approach if it wasn’t for reading the book. What are you looking to change or improve in your career or life that needs you to create a project plan?

No 3: Know the Meaning of Things – the crucial importance of making sense of your life

If you feel your life lacks meaning you are likely to be languishing in your career and personal life. However, when you pursue a goal or project with energy and enthusiasm because it holds a deeper meaning and you believe that what you’re doing has a purpose, you will be more engaged. In terms of your career: what is the purpose of your role, and your contribution in your organisation? What is the meaning of your life? The way we try to achieve meaning in our life comes from four key needs: purpose; values; efficacy; and self-worth. When I figured these out it in my own life it transformed the way I worked and the way I lived. It brought me to a whole new level of flourishing and happiness. 

No 4: Control Your Attention

Paying attention to how you pay attention is a crucial step in achieving a flourishing life. Yet we often pay little attention to how we use it. Attention acts as a gateway between us, the world around us, between the events that happen to us and what happens in us. Our daily and life experiences are not the things that happen to us but are what we create and recreate by how we direct our attention and thinking throughout the day. What are you spending your attention on? Is it serving you in a positive or negative way? I consciously focus my attention on my personal and professional goals on a daily basis and don’t allow my mind to take me off course. But I’ve noticed that if I’m tired this is more of a challenge. To help myself I try and get a good night’s sleep and I also take regular short breaks throughout my working day to help replenish my energy and regain my focus.

No 5: Stop Sabotaging Yourself

In every aspect of life, we have the control and choice about how we respond. In her book, Dr. Gaffney refers to a great quote “you can’t be driven crazy without your full cooperation”. Yet we’re all guilty at times of adopting behaviour strategies and thinking styles that don’t serve us. We’re also great at driving ourselves crazy. I wonder if you, like me, have certain people in your life that seem to push all the wrong buttons and the end result is you’re acting like a crazy person. When you realise and learn the strategies to help you to stop cooperating in driving yourself crazy, you will stop the flow of positive energy out and keep yourself centered and in control. A mindful style of thinking is one such approach.

This article is just a glimpse of what’s available in the book. It’s a highly recommended read and one I will continue to refer to in the years to come.

Link to book on Amazon:

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