‘PERMAH Wellbeing Theory – possibly the world’s top theory for guiding student wellbeing’ Part 4

Previously, we explored the ‘P’ and ‘E’ from PERMAH Wellbeing Theory.  This time we move on to the next part of this very useful way to look at wellbeing. But first, a recap:

P – Positive Emotion

E – Engagement

R – Relationships


What is the fourth element of PERMAH?

M – Meaning and purpose

If you’ve been with me for the journey of these posts so far, you’ll have read post 4: ‘Know Thyself’ (if you missed it, it’s worth popping back to read).  As pointed out in post 4, identifying your values, (or your ‘Why’ as Simon Sinek puts it) is about ensuring that your day-to-day activity includes or builds towards what brings your life meaning.

Meaning is about identifying a reason or cause that is bigger than yourself to which you feel in some sense that you belong.  It might be your spirituality, or saving the whales, it might be spreading your love of the literature of Keats, Milton, and Shakespeare, it might be a concept as simple and as deep as ‘family’ or as broad as ‘wanting to make people laugh’ or ‘sticking up for the little guy’.  I use the words ‘identify’ meaning rather than ‘find’ meaning because a lot of people experience this discovery as an uncovering of something that was always there, rather than something external to them that they choose to add to their lives.  Whatever it is, there is a sense of vocation, of calling, of doing what you were born to do, or sticking by what you were born to stick by in this concept of meaning and purpose.

A good question I’ve heard in respect to identifying meaning is:

“What is it that you couldn’t not do?”  That is, what is that something which, if it were absent from your life, would deprive you of a sense of there being meaning and purpose?

A second question is:

“What will your legacy be?”  In what way, large or small, would you have liked to make your mark on the world?  Sometimes this is phrased in terms of imagining you were somehow an invisible witness to your own funeral – and spelling out what it is you would want to most hear those close to you say about your life and its impact.

For some exercises on identifying your sense of meaning and purpose, go back and review post 4: “Know Thyself”. It is worth reiterating – taking the time to know yourself puts you in a much stronger position to implement an approach to student wellbeing.  A good quality implementation takes time and effort, and to be of lasting value, the effort you put in needs to be something that is not only ‘for the kids’; it also needs to be a genuine expression of who you are, something that adds meaning and purpose to you as a person in some way.

Next post in the ‘How to lead a Quest for Student Wellbeing’ series:

‘PERMAH Wellbeing Theory – possibly the world’s top theory for guiding student wellbeing’ Part 5

Nahum Kozak | Psychologist

Nahum is a Psychologist who uses the power of story, humour, and data to help improve organisations.  Nahum has a wealth of experience from school and corporate contexts – as Head of Positive Education and Senior School Counsellor (John Paul College), Corporate Coach (including experience with Griffith’s Work and Organisational Resiliency Centre) and Youth Minister (in Catholic Schools across Australia). He holds a B.A.(Psychology), M.Ed.(Educational Research: Theory and Practice), and is currently undertaking a second Masters in Organisational Psychology. He has presented at schools and conferences around Australia, and has had his research on wellbeing, social connection and sleep quality published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Nahum is passionate about building healthy, happy organisations.