The Ardell Real Wellness Self-Assessment Test for Exuberance
This self-assessment instrument is designed to reflect your knowledge, satisfaction level and general experience of Exuberance, one of four REAL wellness dimensions. Self-assessments for the Reason, Athleticism and Liberty dimensions are also available.
The self-assessment protocols are copyrighted; all rights are reserved. Visit donardell.com for licensing information regarding educational, corporate, non-profit or other uses of one or more of the four REAL wellness self-assessments, as well as a separate self-assessment test for stress management.
The purpose of all the self-assessments is to promote familiarity with and added commitment to REAL wellness mindsets and lifestyles. The overall goal is a philosophy guided by reason, inspired by exuberance, supported with athleticism and enriched by increased personal liberties.
The English word exuberance has a certain ring to it, so much so that even non-English speaking people probably recognize that it connotes a joyful, celebrant quality, rich with excitement, almost lustful (in a polite way), living with the positive emotion of cheerful ebullience.
Exuberance is about human flourishing.
As a REAL wellness dimension, exuberance is the category for happiness and joy, meaning and purpose, social and relationship connections, the quality of work, careers and more. It’s hard to go overboard seeking exuberance–synonyms for the term suggest its attractive qualities, including but not limited to jauntiness, high spirits, exultation, gaiety, effervescence, vivacity, zest and even chirpiness! Exuberance is expressed in the contagiousness of play, laughter, the giddiness of new (and old) love, the intoxicating effects of music and in varied forms of religious ecstasy. (Note: Mention of religious ecstasy in this context should not be seen as an endorsement of being slain in the spirit, dancing with poisonous reptiles, exorcisms or other forms of group squealing, shrieking, inability to stand or sit, loudly uttering apocalyptic prophecies, holy laughter or human barking.)
As with anything else taken to ad absurdum levels, exuberance can be and is in some cases experienced in unattractive, jejune ways. Three examples should suffice to make the point:
Artificial highs beyond the heights, with loss of one’s usual capabilities of sound judgment, as with overindulgence in chemical substances, such as drugs and alcohol.
Reckless decisions, as in irrational exuberance. (A phrase Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan coined to describe the dot-com bubble of the 1990s.)
Aberrant behaviors, as seen in mood disorders. For example, bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression, is an affective disorder defined by manic or hypomanic episodes. It’s a serious disease.
The last noted example of excesses are not poor choices, so much as medical conditions or cultural aberrations. They are cited only to recognize that exuberance, while a highly positive and desirable experience, can have a dark side, under curious and unusual circumstances.
For the most part, as a REAL wellness lifestyle experience and element of successful living, exuberance is a very good thing. It animates intellectual searching, risk-taking, creativity and survival itself. There is most likely a hereditary predisposition to exuberance; neuroscience researchers, among others, continue to explore the role brain chemicals, such as dopamine, play in positive moods and psychological resilience.
There remains much to discover about the phenomenon of human exuberance.
SCORING THIS TEST
The Exuberance self-assessment contains ten statements. Each statement is prefaced by a background commentary that provides a context for a fuller understanding of the statement to follow.
Please choose a number from one to five that reflects the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement. If you strongly believe that your thinking or situation aligns with the statement, place the number 5 as your answer choice in the space provided. If you strongly disagree, enter the number 1.
One and five are the two extreme positions.
The middle number 3 represents a neutral position, indicating that you are not sure where you fit or take a middle ground position for this statement.
The numbers 2 and 4 should be selected to express a modest alignment with one side or the other along the five-part continuum. The number 2 would reflect mild disagreement; 4 would signify mild agreement with the statement.
Upon completion of ratings for the ten statements, an interpretative commentary is provided based upon your cumulative score. A selection of ten Exuberance-focused books are included as recommended readings.
A NOTE FOR BEST RESULTS
This instrument is not intended as a competition, but rather for purposes of a personal self-assessment. Therefore, please be scrupulously frank with your self-assessment ratings.
The value of the assessment will be in the degree to which your score accurately represents your thinking. The cumulative score of point totals for all ten statements will determine the feedback provided. This should be valuable for making positive adjustments, if needed and desired.
Enjoy the process.
Many factors affect the quality of your life in terms of health in general and experience of exuberance in particular. These include genetics and where you were born and to whom. There are twelve recognized determinants of health; five seem most influential to your prospects for exuberant living.
