Infographic: Building Blocks of the Good Life (PERMA-V)

This is the second artwork (well…) in my self-imposed learning journey on the way to producing decent infographics. This time, I chose Martin Seligman´s PERMA framework, which, by many people, is considered to be the most comprehensive framework of “the good life”, the foundation of Positive Psychology in science and practice.

Since PERMA is not exactly hot from the presses, I added a little twist: For a couple of years now, Marty challenges his students in the Penn Master of Positive Psychology program to propose meaningful additions to the original PERMA outline (Positive Emotions | Engagement | Relationships | Meaning | Achievement). Over time, it became clear that the original framework may be somewhat “neck-up”, thereby omitting aspects such as sports, sex, sustenance, and sleep.

PERMA-V: Positive Psychology, neck-up and neck-down

Therefore, students kept asking for the letter “S” to be added – which ultimately would result in the acronym PERMAS (doesn´t sound too funky…) or SPERMA (uh-uh, not a proper name for a scientific term…). Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing mutual consent to choose the letter “V” for Vitality – and to put it at the end with a hyphen.

What do you think?

PERMA_V_Good_Life

Share and enjoy!

5 short Videos on Positive Psychology

Dr. Nico Rose - Other People MatterIn April 2015, I gave a keynote on Positive Psychology for several hundred people at the BMW-Arena in Munich.

The talk was recorded and I received a DVD a couple of weeks later. Finally, I’ve found the time to cut and edit some of the parts – these are the videos displayed below.

They’re in German of course and due to the sound equipment, I seem to have a slight lisp (which is not the case) – but nevermind.

The first video is a general introduction to Seligman’s PERMA framework, the second talks about positive emotions and especially, emotional contagion. The third video talks about the importance of social support (Other People Matter), the fourth about Esa Saarinen’s concept of systems of holding back, and the final one is about Daniel Kahneman and peak-end-theory.

Share and enjoy!

A KPI for the Leaders of the Future: Return On Flourishing (ROFL)

First, I have to admit it feels really good to think something (or at least: say it “in the digital public”) for the very first time. At least with regard to Google hits, I´ve created a new expression:

Return on Flourishing - Dr. Nico Rose

Return On Flourishing (ROFL – pun somewhat intended)

In my main occupation, I work as a human resources director. In most business organizations, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are of paramount importance. One of the most important KPIs in every organization is Return on Investment (ROI). In its simplest form, ROI is the return of some activity divided by the cost of that same activity. For instance, if a marketing campaign costs $10,000 and (identifiably) leads to $20,000 in additional sales in a certain period of time, the ROI of that project is 200%.

To this effect, it would also be possible to calculate a Return on Flourishing – which I propose to be the additional (financial) return that is generated by investing in measures designed to foster flourishing of the company´s workforce; minus the cost of those measures. By now, there´s an abundant body of research that is able to demonstrate that companies which invest in employee wellbeing do indeed fare better economically – which may ultimately even be detectable in stock prices (please check out the following paper: Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices).

By way of example, employee well-being could lead to a better quality of products or services; or a more engaged salesforce, leading to better sales figures. On the other hand, higher levels of flourishing may lead to cost reductions, e.g., by decreasing levels of absenteeism and healthcare costs; or lower levels of employee turnover which in turn helps to minimize recruiting costs. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that investing in employee flourishing will lead to an increase in financial returns. In order to make this effect visible and clearly identifiable from the inside perspective, first, we would have to establish a baseline of overall flourishing in the workforce. Based on Seligman´s PERMA framework, we could rather easily measure the following:

Alternatively, there are existing “one-stop” questionnaires to measure flourishing, e.g., the PERMA Profiler (please check out my MAPP Capstone thesis for its items; this could be adapted so as to better fit to a working context).

Second, one or more activities to foster workforce flourishing would have to be implemented. For instance, there could be company-wide workshops on job crafting. Or rather, first we would have to implement that project with a part of the workforce (treatment group; e.g., a product line) in order to later compare those employees with another group that will receive the workshops at another point in time (control group; another product line). If, after implementation, the treatment group shows significantly higher levels of flourishing compared to the control group (manipulation check), we could move on to the final step.

