I believe we are here to create positive change within, and thereby influence positive change around. By positive, I mean that which is conducive to life (ie flourishing).
Well-being is a construct comprised of what free human beings naturally aim at for its own sake. There are three ways to tell if something is an element of well-being:
I. It is cross-culturally pursued by many people for its own sake.
II. It contributes to well-being (the other elements and their sum is enhanced).
III. It is defined and measured independently of the other elements.
There are five measurable elements of well-being:
Positive emotion is comprised of what we feel: pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, ect. Focusing on this element is often called the “pleasant life”.
Engagement is about flow: being one with the music, to be fully engaged in an absorbing activity. In flow, we merge with the object.
Relationships are positive associations between people: family and kinship relations, friendships, marriages, relations with associates, etc.
Meaning consists in belonging to and working on something that is believed to be bigger than the self: children, humanity, environment, religion, ect.
Achievement is about successfully fulfilling goals that we have set for ourselves which contribute to personal and public well-being.
Positive emotion is a personal variable, defined by what we think and feel. Engagement, meaning, relationships, and accomplishment have both subjective and objective components, since we can believe we have engagement, meaning, good relations, and high accomplishment and be wrong. To increase personal and public well-being is the central purpose of this life.
Virtues are positive characteristics that are deeply ingrained in their possessor. Thus, to cultivate and promote virtue is an important aspect of this life. There are six classes of virtue, made up of twenty-four measurable character strengths, that have a significant amount of similarity across cultures, strongly indicating a historical and cross-cultural convergence:
Temperance is comprised of strengths that protect against excess. They are: self discipline, prudence, humility, and forgiveness.
Courage is comprised of emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition. They are: bravery, perseverance, integrity and zest.
Wisdom is comprised of cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and application of knowledge. They are: creativity, curiosity, sound judgement, love of learning, and perspective.
Humanity is comprised of interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others. They are: love, kindness, and social intelligence.
Justice is comprised of civic strengths that underlie healthy community life. They are: fairness, citizenship, and leadership.
Transcendence is comprised of strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide inner certitude. They are: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humour, and spirituality.
Each character strength is a stable trait-like pattern that is conductive to well-being and flourishing, and naturally nurtured by societal norms and institutions. Each of the strengths is defined behaviourally, with psychometric evidence demonstrating that empirically minded humanists can measure character strengths and virtues in a rigorous scientific manner.