Johann Sauermann is Senior Consultant at FACT Consulting and certified “Practitioner of Positive Psychology” according to EUPPA (European Positive Psychology Academy).

A brief review

Around the turn of the millennium, Martin Seligman, as president of the American Psychological Association (APA), began the swing away from looking at mental illness toward achieving a fulfilling life. The idea was not to “correct weaknesses” (or cure mental illnesses) in the future but rather to promote positive emotions and build strengths and virtues. Formulated on a scale, people should not just go from “minus 5 to minus 3,” but rather from “plus 2 to plus 7.”

About happiness and well-being

Seligman started then with the happiness factor (left column) – an approach that has since evolved into the theory of well-being (right column).

On to “PERMA” …

The theory of well-being cleans up some shortcomings of the happiness theory. For example, happiness was originally measured by asking about life satisfaction – but the answer was 70 percent shaped by the mood someone is in at the moment. Well-being can be viewed in a more differentiated way here.

So what exactly does well-being mean? According to Seligman, the knowledge building of well-being is based on five elements, which are encompassed by PERMA as a short term:

  • Positive emotion (positive feeling, being happy)
  • Engagement (commitment, interest)
  • Relationships (positive relationships)
  • Meaning (purpose, significance in life)
  • Accomplishment

These elements have the following properties in common:

  • Contribution to the well-being
  • People strive for the sake of the thing itself
  • Each element can be defined and measured independently of the others

So what does this mean for organizations?

The approaches have long since arrived in those companies for which mediocrity is not enough. In the pursuit of excellence, of extraordinary success, “Positive Organizational Development” and “Positive Leadership” are used. This leads to a win-win situation: If the employees are doing well, the organization is also more successful.

The example of focusing on strengths can be used to illustrate this in concrete terms:

  • It makes more sense to pay attention to the strengths of employees and what they are good at than to focus on their weaknesses or to constantly improve them.
  • If managers focus more on the best performers, the output in the team can even be doubled
  • When employees’ strengths (and not weaknesses) are reflected in feedback, they are more engaged and productive
  • In organizations where employees can do what they do best every day, productivity is 1.5 times higher than in “normal” organizations.

At you can find out your strengths to use in achieving your goals. (Your participation will also support current research in the field of personality psychology and diagnostics). If you are interested, take the time – sign up to learn more about yourself, who you are, and your character strengths.

Try it out, we also continue to report on the topic and give suggestions!



Martin E.P. Seligman, “The Happiness Factor” – Why Optimists Live Longer
Martin E.P. Seligman “How We Flourish” – The Five Pillars of Personal Well-Being.
Kim Cameron, “Positive Leadership” – Lecture and workshop at the Positive Psychology Tour 2016, Vienna.