Ultimately, the financial success of the different business units would have to be calculated for several ensuing periods. If the treatment group fares significantly better than the control group (e.g., a significant increase in sales), this difference could be attributed to the increase in employee flourishing. Of course, it is always tricky to make this kind of causal inference, but there are lots of steps one can take to rule out or control for other effects. Now, if the increase in financial returns surpasses the cost of the measures to increase flourishing (over time), we would assume a positive Return on Flourishing (ROFL).

Return on Flourishing (ROFL): the wider Perspective

Of course, this is still a rather limited point of view. Studies were able to show that an increase in well-being at work leads to higher levels of general well-being. To that effect, we can assume there could a be a wider ROFL – where higher employee well-being leads to an increased level of well-being with regard to the company´s community and stakeholder groups via a kind of ripple effect.

What are your thoughts on this?

The Eudaimonic Wellbeing and Happiness of Undertakers

UndertakerYesterday, I gave a one-hour introductory talk on Positive Psychology. Yet, the listeners weren´t your usual business crowd. The talk was embedded in a convention of about 100 undertakers (more formally: morticians); precisely, they were a youth organization (in this case meaning: under 40) of the “German Association of Morticians”. The convention was held in a larger hotel complex and there even was an exhibition for hearses, caskets, urns, and other…well…undertaker supplies. Actually, some of the regular hotel guests looked a bit scared.

While introducing Marty Seligman´s PERMA model of flourishing and talking about meaning in life, and interesting question came to my mind: Are undertakers happier or unhappier than the average person? And: are they experiencing higher levels of eudaimonic well-being in their lives?

Obviously, undertakers are confronted with death and mortality all the time – but not necessarily their own mortality. Yet, this could be the case, of course. And this, in turn, should lead to specific consequences. Making people think about their own death (inducing a “limited time perspective”) has been shown to increase prosocial behavior and diminish one´s “extrinsic value orientation”. And this is associated with higher eudaimonic well-being.

I did some straw polls with their participants. Most confirmed that they are leading fulfilled lives. But they also admitted there seems to be a high prevalence of burnout in that profession – probably as a consequence of the “emotional work” it entails.

Anyway, that should be an interesting study from many different angles: comparing undertakers with the general population. Anyone wants to do it?

 

Picture source

Positive Psychology in a Nutshell: Watch this beautiful 5-minute Instructional Video

Today, while fixing something with my own, rather puerile Introduction to Positive Psychology on Youtube, I stumbled on this absolute gem of an instructional video. It´s a concise first-rate 5-minute introduction to Positive Psychology (as outlined in Marty Seligman´s recent book “Flourish”).

Why does it only have some 100K views? If cute cat videos (I mean, this is reeaaaaaly cute…) can get +50 million views, this one should have 100 million at least. So if you care about Positive Psychology, please share the hell heaven out of this thing…

What makes Life meaningful? 3 Answers for You…

My Direction

One of the letters in Martin Seligman´s PERMA outline of Positive Psychology is M for Meaning (in life). In this post, I would like to point you to three outstanding resources on that topic:

First, check out Maria Popova´s fabulous Brain Pickings site – in this case her essay on Viktor Frankl´s Logotherapy and his conception of meaning in life.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

Second, you might want to have a look at Michael Steger´s TEDx talk – where he explains why and how meaning in life can be a matter of life an death; and what role relationships play in that piece.

And third, here´s a link to a website I discovered recently which contains a psychological test that can help you to find your personal “purpose pattern” (at work). It was created by a team around Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy. I found that some familiar MAPP faces are also associated with that project, namely “Chief Giving Officer” Adam Grant, and Job Crafting Authority Amy Wrzesniewski.

Enjoy!

Hell is other People? On being Happy with & without Others

The MAPP program is a fulltime program – but combines onsite classes with long-distance learning periods. Part of the distance learning comprises a lot of reading (Who would have thought of that…) and writing essays about a wide array of positive psychology topics. I´ve decided to post some of those essays here on Mappalicious. Surely, they´re not the be-all and end-all of academic writing. But then again, it would also be a pity to bury them in the depths of my laptop…

Affection

There is an abundance of proverbs that are suggestive of the positive upshots of close relationships. By way of example, we say “no man is an island” and therefore “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved”. Or vice versa: “A joy shared is a joy doubled.”

