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What is Flourishing?

We often long for a state of consciousness which denotes ‘life satisfaction’. At UEF we like the word Flourishing to describe this state. The word “flourishing” has its origins in the Latin language. It is derived from the Latin verb “florere,” which means “to bloom” or “to flower. “In Latin, “florere” was used to describe the process of a flower growing and blooming, and it was often used metaphorically to describe the growth, development, and prosperity of people, communities, or societies. Over time, the word “flourishing” was adopted into English, and it retained its metaphorical meaning of thriving, prospering, or being in a state of vibrant growth and development.

A flower blooms to its full potential as long as it gets enough sun, water, and air in the right proportions. A flower is happy in itself — a rose, for example, does not want to be a marigold. At UEF we believe that we can truly flourish by engaging in our three deepest longings of Loving, Learning, and Playing (LLP). These three are equivalent to the sun, air, and water in the case of a flower.

This structure on the face of it sounds too simple, but sometimes simplicity leads to the most profound insights. As Sir Isaac Newton, physicist and mathematician said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things”.

There is no agreed-upon answer to identify flourishing. It is something like the United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart quip about “knowing it when he sees it.” Not surprising, there  are several frameworks addressing Flourishing, all of them taking a Top-Down (the world affects me) or Bottoms-Up (I affect my world) approach.

A “Bottoms-Up ” approach looks at the importance of individual actions, behaviors, and choices in the pursuit of human flourishing. Factors impacting flourishing in a Bottoms-Up model include implementing positive habits and behaviors, mindset practices, relationships, pursuit of meaning and purpose, and self-care in fostering well-being at the individual level.Another view, that of Tyler Vanderweel of Harvard university, is that Flourishing is associated with five central domains: happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships.

In contrast, a “Top Down” outlook focuses on broader societal, systemic, and environmental factors that impact human flourishing. It considers factors such as social and economic policies, cultural norms, political systems, and ecological contexts as important determinants of well-being. Religious prescriptions for “how to live” will be other examples of top down approaches.Christians were urged to “love thy neighbor as thyself”, Muslims sought submission to Allah, Hindus emphasized on pursuit of Moksha, Buddhists in overcoming cravings, Confucians and Daoists preached a life accordance with the Way, and Aristotle advised to live in accordance with virtue. We can see these several top down approaches may not have universal appeal.

Our approach at UEF can be characterized as “Inside Out,” as we rely on the deepest of our longings, to Love, Learn, and Play. Since all humans regardless of culture, religion, or economic situation, share the same deepest longings, this framework offers universal appeal.

Hence, to Truly Flourish, all you need is to
Be a loving person
Become playful
Remain a passionate learner all your life.

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