When you’re an ambitious female business owner driven by impact, your work is your purpose and your passion. That said, when you’re a female entrepreneur and you’ve also got numerous other roles and responsibilities, some days it feels like the juggle is almost impossible.
We often have caring duties for the young and the old in our lives, responsibilities for most home-related duties (both physical and emotional) while also wanting to do meaningful work and share our incredible gifts with the world.
It’s A LOT.
Of course, the challenges don’t stop there. Research shows that female entrepreneurs are also likely to be more investable, more innovative, and more socially and environmentally minded than their male counterparts, and yet for every £1 of venture capital investment, 1p goes to female entrepreneurs.
Often, it feels like our only option is to try to just work harder. We become slaves to the perceived (patriarchal) wisdom of how to be successful and the first thing we sacrifice? Our wellbeing.
But here’s the thing, research from Positive Psychology shows that having better wellbeing actually makes us more likely to be successful.
It also makes us happier, healthier and kicks off a constellation of positive outcomes that ripple out to all of those around us… which, let’s face it, I’m sure our families and friends would appreciate.
When we have better wellbeing, we feel better, and we do better. Positive Psychology also helps us live a more authentic life, in which our actions are in line with our true needs, values and beliefs. This not only feels great, but it has also been proven to lead to greater motivation, meaning and fulfilment. What’s not to love?!
What is Positive Psychology?
Whereas traditional Psychology was hitherto concerned with healing people with dis-ease – like anxiety, anger, neurosis, or depression – Positive Psychology assumes you’re whole and is about increasing joy, satisfaction, and wellbeing to live our best lives and flourish.
It’s an evidence-based science that has been defined as:
‘The scientific study of optimal human functioning… to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive’
It’s a nuanced approach to life that doesn’t ignore the negatives but is more about strengths than weaknesses, as interested in building the best things in life as well as repairing the worst. It includes interventions that enhance happiness and wellbeing.
When I say wellbeing, I don’t just mean bubble baths and face masks (although these are always nice). I mean psychological wellbeing. When we improve our wellbeing, everything else improves as well… but you’ve got to be courageous enough to throw the old axioms of success out the window, to accept that YOU come first and your business success will follow afterwards.
So how can Positive Psychology help female entrepreneurs?
The truth is, Positive Psychology can help all humans, in their personal and professional lives. However, from my personal experience of being a female entrepreneur and working with hundreds of others, it’s my belief that women are particularly well-positioned to benefit from integrating Positive Psychology principles into our lives.
There are many ways you can introduce PP into your life, but in this article, I’m going to share one approach to maximising happiness and success in your life by applying the PERMA-V Theory of Wellbeing by Martin Seligman to your life.
What is PERMA-V?
This theory is an attempt to answer the fundamental question of what human flourishing looks like and how we can enable it.
Seligman argues that there are five building blocks that enable flourishing – with the acronym ‘PERMA – V’ standing for, Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment & Vitality. There are techniques within Positive Psychology to increase each of these key ingredients to wellbeing. (See *here for some).
This is a descriptive rather than prescriptive theory because we are all unique. Seligman says different people will derive wellbeing from each of these five building blocks to varying degrees.
What makes a good life for one person isn’t necessarily the same for another and there are different pathways for getting there. That said, once you learn the factors that enable flourishing for you, you can make more informed choices about how you craft your life.
P – to mean Positive Emotions
This route to wellbeing is all about pleasure and increasing positive emotions.
Positive Emotions include past emotions such as satisfaction, contentment, fulfilment, pride, serenity, gratitude – Present positive emotions include Joy, Calm, Bliss, Pleasure, Curiosity, Inspiration and Love and Future positive emotions include Hope, Optimism, Faith, Trust & Excitement.
Within limits, we can increase positive emotions about the past (e.g., by cultivating gratitude and forgiveness), our positive emotion about the present (e.g., by savouring physical pleasures and mindfulness) and our positive emotion about the future (e.g., by building hope and optimism).