Positive psychology and adjacent disciplines underscore this importance of close relationships, be it friendship, love, or the support of a larger social entity (Reis & Gable, 2003). When asked to give a short definition of positive psychology, the late Christopher Peterson used to say: “Other people matter.” (2006, p. 249). Fredrickson (2013) complements this observation by stating that love (and its benefits) cannot be a matter of one person, but resides in pairs or groups of people. For Seligman (2011), close relationships are of uttermost importance as well. They are embodied by the letter R in the acronym PERMA which represents his framework of human flourishing.

There is ample evidence that experiencing a sense of relatedness is a fundamental need of humans (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) – and other mammals (Harlow, 1958). Accordingly, feeling close to others has several positive consequences. For instance, married couples on average are happier than singles or divorced women and men, and they also tend to live longer (Peterson, 2006; Fredrickson, 2013). Similar results have been found for long-lasting friendships (Myers, 2000; Demır & Weitekamp, 2007). Conversely, feeling lonely over longer periods of time has shown to be detrimental to our mood and, subsequently, health (de Jong Gierveld, 1998; Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010). In addition, researchers have shown that happiness tends to spread in social networks. Being surrounded by happy people results in an increased likelihood of being happy oneself (Fowler & Christakis, 2008; Christakis & Fowler, 2009).

Yet, there is another perspective on close relationships. The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre coined the famous quote “Hell is other people” (1944, p. 191) and he may have had a point in saying so. After all, relationships are the source of some of our greatest joys, but also the context for some of our greatest sorrows. Couples regularly hurt each other (Feeney, 2004) and being physically abused is much more likely in the context of one´s family than with total strangers (Emery & Laumann-Billings, 1998). Even the aforementioned concept of social contagion can work against us. While there is statistical evidence that happiness can be transferred from one person to another, the same holds true for unhappiness and even depression (Rosenquist, Fowler, & Christakis, 2010). So what is the solution here? Are other people heaven – or are they hell after all?

The truth is: even Sartre did not believe that being around other people is necessarily bad for us. He seemed to be rather unhappy when being narrowed down to this infamous quote. Some 20 years later he said:

“Hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. People thought that what I meant by it is that our relations with others are always rotten or illicit. But I mean something entirely different. I mean that if our relations with others are twisted or corrupted, then others have to be hell. Fundamentally, others are what is important in us for our understanding of ourselves. (Sartre, 1965; cited in Contat & Rybalka, 1974, p. 99)

Obviously, Sartre emphasizes the quality of our relationships when contemplating the outcomes of being with other people. Having close relationships can have all the above mentioned upshots – but as humans we also have the potential to spoil these positive consequences if we are not careful enough.

In this spirit, I will now try to make a point that at present I cannot really substantiate with scientific research – but which may hold some truth nonetheless. I believe that in order to be happy in a relationship (be it friendship, marriage, or being part of a larger community), one has to be happy with oneself already – at least to a certain extent. This may be a case of “mesearch”, but then again, it may also be true. It is not at all unlikely that there is a kind of threshold, a minimum level of self-liking or -love that is a precondition for entering into fulfilling relationships with other human beings. To make this point, let´s reconsider the research on married couples. While it is fairly unequivocal that married people are at least a little bit happier than non-married people on average, it is not at all clear if this is due to a causal relationship. Consequently, we do not know for sure that marrying produces happiness. It might just as well be true that people who are already happy before getting married stand a better chance of finding and keeping a life partner (Peterson, 2006). Looking at my own life, I find this to be true. Now that I am married man and have child, I am definitely happier than I was before having met my wife. But: I definitely needed to “come to terms with myself” first in order to be prepared to let myself in for this relationship. Once again: I could not find any convincing empirical evidence for this idea – but I am fairly sure that many people would agree based on their own experiences.