Income and social status
Education and literacy
Social supports and coping skills
Statement # 1
My experience with respect to all or most of these determinants was and continues to be positive and beneficial. _____
Happiness is a prominent feature associated with exuberance. It is experienced in varied ways, but seven elements are commonly identified in studies of happy people: a sense of gratitude, wise choice of goals, effective time management, optimism, association with positive people, music appreciation and frequent expressions of love.
Statement # 2
These seven elements are regular features of the way I feel, value and experience living most of the time. _____
A recent article in Psychology Today by Suzanne Degges-White entitled, Four Keys to Happiness: Live in Harmony with Others to Best Enjoy the Music of Life (July, 2015), focused on just four qualities essential for happiness. One is gratitude, which has already been acknowledged. The other three are cheerfulness, friendliness and compassion.
Statement # 3
I consider the above three qualities, as well as that of gratitude, to be conscious features of my personality–and I strive to think and act accordingly. _____
Unlike the way we learn language and religion, namely from parents or guardians who raise us and others who influence our early years, most of us do not engage in much independent thinking about our unique purposes or other existential-like questions. Only after years of experiences and personal development do we develop a capability to identify and describe our own take on purposes and meanings, if ever.
As time goes on, we often make new discoveries, and our ideas about meaning change and evolve. Just when we think we’ve found our purpose (s), things happen and we realize that additional adjustments are in order. We might do well to learn to expect this, to remain attuned to further possibilities that seem of interest, sometimes compelling and even consequential in reshaping our reflections on such matters.
Statement # 4
While comfortable with my present views about meaning and purpose, I’m open to new learning or discoveries that could influence my thinking. _____
Many, perhaps most people, don’t contemplate meaning of life questions until near death, if then. One reason is because they, like 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, unconsciously perceive existence as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Life is indeed short. As JFK remarked at American University in 1963 a few months before his death, We all inhabit this small planet, We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.
Statement # 5
I am not troubled by death or given to forms of denial about the certainty of my approaching non-existence–and my thinking about the meaning of life is enriched by acceptance of my mortality. _____
Resilience means a capacity to resist, as well as recover from difficulties. When developed to a high level, resilience allows you to remain calm under duress, sustain a positive outlook, stay present in the moment despite distractions and stressors, be true to your best self and maintain confidence in trying circumstances. A well-tuned physical state contributes to mental alertness, flexibility and homeostasis–and vice-versa. A quiet confidence in your foundation purposes, positive social relationships and a mindset that enables adaptation to unfavorable change are key qualities of resilience.
Statement # 6
In light of the above background information about the nature of resilience, I consider myself a master practitioner of this aspect of artful living. _____
Laughter (fun/joy/humor) seems almost too good to be true. Claims for ititss benefits are legion and sometimes over the top. Long considered good medicine, laughter in its varied forms also feels great. Laughter could be a poster image of happiness. It bonds people, triggers desirable physical and emotional changes in the body, strengthens the immune system, boosts mood, distracts the body from pain and the brain from distress. Humor lightens burdens, contributes to hope, connects one person to others and keeps people grounded, focused and alert. It’s a wonder that it’s still free, always available and not trademarked.
Statement # 7
I get my fair share of laughter (fun/joy/humor) and, if I could donate some of my abundant supply, I would gladly do so. _____
No less an authority than The Beatles proclaimed that all we need is love, love is all you need. Maybe love is not quite all we need, but a good life of exuberant living is almost unimaginable without love. It truly is a many splendored thing; no doubt we all, like Elvis, want someone (or many someones) to love me tender, love me dear… till the end of time.
Statement # 8
I am loved and lovable and, like Goldilocks, the three bears and three bowls of soup at different temperatures, my love life (interpret freely) is not too cold, not too hot but just right. _____
Good relationships are important in all human connections. However, several qualities required for mutually satisfying communications with strangers take on even more consequence with intimate, long-term partnerships. The difference is that in the latter case, such qualities, particularly trust, support for the other person, conflict avoidance and resolution skills, shared values and the grant of sufficient freedoms are all crucial to success. These factors only skim the surface of good relationships. Other dynamics affect the success of primary relationships over time, particularly mutual respect, sense of humor, generosity of compliments, sufficient levels of affections, shared interests and responsibilities, adventures and spices that prevent boredom and so on. The payoffs of good relationships are enormous, but the costs of failure are high (40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce–and the rate for subsequent marriages is even higher).
