PERMA – E is for Engagement

posted on: April 21, 2020
author: Brian Lomax

Bored girlDuring this lockdown for Covid-19, you are probably spending a lot more time at home than usual.  Are you bored yet?  Of course, there are a lot of things you could potentially be doing with your free time – if you have any.  Reading books, watching informative videos, taking online courses, etc. are all possible options.  But are these activities engaging for you?  Let’s explore the second pillar of the PERMA model – Engagement – so that you are choosing to spend your time wisely.

So much to do…

If you’re like me, you’re receiving a ton of suggestions on what you should be doing during this pandemic.  Admittedly, I have probably contributed to that deluge of suggestions – sorry about that.  I recognize that this is a difficult time and we have all had a sense of control and identity taken away from us.  Dealing with those feelings is important.

But there is also pressure to view this pandemic as the greatest learning and productivity opportunity in the history of the world.  And while that’s not a bad way to look at it, we need to be more discerning in what we choose to do with our time.

This should not be a contest to see who can read the most books while in lockdown or who can complete the most online courses.

“What?  You only read 75 books during the pandemic?  What a loser!  I read 200.”

-Hopefully, no one ever

We should not do activities solely for the sake of doing something.  Time is precious.  Don’t waste it doing something tedious.  Or because someone else thinks you should.  This is a moment to consider the quality of an activity, not the quantity of them.  And that’s why we need to look at engaging activities.

Woman reading in library

What is an engaging activity?

An engaging activity has specific characteristics that appeal to us and make us want to do it more often.

  • It’s challenging
  • It may be meaningful for you
  • You’re focused when performing the activity
  • You might lose your sense of time (flies by or maybe things happen in slow motion)
  • The activity is interesting to you
  • It engages one or more of your character strengths
  • You find the activity rewarding and enjoyable in itself

Many of these characteristics are part of what is called a flow experience.  Flow experiences are inherently enjoyable, therefore it makes sense to try and create this state more often in our lives.  Engagement in itself is a characteristic of a flow activity.

Based on these characteristics, can you identify one or more activities that would produce this level of engagement?  Of course, they don’t have to be related to your work, but they could be.  Hobbies or other enjoyable activities are also possibilities: cooking, music, crafts, crossword puzzles, sports, and various forms of art like painting and writing.

Man writing in journal

Find opportunities

If we are to use the PERMA model as a means of building resilience, it’s imperative to be more intentional in what we do with respect to these five pillars.   From an engagement perspective, that means identifying activities that are right for you, and that will help you to feel more connected to yourself and to what you are doing on a daily basis.

Making time in your daily and weekly schedule to perform these engaging activities will help you to feel like you are doing something worthwhile with your time.  Remember, this is about quality over quantity.  These activities should have purpose for you.

One activity that I am particularly enjoying is re-reading The Complete Far Side Collection by Gary Larson.  That probably says a lot about my sense of humor.  For 10 to 15 minutes a day, I go through the two volume set (which weighs about 20 pounds) and read those hilarious comics.  This activity boosts my mood (I laugh out loud at least once per night), and it is totally engaging.  The time flies, and I often don’t want to stop reading after the 10 or 15 minutes is up.  The good news is that I know I get to do it again the next day.

The other engaging activity that I have been doing more of over the last month is writing.  That includes posts like these, as well as keeping a hand-written journal about this strange era in our lives.  Those notes and observations might be interesting to revisit in a few years.  I encourage you to keep a similar journal yourself.

What little activities can you be more intentional about performing in the next few weeks?  How can they raise your sense of engagement?

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

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