Engagement: The Science of Thriving as Investor and Entrepreneur
Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement are the pillars that contribute to thriving, not just as investors and entrepreneurs, but flourishing in all areas of life. The acronym, PERMA, can help us to remember these five pillars. In addition, a growing body of empirical evidence suggests that these five pillars can provide a reliable framework to measure, manage, and develop well-being – the substance of thriving.
“PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement) is an acronym that stands for the five elements developed by Martin Seligman that account for what makes up the “good life” – an authentic and sustained happiness and well-being.” (What is PERMA, 2013)
The PERMA framework recognizes that happiness comprises positive emotions and the meaningful elements of life. Indeed, but inappropriately, happiness is frequently used as a proxy for well-being or quality of life. When we thrive, we will experience improved life satisfaction. However, life satisfaction and happiness are two very different measurements. Happiness is a mood. Our perspective of how satisfied we are with life is a frame of reference based on reflection and, a more permanent state than our transient moods. Investigating the PERMA pillars brings a more holistic approach to well-being and thriving than happiness in isolation. These pillars integrate the subjective and objective psychological aspects of how we as humans thrive and flourish.
“By using mindfulness exercises to increase engagement, one will experience more positive emotions and meaning in life.” (Madeson, 2017)
“Positive psychology research has shown us that we can increase positive emotions by engaging in intentional activities.” (Lea, 2023).
Doing things you love, day in and day out, will increase your positive emotions, reduce stress, and engage your mind because you are working at something that matters to you.
The topic of this article, Engagement, one domain of the five PERMA pillars, is not just activity. It is an engagement experience that can be described as FLOW or, as some describe it, being in the ZONE.
Experiencing Flow Through Engagement
In a flow state, our awareness aligns with our actions. When a task is challenging enough, we enter flow states that require mobilizing personal skills, which fosters intensely focused attention. It is most often achieved in complex tasks requiring specific skills. The flow state requires a fusion of action and awareness. Flow promotes concentration on the task at hand. Though generally out of awareness, a perceived sense of control of the situation contains a cognitive and stable core. In a flow state, self-consciousness and a sense of time are lost.
Though not necessarily aware of the feelings during the flow experience, the engagement is intrinsically rewarding. The balance between challenge and skill can make the flow experience appear effortless, particularly to the outside observer. To understand engagement as it pertains to well-being and thriving, recall observing an accomplished performer or competitor at the top of their game. What appears effortless to the outside observer is a performance built on hours of grueling practice.
“In the state of flow, our consciousness becomes one with what we are doing, but only if the task is challenging enough to require the mobilization of personal skills, promoting concentration and engagement.” (Sounders, 2019)
Sometimes described as being in the zone, reaching this state of flow allows us to experience a loss of self-consciousness and a sense of total mastery over a task. By experiencing increased focus, we become deeply engaged in the activity and enter the flow state. During this flow state, we often experience heightened engagement when our attention is tightly focused on the task.
“By experiencing high levels of increased concentration, learners become absorbed in the activity and enter into a state of flow.” (Vann & Tawfik, 2023)
The most reliable way to predict whether we are engaged is to evaluate how frequently we enter a mental flow state, which is the ultimate form of engagement marked by total absorption, intense focus, and optimum performance. For instance, a writer experiencing flow might be so immersed in his or her work that time passes by without him or her even realizing it.
“In a flow state, we tend to have intense and focussed concentration, and can often lose track of time.” (Week 8-Engagement Introduction, 2023)
To thrive, we need to find activities and environments conducive to states of flow. Well-being is achieved through individual development and growth–and flow situations allow for individual development experiences.
Learning or even overlearning a skill or concept may assist us in experiencing flow. Doing so will help us determine what tasks in work and play need to be nurtured and stressed in order to help us experience the flow that contributes to our well-being.
Flow has demonstrated a mediation between transcendent experiences and happiness. Post-flow reflections demonstrate increased feelings of well-being. These reflections reveal that transcendent experiences are positively related to flow, which is positively related to our well-being.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihaly, 1990)
Does Engagement In Hobbies Have An Effect On Individual Well-being?
Findings indicate that engaging in physical and creative leisure activities can provide protective benefits to well-being.
A recent study by Oregon State University found that engaging in leisure activities can help reduce the risk of depression and enhance mental well-being. While we can proactively engage in several strategies to help our mental health, one factor often overlooked is spending time in activities you enjoy, otherwise known as hobbies. Research suggests that having and engaging in hobbies positively affects our subjective well-being.