Statement # 9
I am as satisfied as I could be with the quality of my primary relationship and all or nearly all of my other consequential relationships. _____
We all want to live, love, laugh and be happy. Basically, this entails being consciously aware of several things that are rather delightful about your days, such as fun things to do, captivating people to be around, good feelings about how you’ve turned out and knowing your needs are met, more or less.
Statement # 10
These sentiments fit my life to a T. _____
INTERPRETATION OF SCORE
Please add the total count for each of your responses to the ten statements. The range will be from ten to 50.
The following commentary is impressionistic, subjective and approximate; it is not based upon robust randomized clinical trials, nor does the author proclaim nor imply magisterium via ex cathedra sources of inspiration or certainty. Rather, the interpretation will but suggest the extent of your familiarity with the nature of Exuberance and mastery of this REAL wellness dimension.
And now, the interpretation of your score from an Exuberance perspective.
10 to 20
At present, REAL wellness attitudes, behaviors, skills and priorities associated with exuberance have not been well developed. However, the simple fact of exposure to the elements of exuberance in this self-assessment might prove to be a fortuitous encounter that opens new possibilities for you.
You already know, I’m sure, that life is not fair, not even close to being fair. Inequalities and injustices, prejudice and discrimination ensure uneven playing fields, in America and elsewhere throughout the world.
Who does not value a chance to live a life filled with happiness and joy on a regular basis, to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted? What chance do people have for positive adventures, for affirmation about the work they do, for developing norms that support mutually satisfying relationships, if raised in cultures and circumstances marked by poverty, violence, environmental decay, inadequate health care, overcrowding, miseducation and high rates of crime and alienation? Surely, the answer must be little to no likelihood.
These conditions are barriers to experiencing exuberance in a REAL wellness sense, and cannot easily or otherwise be overcome, even by heroic, exceptional actors.
However, despite the long odds, you can, with awareness of the elements of exuberance, with determination and with a little to a lot of help from your friends and caring others, advance little-by-little and bit-by-bit toward more experience of the positive qualities identified in this section of the test.
If you know where to look and whom to ask, you can move forward toward enjoying more exuberance in the future than you’ve known in the past.
21 to 30
You seem to be moving deliberately up the rungs on an imaginary ladder of emotional development. You might not have enjoyed the best possibilities for easy, largely unaware absorption of the background determinants of wellbeing introduced in the first statement. Your score range suggests benefits may come from three areas in particular: 1) personal initiatives in exploring selected coping skills, 2) more formal education in topics that interest you and 3) making lifestyle changes while developing more supportive environments.
Consider ways to lower your levels of intensity about varied challenging issues and assignments, work on mental flexibility and techniques to brighten your moods. Evaluate the seven listed elements of happy people and brainstorm under-appreciated small favors granted by having certain circumstances or people in your life. Also, assess ways to better manage time, pursue a truly cool goal in a systematic way, discover reasons to be more optimistic, associate with seemingly happy people and keep looking for love, especially in all the right places. And, don’t forget to play more!
Play time is vital, as much for adults as children. Make an effort to favor a playful outlook and demeanor. A playful mind is inquisitive and sees learning as exciting, as in an adventure. Efforts spent looking for creative outlets or indulging natural curiosities often lead to added purposes and, like play, momentarily distract from unpleasantries.
Sometimes initial outlets and curiosities develop into valued pursuits beyond a work or other taxing labors. Be sure to seek happiness outside a job environment. Look to the unfamiliar, to new arenas where you can experiment and try things. Henry David Thoreau famously observed that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. He was being polite; he was too kind to add that the rest are often caught in periods of loud desperation. Desperation is toxic to health and poisonous for play and exuberance. Never forget what you want and remember that success takes many forms, not all or most defined by salaries or power. Prestigious careers and happy people are not synonymous. Invent your own life’s meaning that is truthful and redeeming,
Welcome occasional and controlled exuberance, but always know when to curb your enthusiasm, to a degree.
Finally, see if you can invent ways to go about your business with even more cheerfulness, friendliness and compassion for others. While the old bromide about how we’re all in this together might be true, some people are in it while enjoying a lot more privileges than others. Many are no doubt less fortunate than you, and may need a little help from their friends, as well as total strangers. Reaching out and being of service provides its own returns in exuberant good feelings.
