A Focus on PERMA Activities to Improve Well-Being

By Julia Behr, CVPM, CVBL, PPPC, CCFP - Director of Coaching Operations at Veterinary Growth Partners

Focusing on improving the well-being of yourself and your team can have a positive impact and lead to an improved culture. Happy employees are more productive, which is good for business. Employees that are highly engaged are less likely to leave resulting in increased employee retention, which is essential in today's competitive market. Every person on the team has an impact on your organizational culture so including everyone on the path to well-being will help each employee and your veterinary practice thrive.

Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, concluded that there are five elements to "well-being", which fall under the mnemonic PERMA:

  • Positive emotion— Positive emotions can only be assessed subjectively through feelings and opinions.
  • Engagement— Engagement is the presence of a flow state which is deep engagement and optimal performance where individuals are fully absorbed in what they are doing and experiencing a heightened sense of control, focus, and satisfaction.
  • Relationships—The presence of friends, family, intimacy, or social connections.
  • Meaning—Belonging to and serving something bigger than oneself.
  • Achievement—Accomplishment that is pursued even when it brings no positive emotion, no meaning, and nothing in the way of positive relationships.

There are several questionnaires you can take to assess your PERMA for free on authentichappiness.org after registering. They have a PERMA Questionnaire, a PERMA Meter, and The Workplace Perma Profiler, which is great for organizations to see opportunities to improve their team's well-being related to PERMA. You could also score each component of PERMA on a scale of 1 to 10.

You could also ask the following questions and have your team write out their score and responses:

  • Positive emotions – What brings you positive emotions?
  • Engagement – What activities do you get completely absorbed in?
  • Relationships – What relationships bring you joy and support?
  • Meaning – What larger purpose or cause do you feel drawn and connected to?
  • Accomplishments – What would you like to accomplish in the next week, month, and year?

Once you complete the questionnaires and activities, you could assess the information with the following takeaway reflection questions:

  • What areas are your strongest?
  • Where could you give more attention to thrive?

You could also fill in the table below with what you can do to support yourself and what you do to support others in the 5 elements of PERMA.

Table 1: A framework for using PERMA to promote workplace flourishing (Oades, 2011; Slavin, 2012, Seligman, 2012)

Seligman’s (2012) PERMA model:

 Description of the 5 facets for flourishing 

Recommendations for promoting flourishing 

What can I do to support myself in this area? 

What can I do to support others in this area? 

Positive Emotions: 

feeling joy, hope, and contentment 


Reduce stressors, promote positive coping & resilience 


Establish a self-care plan: I need 8 hours sleep, daily mindfulness, and physical activity, 1 full day off a week, and dinner with my family to cope with the stressors in my life. 

Normalize help seeking in meetings with staff, set clear expectations on work hours by not sending work-related emails on weekends and in evenings, be aware of the language I use 


feeling attached, involved, and an ability to concentrate on activities 


Create meaningful opportunities to draw on strengths & interests 


Focus on opportunities that are of intrinsic interest to me 

Establish strength-based goal setting. Ensure staff have regular opportunities to identify the projects and goals they are working on that build on their strengths and interests. 


feeling connected, supported, and cared about 


Promote opportunities for collaboration & interaction within & amongst teams 


Eat my lunch with staff at least 3 times/week. Hold walking or lunch meetings to connect more deeply with staff. 

Establish meetings that provide opportunities for staff to connect and interact with each other. Take time to acknowledge and appreciate where and how positive partnerships and collaborations have occurred. End each monthly check in meeting with the following question: “How can I be of further support?” 


feeling valued and connected to something greater than self 


Connect to purpose & promote reflection 


Reflect regularly on the following question: How does my work connect to the greater whole? What difference am I making?  

Establish clear priorities and goals. Provide regular opportunities for staff to reflect on: What difference are we making? How do we know? 


progressing towards goals, feeling capable and a sense of accomplishment 



Provide autonomy & celebrate success 


Establish clear annual goals and document my progress towards these goals quarterly. 

Document and give voice to accomplishments by sending emails to acknowledge and explicitly name where and how success has occurred.  

I hope this gives you some ideas to bring awareness and identify your strengths and opportunities to improve well-being through PERMA elements. If you need other support ideas and you are Veterinary Growth Partners Elite member, you can begin working with one of our Practice Coaches. Learn more here: Veterinary Growth Partners Introduction to Coaching Support. If you would like to become a VGP member, click here: Join Veterinary Growth Partners

About the Author

Since 2015, Julia Behr has been indispensable in the development and growth of the practice coach team at Veterinary Growth Partners. She brings more than 25 years of veterinary industry experience to the table; 20 of which were spent in veterinary practice management. Being able to connect hundreds of veterinary hospitals and practice owners with business-transforming resources is one of Julia’s favorite parts of her job.

Oedes et al. (2011). Towards a positive university. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(6), 432-439.
Seligman, M. (2012). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Atria books.
Slavin et al. 2012. PERMA: a model for institutional leadership and cultural change. Academic Medicine. 87, 1481.