What does it mean to flourish?

Every human must answer the question, “Do I want to be healthy?” many times in life.  It is one of life’s most important questions, as it makes possible the rest of life.  No one is exempt from this question.
What does a “Yes!” look like?  It’s helpful to have a checklist.  Theodore Ryan, Ph.D., is the consulting professor of business ethics at Duke University. His background is in organizational psychology, moral philosophy, anthropology and religion. Professor Ryan lists these data points as evidence of a flourishing human:

  • A strong positive sense of self
  • Compelling purpose greater than self-interest
  • A circle of healthy relationships (from intimate to casual)
  • Connection to a healthy community
  • A developed moral character (the capacity to act on moral impulses)
  • Self-awareness and other-awareness (including mindfulness and empathy)
  • Full deployment of gifts in a way that is aligned with purpose and positive character
  • A sense of transcendence: appreciate mystery, wonder & play; celebrate the goods of life; a creative imagination
  • Resilience: transforming adversity into growth; optimism and growth motivation
  • A sense of joy; a capacity for fun and enjoyment

If the person has a firm “No” inside, the community soon finds out. That person drains others of their joy and resources. In some ways the person is committing slow-motion suicide. Unfortunately, this giving up is not as private as one may think. Children are acutely aware when a parent does not meet their reasonable needs. The child depends on the parent for survival. When a parent is not able to provide, children may maladapt through codependent behaviors and/or a spectrum of averse, anxious attachment styles.

Some people are honestly unsure if they have a “Yes” or “No” inside. There are many reasons for this. A person may be coping with a terrible situation. He or she may have never seen a healthy community or been in a healthy relationship. A person may have been conditioned to believe community support is “weak,” that healthy communities and relationships are fakes, frauds and cruel myths designed to cause pain. A person may be on the verge of giving up, seeing that there is no end in sight to the misery of the current situation. This does not mean they have a firm “No” inside of them. This means they can be persuaded.

Even if one is healthy, there comes a time when all humans need, appreciate and enjoy support.  Even Nobel prize laureate Albert Schweitzer observed,

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

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