31 to 40
Well done–you are on the right track, well along to becoming a master of the Exuberance dimension of REAL wellness. You are but one level from the upper reaches of exuberance; thriving and flourishing is within your reach.
In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the Seven Ages of Man speech begins as follows:
All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances… ending with mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Poets, philosophers, theologians and others enthralled with the Bard’s eloquence and genius have searched for a moral in this and many other wondrous passages in the voluminous works of Shakespeare. However, no struggle is necessary in this case. Shakespeare is simply reminding us to keep perspective, an important lesson in the present context of exuberance. After all, what could be truer? We are born, we grow up, we do things and perform roles, both invented by ourselves and assigned by others. In time, we grow old, slow and fade away.
So, seize the opportunity to live fully, to experience as many and as much of life’s pleasures associated with exuberance as possible. That is, don’t be shy about such states as jauntiness, high spirits, exultation, gaiety, vivacity, effervescence, zest and, if so inclined, chirpiness! Exuberance is manifested in laughter, happiness, love, meanings felt consequential by ourselves, dancing, music and art – for starters. As noted, you are doing quite well – for best results, pick up the pace to the next level, namely, one that puts you in the 41 to 50 category, the Eagle Scout, five star general or Pope of REAL wellness category. You’re close–a little more of this and a little more of that and we’ll anoint you a Wonderbarus Personarus of Exuberability.
41 to 50
Outstanding. Congratulations. You seem to be a virtuoso of human flourishing, at or near the summit of ebullient thinking and acting.
Your score reflects a history of improved functioning over time. You are a savant of positive living, a sage of Exuberance, generally happy with life, generous with others, appreciative of the arts and familiar with multiple avenues to follow for humor, play and so much more.
Your standing also calls to mind specific qualities the great 19th century orator Robert Green Ingersoll identified in his superlative 1890 speech entitled, Improved Man. You appear to manifest qualities that Ingersoll foresaw for improved men and women.
Specifically, you seem disposed to:
Give to all others the rights you claim for yourself.
Be the enemy of all caste (inherited privilege), no matter whether its foundation be wealth, title or power.
Favor universal education and believe it the duty of every person to shed all the light he can, to the end that no child may be reared in darkness.
Support the gaining of useful knowledge, the development of the mind along the natural paths that lead to human happiness.
See to it that every child has an opportunity to learn the demonstrated facts of science, the true history of the world, the great principles of right and wrong applicable to human conduct – the things necessary to the preservation of the individual and of the state, and such arts and industries as are essential to the preservation of all.
Endeavor to develop the mind in the direction of the beautiful - of the highest art.
Regard those who violate the laws of nature and the laws of States as victims of conditions, of circumstances, and do what you can for the well-being of your fellow men and women.
Find your greatest joy in the happiness of others – your greatest reward will come from being loved by those whose lives you have enriched.
Be self-poised, independent, candid and free.
Use facts as the foundation of your faith.
In summary, it must be noted that society needs more REAL wellness masters of exuberance like yourself.
Ardell, Don and Welber, Jack. “Not Dead Yet: World Triathlon Champions 75+ Offer Tips for Thriving & Flourishing in Later Life.” Amazon, 2019.
Dalai Lama and Cutler, Howard C. “The Art of Happiness.” New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.
De Botton, Alain. The Consolations of Philosophy. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.
Donovan, Grant and Ardell, Don. Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy. Amazon, 2015.
Dunn, Halbert L. “High Level Wellness.” Arlington, VA: Beatty Books, 1973.
Friend, David and the Editors of LIFE. “The Meaning of Life: Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We Are Here.” Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1991.
Gilbert, Daniel. “Stumbling on Happiness.” New York: First Vintage Books, 2007.
Greeley, Roger E. “The Best of Robert Ingersoll: Selections from His Writings and Speeches.” Amherst, NY, 1993.
Jamison, Kay Redfield. “Exuberance: The Passion for Life.” New York: Vintage Books, 2005.
Kurtz, Paul. “Exuberance - Your Guide to Happiness & Fulfillment.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1977.
Seligman, Martin. “Authentic Happiness.” New York: Atria, 2004.
Watterson, Bill. “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.” Kansas City, MO: Andrew McMeel, 2005.
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