Flourishing and Personality

Flourishing and Personality

John M Oldham and Lois B Morris


There is a fascinating initiative at Harvard called “The Human Flourishing Program” (https://hfh.fas.harvard.edu).  The program has developed a Flourishing Measure that focuses on these 5 domains:

  • Happiness and life satisfaction
  • Mental and physical health
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Character and virtue
  • Close social relationships.

This focus on health and happiness is a refreshing antidote to the daily drumbeat of “breaking news,” which might sound more like a “Human Misery Program.”

A key cornerstone to well-being in these 5 domains is the presence of a healthy, sturdy personality.  But what does that mean?  It means the capacity for successful functioning in these four areas:

  • A well-established identity—do I know who I am?
  • A capacity for self-direction—do I know where I’m going?
  • A capacity for empathy—can I put myself in someone else’s shoes and see things from that person’s perspective?
  • A capacity for intimacy—do I have mutually gratifying, lasting relationships?

If you judge yourself to be in good shape in these four areas, then you’re ahead of the game, and you’d score well on the Flourishing Measures above.  And, as described in NPSP25, there are countless healthy combinations of styles that make each of us unique.  This doesn’t mean that life will always be smooth sailing, since trauma and misfortune can derail anyone.  But having a firm personality foundation provides resilience and helps anyone get right back on track.