Important Goals, Meanings, and Relationships in Flourishing and Languishing States: Towards Patterns of Well-being
Applied Research in Quality of Life
Qualitative studies of lay people's perspectives on facets of well-being are scarce, and it is not known how the perspectives of people with high and low levels of well-being dovetail or differ. This research explored the experiences of people with high/flourishing versus low/languishing levels of positive mental health in three cross-sectional survey design studies. Languishing and flourishing participants were selected in each study based on quantitative data from the Mental Health Continuum
... Short Form as reported by Keyes et al. (Journal of Health and Social Behavior 43:207-222, 2002). Qualitative content analyses were conducted on written responses to semistructured open-ended questions on the what and why of important meaningful things (study 1, n = 42), goals (study 2, n = 30), and relationships (study 3, n = 50). Results indicated that well-being is not only a matter of degree-manifestations differ qualitatively in flourishing and languishing states. Similar categories emerged for what flourishing and languishing people found important with regard to meaning, goals, and relationships, but the reasons for the importance thereof differed prominently. Languishing people manifested a self-focus and often motivated responses in terms of own needs and hedonic values such as own happiness, whereas flourishers were more other-focused and motivated responses in terms of eudaimonic values focusing on a greater good. We propose that positive mental health can be conceptualized in terms of dynamic quantitative and qualitative patterns of well-being. Interventions to promote well-being may need to take into account the patterns of wellbeing reflecting what people on various levels of well-being experience and value.