To conclude, I propose that well-being neither resides in the individual alone, nor that it is solely confined to instances where we are with other people. Happiness and well-being are certainly multiplied when shared with others – but we have to “bring something to the table” in the first place in order to make it work.

References

  • Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
  • Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2009). Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives. New York: Little Brown and Company.
    Contat, M., & Rybalka, M. A. (1974). The writings of Jean-Paul Sartre (Vol.1). Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
  • de Jong Gierveld, J. (1998). A review of loneliness: Concept and definitions, determinants and consequences. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 8, 73-80.
  • Demır, M., & Weitekamp, L. A. (2007). I am so happy ’cause today I found my friend: Friendship and personality as predictors of happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8(2), 181-211.
  • Emery, R. E., & Laumann-Billings, L. (1998). An overview of the nature, causes, and consequences of abusive family relationships: Toward differentiating maltreatment and violence. American Psychologist, 53(2), 121-135.
  • Feeney, J. A. (2004). Hurt feelings in couple relationships: Towards integrative models of the negative effects of hurtful events. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21(4), 487-508.
  • Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2008). Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal, 337, a2338.
  • Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York: Hudson Street Press.
  • Harlow, H. F. (1958). The nature of love. American Psychologist, 13, 673-685.
  • Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), 218-227.
  • Myers, D. G. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55(1), 56-67.
  • Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Reis, H. T., & Gable, S. L. (2003). Toward a positive psychology of relationships. In C. L. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: The positive person and the good life (pp. 129–159). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Rosenquist, J. N., Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2010). Social network determinants of depression. Molecular psychiatry, 16(3), 273-281.
  • Sartre, J.-P. (1944). In camera and other plays. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.

Mindfulness as a Meta-Competence for Positive Interventions

The MAPP program is a fulltime program – but combines onsite classes with long-distance learning periods. Part of the distance learning comprises a lot of reading (Who would have thought of that…) and writing essays about a wide array of positive psychology topics. I´ve decided to post some of those essays here on Mappalicious. Surely, they´re not the be-all and end-all of academic writing. But then again, it would also be a pity to bury them in the depths of my laptop…

Mindfullness - Meditation

A common goal of positive interventions is to affect at least one element of PERMA or adjacent constructs of wellbeing in a desired direction. As positive interventions require consciously carrying out certain goal-directed behaviors (occasionally, over longer periods of time), it is reasonable to argue that the capacity to consciously direct one´s attention (as practiced e.g., in mindfulness exercises) is a meta-competence that will help to strengthen our capacity for self-regulation and thereby to successfully carry out most, if not all, positive interventions.

This notion is in line with self-determination theory. It asserts that human motivation is based upon of two different categories: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. People carry out intrinsically motivated actions because of their inherent gratification. In that case, only a minimum of self-regulatory effort is needed in order to sustain these behaviors. On the other hand, extrinsically motivated behaviors require a certain amount of self-regulatory effort in order to be sustained, where the level of regulation needed varies according to the extent of perceived autonomy. Perceived autonomy in turn varies from complete external regulation, via introjected and identified regulation, to integrated regulation, which in its psychological properties comes as close a possible to intrinsic motivation (Brown, & Ryan, 2004). The authors conjecture that, with the exception of early childhood, most of our behaviors are externally motivated at least to some extent so that increasing our capacity for self-regulation is crucial for living a productive life. In addition, they reason that in order to experience intrinsic motivation, a person needs to MBSR) is one way of working towards that goal.

Salovey, Caruso, and Mayer (2004) propose that emotional intelligence (EI) is a key element in leading a successful life. On closer inspection, it is reasonable to argue that there is a distinct overlap between the concept of mindfulness and the conceptualization of emotional intelligence. The aforementioned authors define EI as the capability to reflect on emotions and at the same time to utilize emotions to facilitate thinking. They contend that EI can be grouped into four sets of related skills: (a) perceiving emotions in others and oneself; (b) capitalizing on emotions to facilitate reasoning, e.g., by evoking certain emotional states to foster problem-solving or creativity; (c) understanding emotions, e.g., the antecedents and implications of certain feelings; and (d) dealing with emotions so that that personal development is enhanced. I argue that, while not all elements of emotional intelligence can be narrowed down to mindfulness, at the least engaging in conscious perception and reflection of one´s emotions is a crucial element of mindfulness.