E – to mean Engagement –
Engagement is being present, participating fully and focusing completely on a task. When we use our signature character strengths in an activity, we’re more likely to become engaged and reach a state of ‘flow’ –which gives us focus, energy, a feeling of authenticity and our best performance.
Flow is experienced when one’s skills are just sufficient for a challenging activity, in the pursuit of a clear goal, with immediate feedback on progress toward the goal. Flow can be experienced in a wide variety of activities, e.g., a good conversation, a work task, playing a musical instrument, reading a book, writing, building furniture, fixing a bike, gardening, sports training or performance, to name just a few.
R – to mean strong Positive Relationships in your life
Relationships are key to well-being. If you consider the experiences that contribute to well-being they are often shared – great joy, meaning, laughter, a feeling of belonging, and pride in accomplishment.
Connections to others can give life purpose and meaning.
Support from and connection with others is one of the best antidotes to “the downs” of life and a reliable way to feel up. Research shows that doing acts of kindness for others produces an increase in well-being.
M – to mean finding Meaning & purpose in your work and life
A sense of meaning and purpose can be derived from belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. There are various societal institutions that enable a sense of meaning, such as religion, family, science, politics, work organizations, justice, the community, social causes (e.g., being green), among others.
A – to mean Accomplishment or achievement in your life – this is about growth and mastery
People pursue achievement, competence, success, and mastery for its own sake, in a variety of domains, including the workplace, sports, games, hobbies, etc. People pursue accomplishment even when it does not necessarily lead to positive emotion, meaning, or relationships.
Originally PERMA was just these 5 letters, but increasingly people choose to add a ‘V’ at the end for Vitality.
This is to include the importance of physical vitality and energy management, paying attention to movement, good nutrition, and a good night’s sleep in the creation of wellbeing and resilience.
Looking at your life through the lens of PERMA-V
If you’re a busy female entrepreneur pulled in a million different directions, the most effective way to build a sustainable business is to prioritise your wellbeing.
Although making the switch to putting yourself before your business may be hard at first, when you focus on prioritising these core building blocks of wellbeing in your working week, you’re not only going to feel better but you’ll do better work too.
So when I talk to clients about their life satisfaction, we make sure we talk about health and fitness, relationships, family, spirituality, work and finance etc, but we also look at it through the lens of PERMA theory. Applying this theory allows you to look at your whole life and SEE the opportunities for increasing the areas within it which will increase your wellbeing and improve how you feel and what you achieve in your life.
This means when you plan your week, you’re not just looking to make sure you get some exercise in there, eat well, sleep well and hydrate yourself but you also set realistic achievable goals. You will look for opportunities for play and creating positive emotions, connecting with loved ones or building a positive network, while you look for opportunities to use your strengths and get into flow.
It’s not working harder to get greater success that’s going to make you happy, it’s more happiness & psychological wellbeing that’s going to make you feel better and have greater success.
When we’re in the ‘must work harder’ mentality, it can feel self-indulgent to be worrying about wellbeing. Adopting a perspective reframe is essential, because looking after your wellbeing is neither selfish nor a sign of weakness. It’s a radical act of challenging outdated social norms that are harmful. Moreover, it’s an evidence-based approach to greater success and it’s essential for the sustainability of your work and happiness.
To conclude, female entrepreneurs and freelancers are amazing and full of potential to change the world, but we’re up against it. We need to find ways of working that work for us, that truly allows us to make the impact we desire whilst flourishing, in both our lives and work. Positive Psychology is an evidence-based science that provides us with tools and approaches to help us do that.
Feel better, do great work, make incredible impact.
Wellbeing first, business second.
Now you know about PERMA-V – how are you going to apply this knowledge to your life? How are you going to support your wellbeing, so you can feel better, do great work and make even more impact?
I’ve made a handy free planner to help you inject more PERMA-V easily into your life –
Click here to download The female leader’s happiness + success planner.
*You’ll gain access to a super powerful bonus mini-course 30 Days to Feel Great & Do Great Work too!