“And while there are many strategies we can actively engage in to improve our mental health, an often-overlooked factor is spending time on an activity that you enjoy.” (Parkhurst, 2021)
Consistent with the hypotheses in the study, individuals who engaged more frequently in pleasant leisure activities had better psychological and physical functioning. In addition, evidence was also discovered that engaging in more types of leisure activities dampened the adverse psychological effects of stress.
For instance, in one study from 2015, participants who engaged in hobbies had lower levels of stress and lower heart rates compared to those who did not participate. Research has also shown that adults who regularly participate in a particular type of team sport are less likely to have symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress.
Participation in socially supported leisure groups and sports has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression and decrease symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
“A review of current literature indicates that people who participate in sports clubs and organised recreational activity enjoy better mental health, are more alert, and more resilient against the stresses of modern living.” (Street & James, 2023)
When we devote the time to engage voluntarily in enjoyable activities, our mental health may thrive. For example, a large-scale study involving over 1.2 million Americans found that those who exercised reported 43% fewer days with poor mental health over the last month than those who did not. Moreover, you can push yourself harder when heading out into the great outdoors to get an activity done. Other studies find that pleasant activities done in your free time are associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist size, body mass index, and a perception of better physical functioning.
In the context of health research, the most common approach of those studying leisure activities enjoyed by people is to focus on the one activity thought to benefit and look for a direct impact on either health or psychological outcomes. For instance, physical exercise, engaging in social activities, having hobbies, taking holidays, and spending time in nature has been shown to contribute to various well-being outcomes, including psychological and biological, from better physiological functioning to fewer serious health outcomes to increased longevity.
“Whatever your preference, research shows that when you engage in interests you enjoy, you are more likely to have lower stress levels, a lower heart rate, and a better mood.” (4 Ways Hobbies Can Boost Your Health, 2023)
Does Civic Engagement Have An Effect On Individual Well-being?
As a whole, communities with civic involvement experience higher levels of community trust, social cohesion, and sharing resources–all feeding into a virtuous cycle that produces more civic involvement. In addition, there is widespread recognition that civic involvement enhances the health of individuals and communities.
“The Psychology of Citizenship and Civic Engagement brings together a large body of research from psychology and other social sciences to tell the story about why some individuals are engaged in their communities while others are not and how their involvements affect not only their own well-being but the welfare of their communities and even their country.” (Pancer, 2014)
Civic engagement, in turn, enhances participants’ health through increased agency and social cohesion and can improve community conditions that affect population health. Neighborhoods with higher levels of civic involvement experience more excellent community feeling, lower levels of crime, and healthier, happier citizens. The Health and Democracy Index, developed by Healthy People for a Healthy Democracy, shows that states with more inclusive voting policies and higher levels of civic engagement are healthier than states without inclusive voting policies and higher levels of engagement.
“The Health & Democracy Index developed by Healthy Democracy Healthy People shows that states with more inclusive voting policies and greater levels of civic participation are healthier.” (Salinsky, 2022)
Civic engagement can be beneficial even to people who are newly involved, including young people. Many events in early life may have lasting effects later on in the life course, making it essential, particularly at a time of rising civic engagement, to understand how young adults’ civic engagement is related to other outcomes. When young people vote and engage in civic activities, they can provide valuable perspectives on these issues and actively shape their futures.
“When young people vote and participate in civic life, they can bring valuable perspectives to these issues and play an active role in shaping their future.” (Why Is Youth Civic Engagement Important, 2023)
Participating in civic life is worth it for several reasons: it builds communities, addresses societal needs, changes policies, and provides for a healthy democracy. When individuals volunteer their time, skills, knowledge, and passion for improving their quality of life, they demonstrate civic leadership, finding ways to make a positive difference for the greater good in their communities. Voting and volunteering can empower individuals to feel fulfilled contributing to their communities.
Research has shown that civic engagement helps people feel more connected with others and secure in the knowledge that they are making a difference. In addition, civic engagement in politics has been shown to positively affect the health of individuals and communities.
Civic engagement benefits communities through collective action, the transmission of norms, the building of social trust, and the making of organizations more accountable. Communities are stronger and more resilient when young people are involved. Higher levels of civic engagement have been found to help communities survive economic downturns that ultimately result in lower job loss rates. Civic involvement enhances the well-being of involved individuals in specific settings, depending on their needs, the location where an activity takes place, the content, and ultimately, society and culture.