Interestingly, Baumeister, Gailliot, DeWall, and Oaten (2006) argue that self-regulation can be conceptualized as a limited resource similar to a form of energy. When this ‘psychological capital’ has been spent, a person temporarily experiences a condition of ego depletion, a state where additional exertion of self-regulation is considerably less effective than usual. It seems that the same resource is employed for a variety of activities that have little in common other than that the self is modifying its primary response in a given situation. In addition, there is considerable evidence that we are able to increase our ‘self-regulatory muscle’ by means of regular exercise. These improvements typically are not restricted to the specific task domain of the exercise, thereby supporting the notion that improving self-regulation functions by strengthening a universal capability rather than a specific competence. The authors introduce several exercises that help to strengthen our capacity for self-regulation, e.g., physical exercise or correcting one´s posture to an upright position whenever it comes into consciousness. I maintain that practicing mindfulness can be another way of strengthening our self-regulatory muscle. In turn, this should help to sustain the required effort when carrying out a positive intervention, especially over a longer period of time.

Finally, if practicing mindfulness indeed promotes the successful execution of positive interventions, this outcome should be reinforced by additionally cultivating our self-efficacy in this domain of life. Self-efficacy can be described as a specific kind of belief about our capability to organize abilities to achieve a chosen objective in a particular setting. Therefore, the concept plays a crucial role in goal-directed self-regulation for several reasons: First, the level of self-efficacy influences the goals we set for ourselves. Typically, the higher our self-efficacy in a specific domain, the more challenging the goals we choose. Second, it influences the psychological reactions we experience in the process of working on a goal. E.g., under a condition of high self-efficacy, we tend to deploy more effort in the face of challenges. Third, self-efficacy directly influences specific areas of our performance, in that people who display a high level of self-efficacy tend to use their mental resources more effectively when trying to solve a given problem (Maddux, 2009). Taking all this into account, it can be assumed that cultivating mindfulness will help to develop self-efficacy through enabling successful execution of positive interventions.

To summarize: I argue that cultivating mindfulness as a technique for controlling our conscious attention can function as a valuable resource when trying to perform positive interventions. Being able to concentrate is beneficial to self-regulation which in turn is an important prerequisite for the successful application of positive interventions. This experience of success in turn strengthens self-efficacy which in turn helps to sustain the required energy for staying on the worthwhile path of personal development.

References

Baumeister, R. F., Gailliot, M., DeWall, C. N., & Oaten, M. (2006). Self-regulation and personality: How interventions increase regulatory success, and how depletion moderates the effects of traits on behavior. Journal of Personality, 74(6), 1773-1802.

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2004). Fostering healthy self-regulation from within and without: A self-determination theory perspective. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive Psychology in Practice (pp. 105-124). Hoboken: Wiley.

Maddux, J. E. (2009). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2. edition (pp. 335-343). New York: Oxford University Press.

Salovey, P., Caruso, D., & Mayer, J. D. (2004). Emotional intelligence in practice. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive Psychology in Practice (pp. 447-463). Hoboken: Wiley.

Positive Psychology: Is it about Pleasure? Or Meaning? Or both?

The silence on Mappalicious is officially over. I´ve been travelling over the last 14 days and obviously have been too busy actually living my life in order to write about it in addition. And while doing this, I´ve made an interesting discovery: you can spend your days in New York (arguably the most exciting place on Earth) with a bunch of really nice people and a great program (Broadway musical, boat tour on the Hudson, party at one of the best rooftop bars in town etc.) – and still end up crying your eyes out in the hotel room. Just because you miss baby boy so much. True story…

Mika_Nico

Which raises a question on the nature of Positive Psychology:

Is Positive Psychology about leading a happy, pleasurable life? Or is it about leading a virtuous, meaningful life?

The answer is: both aspects are important – but if you would ask Marty Seligman, he´d say the emphasis clearly should be on cultivating strengths, virtues, and meaning. While experiencing lots of positive emotion definitley is a goal in Positive Psychology (because it just feels good to feel good; but more important: because positive emotions produce lots of beneficial ‘side effects’) they are only one element (P) of PERMA, Seligman’s theory of human flourishing.

