Finding Authentic Happiness

Many of us are looking for ways to find authentic happiness, whether consciously or unconsciously.  If that’s you, I want to introduce (maybe re-introduce) one of my favorite models of happiness and well-being (it’s identified as PERMA). I’ve used it widely with my clients in recent years. 

Are you are looking to flourish, be authentically happy, and live well? Read on. It will help if you are familiar with the band Coldplay. Their most recent record’s music and lyrics suggest that they have discovered the language for a flourishing life, as illustrated by the model (it’s known as PERMA).

The idea formed from some recent training I did (and subsequent reflection) on a Strengths certification program – specifically Gallup’s StrengthsFinder and the VIA Institute’s character strengths (the latter connects to the PERMA model). My Strengths that contributed to writing this piece:

  • With the VIA character strengths, love of learning tops the list.  I look for ways to share my learning with my clients, friends and family (or you dear reader, if you’ve decided this topic is for you). I look for better ways to help people understand ideas (new or old) – and honestly, it’s not always welcomed, especially by my 11 year old son.
  • One of my Gallup StrengthsFinder top strengths is connectedness.  I see connections like the one I’m articulating here.  Coldplay’s songs telling stories of loss, confusion about change and of renewal and growth (classic phases of how we cope with change), and. The songs that may be deemed overly positive follow on from older songs of loss and failure. 

Late last year, Coldplay released a movie, ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ that I saw with my 13 year old daughter.  We both loved the music, the lyrics and the narrative of the movie.  Their latest album and tour are the culmination of almost 20 years work, through many ups and some downs (most publicly the lead singer’s separation from his celebrity wife, but clearly not the only challenge they faced). 

In listening to their story, it seemed to me they had discovered what I’ve heard Ryan Niemec (of the VIA Institute) described as the ‘pathways to a flourishing life’.  This is the PERMA model, together with a description of the related character strengths/behaviors: 

  • Positive Emotions – vitality, optimism, humor and hope are examples of the positive emotions identified by VIA Character Strengths
  • Engagement – creativity, interest and enthusiasm are high when someone is engaged.
  • Positive Relationships – Valuing close relationships with others, generosity, and loyalty are key in having great relationships.
  • Meaning – Feeling blessed, a sense of wonder, openness and taking a big picture view are typically present when someone has meaning in their lives.
  • Accomplishments – Finishing what you started, understanding context, and feeling like you are contributing are behaviors that contribute to a sense of accomplishment.

I see this as a way for clients to build credit in their emotional bank account – the more I have, the more likely I am to be able to offset adversity and challenge.

So, where are these themes in Coldplay’s music, lyrics and in how they live as depicted by the movie A Head Full of Dreams (AHFOD)? 

  • Positive Emotions in AHFOD –  Zest, humor and hope are among the characteristics you see strongly in the Coldplay story.  They talk about the message of AHFOD tour being about happiness, peace and love.  There’s a lyric in ‘Up and Up’ that sums up the sense of hope, ‘you can say it’s mine and clench your fist, or see each sunrise as a gift’. 
  • Engagement – they talk about an approach that assumes that they are ‘still trying to make it’. AFHOD was a place they were planning to get to. You can see strong engagement with the audiences in Japan, Argentina, Brasil and France.  There’s no ‘if it’s Tuesday it must be Detroit’ for them, every show seems constructed with a sense of place. The lyric from ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ says, ‘you make me feel like I’m alive again’.
  • Relationships – they talk about the relationship between band mates as ‘brothers’, being part of the same tribe, and at one point they say that their manager (Phil Harvey) is their best mate.  Their family extends to the crew they’ve worked with for 20 years. I particularly like the lyric from Kaleidoscope to illustrate  the openness, ‘be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide’.
  • Meaning – the movie shows them behind the scenes about to play the Super Bowl half time show and their manager (Phil) reminds them that they have a great message to give. The sense of gratitude is very strong in the song called ‘A Head Full of Dreams’, where Chris Martin sings, ‘into life I’ve just been woken with A Head Full of Dreams’. It’s equally evident in ‘Amazing Day’, where the lyric is ‘and time seems to say, forget the world and its weight, and here I just want to say, Amazing Day’. 
  • Accomplishments – there were many mentioned in the movie – ‘Parachutes’, their first multi-million selling Platinum album, headline at the Glastonbury festival very early in their career, and their understanding that their ability to reach millions of people is a gift. Hearing the title song in a live setting, it’s clear that they’ve succeeded in engaging their audience in a very uplifting way – how can you not join in the ‘Ohhh, OhOhhh, OOhOh’ with Buenos Aires crowd?


Connecting PERMA and Coldplay offers concrete examples of the moments, the strengths and the behaviors that can help us live a flourishing life. 

  • Do a quick reflection – which aspects of PERMA are strongest in your life? Which may need some focused attention? Do have what you need to flourish? 

I’d love to get your comments either directly or through www.onnupcoaching.com.  I work with clients everyday who are using their strengths to create a path to flourish and thrive. Let’s talk about your path. 

If you need more detail on PERMA here’s an article that digs deeper into descriptions and examples – https://www.cleverism.com/perma-model-bringing-well-being-and-happiness-to-your-life/

The Playlist is on YouTube 

  • Up and Up, Adventure of A Lifetime, Amazing Day Kaleidoscope and A Head Full of Dreams are on both A Head Full of Dreams and Live in Buenos Aires.
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