Multiple studies have shown that civic participation lowers mortality and the risk of poor self-reported health in Southern and Western European countries (e.g., the UK and Germany).
“Within health civic engagement, it is notable that 51% of participants reported that they voted for or against a candidate for public office because of his/her position on issues such as education, public safety, or community funding, which are upstream drivers of health but not directly health specific.” (Nelson, Weilant, & et al., 2018).
Respondents who valued investing in the health of their communities were also more likely to engage in citizenship activities. For example, 22% reported engaging by attending civic meetings or working with neighbors on neighborhood issues. The civic engagement activities most frequently mentioned by healthcare funders participating in this canvassing included community organizing, leadership development, voter engagement, Census support, and redistricting advocacy.
Not all researchers agree that civic engagement leads to more life satisfaction for the individuals involved, as civic engagement is other-focused, not individual-focused. Furthermore, the purpose of civic engagement is for community enhancement, not personal well-being.
The Effects Of Vocational Engagement On Individual Well-being
The expected relationship is that increased job satisfaction will result in better health. Although work-related stress was indicated as decreased work capacity, well-being was indicated through job participation, job satisfaction, and engagement.
“The expected relationship was that an increase in job satisfaction would be associated with improved health.” (Faragher, Cass, & Cooper, 2005)
“Work-related stress was indicated as reduced work ability, well-being was indicated by work engagement, job satisfaction and commitment.” (Schelvis, Wiezer, & van der Beek, 2017)
A lack of work satisfaction is likely to negatively affect the individuals’ feelings of self and their lives, leading to decreased health (especially mental health), regardless of the work style and culture. Therefore, employees’ well-being- particularly mental health- can be compromised if their job causes them to experience high dissatisfaction.
“Lack of work satisfaction is likely to have a negative impact on an individual’s feelings about themselves and their life, leading to a reduction in health (particularly mental health), irrespective of the type of work and culture.” (Faragher, Cass, & Cooper, 2005)
“The well-being of employees–and in particular their mental health–may be compromised if their work is causing them to experience high levels of dissatisfaction.” (Faragher, Cass, & Cooper, 2005)
The Effects of Social Engagement on Individual Well-being
Social interactions impact older adults’ mental, physical, and cognitive health in several ways.
Although higher levels of social engagement and connectedness are independently associated with better cognition scores, associations between social connectedness and cognitive function are assumed to be more critical in individuals without social involvement. The increases indicate that as individuals scored higher on a scale of social connectedness, they also gained more on a cognitive dimension, which implies a greater capacity to experience enhanced flow levels.
Numerous studies have examined associations among the determinants of personal well-being and nations’ well-being levels. Of course, there is no single determinant of personal well-being, but generally, well-being is dependent on having good health, having positive social relationships, and having access to and use of essential resources (e.g., housing and income).
Social well-being involves building healthy, nurturing, supportive relationships and cultivating a genuine connection with the people around you. As we embark on a social wellness journey, we will find that we have the power to improve our relationships. Maintaining a high level of social wellness allows us to form healthy relationships with others.
Social wellness also involves balancing the unique needs of romantic relationships with the other parts of our life. With these benefits, it is essential to make social involvement just as important a priority as everything else so that we can lead a self-sufficient life filled with happiness and connectedness instead of isolation and depression.
Those who are socially isolated may benefit from group exercise programs, since socializing opportunities encourage active, healthy living. In addition, being socially engaged with others reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, increases self-esteem, provides comfort and joy, prevents loneliness, and even increases lifespan.
According to Everyday Health, seniors can keep their minds active while staying connected with others by playing intellectually challenging games with others. Unfortunately, as seniors get older, the lack of connections with others and diminished social lives may lead to increased depression, along with numerous other health problems. On the other hand, the absence of a robust social network may be a significant risk to your mental and emotional health.
Ironically for a technology designed to unite people, spending too much time engaging with social media may leave us feeling more alone and isolated – and worsen mental health problems like anxiety and depression. On the other hand, one study found that cutting back on social media makes us feel less lonely and isolated and boosts our overall well-being.
Several studies have found a close association between heavy social media use and increased risks of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. However, the same studies concluded that simply being more aware of social media usage could positively affect mood and attention. In addition, missing out on something could affect your self-esteem, cause anxiety, and even make for better social media use.
One could argue that emails and texting mediate the association between decreased self-reported depression and well-being. A Japanese longitudinal study found that social interaction improved mental health, including symptoms of depression and psychological discomfort. Studies indicated that higher levels of social involvement are consistently associated with lower perceived depression, higher self-rated health, and higher quality of life.