On the overarching level, it is possible to distinguish between the quest for hedonic (pleasurable) and eudaimonic (virtuous) experiences. Both clearly are important for leading a ‘full’ life, but Eudaimonia may just be a little more sustainable in the long run. When creating a 2×2 matrix with Eudaimonia on the one axis and Hedonia on the other, it will look like this:

Hedonia_Eudaimonia

  • When a human being experiences high levels of positive emotion and the presence of meaning, worthwhile goals, connection to other human beings etc., this can be characterized as ‘the full life’ or ‘Flourishing’ in the official diction.
  • The absence of both dimensions is called ‘the empty Life’ or ‘Languishing’ – a condition that is closely tied with depression.
  • If someone is high on the hedonic dimension but relatively low on Eudaimonia, I like to call it ‘the sweet life’ (‘Settling’ in the official lingo). By way of example, imagine the prototypical billionaire heir that squanders his family´s money on the French Riviera. It´ll surely be pleasurable but may also seem somewhat shallow.
  • On the other hand, when there´s a considerable lack of Hedonia, this condition can be termed ‘the sour life’ or ‘Striving’ in official Positive Psychology speak. You might want to imagine the epitome of an old unmarried lady that spends all of her time and money on ‘good causes’ but forgets herself on the way. It is admirable but may also seem a little ‘anemic’.

If you´d like to learn more: I´ve written an article in a coaching magazine on that topic about a year ago. It´s in German unfortunately – but I know that many German-speaking people are reading this blog, too…

Was Socrates a happy Man? And if he lived today – would he be a Blogger?

Socrates - Louvre

By Eric Gaba (CC-BY-SA-2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

The topic for the afternoon of the last day of MAPP immersion week was the trial that eventually lead to the death sentence of Socrates, arguably one of the most important philosophers of all time. There are some hints in the Apology, Plato´s account of the trial, that allude to the idea that Socrates ‘chose’ to be sentenced to death – in the sense that he could have gotten away with a significantly milder punishment, if had chosen to display a different demeanor. Yet, he stayed true to his own self (being a philosopher, asking lots of probing questions, and thereby being the ‘pain in the ass’ of most of his fellow citizens), which provoked the judges and most his fellow Athenians (“Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy…”). Supposedly, there were some politically motivated reasons for his death sentence as well – but that is another story.

James Pawelski, Director of the MAPP program asked us an interesting question: was Socrates a ‘happy’ man? Obviously, it´s not possible to ask him any more – but the Apology contains some hints on that topic: when investigating the text for displays of PERMA, Martin Seligman´s definition of the elements of flourishing: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. While it is not clear if Socrates experienced a lot of positive affect (P), it is save to say that he displayed a high level pertaining to the remaining four elements: He obviously had something which he deeply cared about and regularly was immersed in, e.g., teaching his students (E). He also had a wife and three children, as well as his students and followers that admired and valued him (R). Socrates definitely experienced a sense of meaning in his life. He felt that it was his noble duty to be a philosopher and oftentimes spoke of his inner daimon that protected and/or guided him. And finally, we are still able to read about his deeds today – which obviously is not true for most of the other men of his time (A). Bottom line: While we cannot be sure about the ‘P’, there was definitely a lot of ‘ERMA’ in his life.

Let us rest the case here. But what about the other question? Would he be a blogger today? First, I assume, it is helpful to know how this rather strange question came into being. Unlike James, I am a psychologist and coach by training, not a philosopher. So I asked him about the psychological contract between Socrates and his fellow Athenians. While he had a lot of students that would actively seek him out, he supposedly also used his Socratic Method (basically: asking someone lots of questions until he finds the right answer by himself) on a lot people that really did not want to be bothered by him. James answered analogously, that Socrates probably would not want to be named a ‘patron of the coaching business’ – but that today, he might be a kind of (political) blogger. He would try to be the thorn in the side of the leading political class, exposing their flaws and misconceptions.

Once again, we cannot ask him anymore – but I kind of like that thought…