Optimal Human Functioning


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Optimal Human Functioning has been described by psychologists among other experts as well being of a person (Diener, 2000), as the overall happiness of an individual, as the optimism level in a person (Peterson, 2000), as the resilience, hope (Lopez et al., 2000), the ability to cope with stress (Folkman & Moskowitz, 2000), and the amount of self determinism or a combination of all these (Schwartz, 2000). Sheldon, 2004 states that subjective well being are multiply determined; and research considers the effects of many types of determinants, located at many different levels of analysis. He further tests the hypothesis psychological need-satisfaction, a positive big five trait profile, good personal goal progress, high self esteem, positive social support, and happiness conducing cultural membership which each person would uniquely predict SWB.

Sheldon (2004) defined it as “the scientific study of ordinary human strengths and virtues” and “a more open and appreciative perspective regarding human potentials, motives, and capabilities” (p. 216). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) divided it into three domains. At the subjective level, it is measured in feelings of satisfaction that one has felt in the past, their well being, and contentment; this combination brings happiness in a person’s life. People consider that traits such as capacity for love, courage, interpersonal skill, perseverance, and spirituality last at the group level; these virtues the institutions are helping us to be better citizens and to be more responsible.

Optimal Human Function


Looking at Personality as an optimal human function, a person’s personality is vital. Here personality is an organized set of characteristics that are a dynamic to a specific person; these characteristics influence his or her behaviors and motivations.

Contrary to the notion widely held, personality is more than what one is perceived to be; it is more of who someone is. This is also influenced by one’s feelings, thoughts and an individual reaction over time when dealing with a situation. The situation may be pressure from external factors, stress, or fear.


Sheldon, 2004 states that, people can sustainably increase their SWB; if intentionally and appropriately tailor their lives. Various researches done before have concluded that one’s genetics plays a particularly crucial role in character formation, as well as in their attitude and happiness. Sheldon, 2004 adds that, happiness intervention effects are not just placebo effects; happiness is, however, the ultimate goal that people pursue in their life time. He proceeds to note that is a result of a great deal of contemporary research. For one to be happy, their goals and objectives in life must have taken the route that leads them to SWB.

Self control

Self control has been defined as the art of mastery of practicing self control; this is the behavior and desires that one may have towards something. It is sometimes called impulse control. Many things, like glucose levels in the brain, affect one's ability to exert self-control and it is also noted that having low glucose levels in the body has particular bad consequences, such as, for example, low self control especially in unfamiliar situations.

Personal Strength

Personal strength is referred to as specific unique skills that one has and make him or her different from other people; they are also called ‘signature strengths’. These strengths help a person feel more confident also to experience considerable self esteem that is extremely vital to human beings. It also helps one express and celebrate achievements in a way that leaves them feeling string and readiness to move on with life. When faced with fear, people tend to lose the strength to face their fears; and they may often opt to walk away. Sheldon, 2004 states that fear may make a person search for security at the expense of self actualization.


Optimism is defined as the confidence and hope that one has; this is mostly in cases when people hope to be successful in their endeavors. Optimism makes one have positive thoughts about the outcome in a situation. Sheldon, 2004 states that positive emotions are vital because they offer promising solutions to problems; therefore, they create optimism and other crucial skills that are important in overcoming problems.

Most researchers agree that optimism is a trait that one inherits from their family; however, optimism is also influenced by the environment and the people around. What is more, attitude towards optimism is also attributed to health condition and financial status Optimism can be learned to achieve optimal human functioning. The process of learning to be optimistic is attributed to a personality, and most people associate failure with lack of optimism in life.


Hope is defined as the arousing state that is responsible for a positive outcome in one’s life, especially in related events; having a hope eventually gives the expected outcome. When a person keeps hoping he/she achieves everything they want to. Psychologist, C.R. Snyder, state that people who have hope are compared to car engines because they keep reminding themselves that they can do the impossible.

Having hope is also a way of life to some people, because they have learnt to think in a certain manner; that is, there is a hope in both the perception of the desires to achieve certain goals and the requisite motivations to use those routes. Fear closes us down. The actions become rigid and predictable. Pessimism pervades a self-talk and drives our decisions. Fear has a negative impact on people's bodies and it also affects our health. One can feel it ‘eating their body’ as it rises and triggers the stress hormone that makes one scared.

When people are faced with many problems, they experience helplessness and tend to give up easily; however, a hopeful person confronts the problem instead of running away from it. A person should not run away from a problem; instead he/she should focus on ways to solve the problem. This ensures that every person in the society can make a change; and at the same time this helps people fight the intimidation that is a result of the fear.


Resilience means being able to adapt to life’s misfortunes, setbacks and hardships. In achieving optimal human functioning, resilience is an attribute that cannot be ignored; for instance, when one should have the strength to bounce back and fight whatever they feel is intimidating them, instead of braking down and losing hope. People who are resilient always find the strength to fight, regardless of the situation they are in.

When one lacks resilience, they keep dwelling on the past problems that they have had and they seek sympathy, because they feel they are victims; and the result of this overwhelming feeling can be fatal to them and the people around them. This might result in unhealthy behaviors, such as drug abuse and alcoholism, as a way of overcoming their emotions and failures. Sheldon 2004, argues that most people are happy in life because of their human resilience; this is because resilience is vital in every human’s innate equipments. Being resilient does not make the problems a person is facing to disappear; it gives them the strength and optimism to see through these problems. It also gives them the meaning of life and the ability to enjoy life regardless of what they are going through.


This is the realization and understanding of situations, events, and circumstances, which result in the ability of a person to make concrete judgments, perceptions, and actions upon understanding a situation.

A recent study indicates that someone’s IQ, education level and gender is what makes a person wise. Wisdom, therefore, makes a person able to reason in order to come up with a solution to a problem and conflicts he/she might be faced with. Sheldon, 2004 states that virtues such as wisdom are the core characteristics that are valued by human beings; other virtues such as courage, humanity, self control, and resilience are also valued by humans.

Other people define wisdom as both the experience and knowledge that one has concerning general situations in life; wise people are, therefore, are expected to make reasonable decisions that can solve a problem or help others.


This is the ability to enjoy what one has and remain satisfied with whatever one can afford; when one is contented, they do not wish to have what other people have but rather remain contented with what they have. When a person in this state, he/she is happy with what he/she can afford and a lack of something does not make him/her sad or wish he/she had it. This is a virtue that is found among unprivileged people especially or those who are impaired. These people appreciate themselves and they are happy with the conditions they are in.

Interpersonal skills

These are the skills that make one able to communicate with other people; it is the manner in which they pass their message and how other people receive it. Most people with excellent interpersonal skills acquire leadership positions in the society, because they are considered as friends and listeners. They always try to understand other people and help them to solve their problems, regardless of the situation they are faced with.


Optimal human functioning is therefore associated with many attributes that a person has; this in turn makes it possible for someone to be considered an optimally functioning being. These attributes, such as hope, resilience, self control and other characteristics that have been discussed above, are what makes a human being complete and acceptable in the society.

For people to live well, they should have a moderate life that includes avoiding extreme situations that might be harmful to them in the long run. Therefore, it is acceptable for a person to combine all the above mentioned virtues but to a certain extent. Trying to have all the virtues can be difficult to a person; therefore they might end up harming themselves, instead of doing good. A person’s health condition also acts as a way of ensuring that he/she lives a virtuous life; when one is having a healthy diet, they do not complain of issues like sickness or hopelessness.

It also evident that most of the positive personal attributes that elevate us as human beings qualify as attributes of optimal human functioning, that brings humans to live in harmony with each other and with their selves.

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