Concerning subjective well-being, social involvement appeared to protect against perceived depression, worse self-rated health, and lower quality of life. However, it is also important to note that, as a cross-sectional study, the association between social involvement, lifestyle behaviors, and subjective well-being may be bidirectional. That is, social involvement either facilitates healthier behaviors and psychological health, or healthier behaviors and subjective well-being result in higher levels of social involvement.
Studies show that individuals with higher levels of social involvement are less likely to fall out of their age-adjusted anticipated sleep range. Conversely, individuals with higher levels of social support are more likely to be inadequate sleep lengths.
It has been shown that people who have more significant social groups are less likely to have dementia and are more likely to engage in physical activities.
AARP interviewed over 3,800 adults age 40 or older to learn about factors influencing social involvement, isolation, and loneliness and how social involvement is related to individual brain health and mental well-being as they age.
Does Our Emotional Engagement Have And Effect On Our Individual Well-being?
Emotional well-being, a significant predictor of human health and longevity, can reduce the risk for physical and mental health disorders, which has been firmly established in the literature. Emotional well-being and mental health may be mutually reinforcing, positively or negatively. Emotional well-being allows you to focus on the positive while managing negative emotions and feelings that may arise.
A workforce with a higher emotional well-being level also makes things a lot easier for organizational leaders. Building a culture of trust and practicing emotional intelligence skills can enable employees to recognize, experience, and express more positive emotions at work.
High-stress levels may cause low motivation, a lack of satisfaction with work, and ill health, which affects well-being. Poor mental health is also associated with rapid societal changes, stressful working conditions, gender discrimination, social isolation, unhealthy lifestyles, poor body health, and human rights violations. Mental health is the well-being in which a person perceives their abilities, can deal with everyday stresses, can work productively, and can contribute to their community.
In sum, emotionally engaged people find higher levels of well-being.
Emotionally engagement leads to higher levels of positive functioning. Flourishing includes psychological and physical well-being, physical and emotional security, as well as feelings of belonging, purpose, accomplishment, and success. There is no consensus on a single definition of well-being, but a common consensus is that, at the minimum, well-being includes having positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, joy) and a reduction in negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety). In simple terms, well-being may be described as positively rating one’s life and feeling good about oneself.
The higher one’s emotional intelligence (EI), the higher one’s overall well-being. Positive correlation coefficients exist between EI, work engagement, and overall well-being.
For entrepreneurs, the potential effects of including mental and emotional well-being in more significant wellness initiatives are substantial. Therefore, entrepreneurs must incorporate mental and emotional wellness into their daily efforts and routines.
In an AONs 2019 emotional wellness survey, 91% of the companies surveyed indicated that the primary goal of their wellness strategies is to increase work engagement. In addition, Aons 2019 Emotional Health Survey found that 86 percent of those polled considered emotional health a top-three driving force behind overall wellness, and 85 percent believed they played a critical role in supporting their emotional well-being. Researchers and policymakers have made a case for promoting emotional well-being to promote human health and mitigate costs associated with low psychological well-being and increased risk for mental health.
Increasing emotional engagement helps individuals to build the physical, intellectual, psychological, and social resources that result in resilience and general well-being. When individuals can explore, enjoy, and integrate positive and negative emotions into everyday life (and future life visualizations), this enhances habitual thoughts and behaviors. For instance, by using mindfulness exercises to improve emotional engagement, an individual is likely also experiencing a range of emotions and help to secure a solid sense of meaning in their lives.
Cultivating our engagement and enhancing our flow experiences can significantly enhance all aspects of the PERMA pillars of well-being (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement). Furthermore, enhancing our flow experiences can be accomplished in various smaller ways, whose combined effects can have powerful impacts on our overall well-being.
Do You Want to Bring More of the Power of Flow into Your Life?
Dr. Allen has been helping individuals and businesses to thrive and flourish for decades. Are you striving to attain more flow to thrive and flourish more fully in your entrepreneurial and investment endeavors? Schedule a FREE – NO OBLIGATION – NO STRINGS ATTACHED call. Or email me with your questions and thoughts at allen@SteedTalker.com.
About the Author _ Dr.. Allen Lomax
With careers in Organizational and Systems Psychology, podcasting, and real estate investing, Dr. Allen Lomax inspires us to break open the secrets of our mind to discover individual and universal well-being. Through personal coaching, he helps enlightened investors thrive in creating environments for themselves and others to flourish abundantly in all life’s areas.
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