Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Purpose & Well-Being

In exploring the human experience of purpose, the NPP project has identified several core themes that are particularly significant, and which provide a useful framework for organizing our activities.  This page displays the content from this website tagged for one of those themes: Purpose &Well-Being.

Work on Purpose & Well-Being recognizes that although purpose is commonly understood to be a source of deep personal fulfillment, little is known about just how individuals connect the sense, pursuit, and experience of purpose to their own well-being and happiness in everyday life.  To what extent do people accurately identify purposeful activities that are likely to improve their well-being? What factors promote the recognition of purposeful activity as an avenue to greater well-being? Under what conditions do people feel inspired and empowered to seek greater well-being through purposeful experience? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

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Dec 20 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Well-Being

When it Comes to Being Nice, It May not Pay to Go the Extra Mile

During the holiday season we are often told that it is better to give than to receive. These simple words speak to the importance of generosity to leading a balanced life. Giving to others not only gives us a deep sense of purpose, but it also lets others know that we are a nice and generous person. To say it simply, it pays to be nice. If being nice does indeed pay, does it pay even more to be exceptionally nice to others? Recent work from Nadav Klein and Nicholas Epley suggest a surprising answer to this question…

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou
Dec 12 2014
Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

How Your Partner’s Personality Might Get You Promoted

Choosing the person that you will marry will be one of the most important and defining decisions you ever make. Your spouse is likely to be a key source of joy, support, purpose, and meaning that is unparalleled by any of your other relationships. While the type of person you marry will directly influence your personal life in countless ways, it is less clear how your choice of partner might affect your success at work. Recent research suggests that the impact of your spouse’s character traits extends well beyond the home — predicting a number of work related outcomes such as overall job satisfaction, income and even likelihood of promotion.

By Brittany Christian, Janina Steinmetz
Nov 21 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being

Uncertain Rewards Boost Motivation

Our sense of purpose often prompts us to pursue new opportunities and pushes us to achieve new goals. However, these new pursuits often entail a larger degree of uncertainty about where we are going, which can lead to feelings of apprehension and anxiety. It certainly seems to be the case that uncertainty is an obstacle to us achieving our purpose. However, new research from Luxi Shen, Chris Hsee, and Ayelet Fishbach suggests that uncertainty can actually motivate us to achieve.

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou
Nov 14 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

Don’t Wear Yourself Out: The Consequences of Simulating Self-Control

Scientists have argued that one of the most unique and functional tools that we have as humans is the ability to mentally preview the future. This capacity to prospect makes it possible to set personal goals and to mentally practice the behaviors we are striving to achieve or perfect. In this way, imagination connects us to purpose, allowing us to focus on what we want most instead of simply what it is we want right now. Notwithstanding the myriad benefits of this mental preparation, recent research has suggested that in certain instances mentally rehearsing self-control can actually weaken rather than edify our resolve. Specifically, it seems that whether or not mentally simulating self-control undermines your future behavior is a function of the time, place and perspective that characterizes the imaginary event. 

By Brittany Christian, Janina Steinmetz
Nov 06 2014
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

A Green Way of Boosting Your Productivity

Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours in offices of one sort or another. Therefore, figuring out how to enhance workplace satisfaction and engagement would go a long way toward leading a purposeful life. A recent study by an international team of psychologists revealed that you can spice up your office life by simply sprucing up your office with a little greenery.

By Haotian Zhou, Alex Shaw
Oct 22 2014
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Well-Being

The Path to Purpose and Embracing Diversity

The United States is becoming increasingly diverse, which brings with it both new opportunities for positive interracial interactions, but also the possibility for interracial anxiety and conflict. In order to reap the benefits of diversity and to get a sense of purpose from interacting with new groups of others, it seems essential to minimize interracial anxiety. Interestingly, new research from Anthony Burrow suggests that having a sense of purpose in life can make one more comfortable interacting with members of other races. 

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou
Oct 20 2014
Purpose & Well-Being

Opinion Poll: Answer this poll and check back next week to see a blog post that addresses this quest

Opinion Poll: Answer this poll and check back next week to see a blog post that addresses this question!

By Janina Steinmetz, Brittany Christian
Oct 14 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being

It’s Lonely At the Top: The Unexpected Drawbacks of Extraordinary Experiences

When thinking about what brings purpose and meaning into our lives, people are often quick to look to extraordinary experiences. Our bucket lists are full of our biggest hopes and wildest dreams: go skydiving, climb Mount Everest, sip Chablis on the French Riviera, become a best selling author, win a Nobel prize. While these experiences enrich and diversify our lives, often turning out to be everything we ever hoped for (and sometimes more), they may also have a hidden or unexpected cost. In particular, it may be that the more extraordinary our lives become, the less we can relate to the considerably more ‘ordinary’ experiences of others

By Brittany Christian, Janina Steinmetz
Oct 01 2014
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

How to Win Friends by Giving Thanks

The surprising long reign of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People on the best-seller list undoubtedly attests to the importance of friendship and other social relations to a meaningful and successful life. This fact leads people to try many things to make friends. However, Is it possible that in our fervent quest for that sure-fire relation-building technique, we have lost sight of a simpler way to make friends? Recent research suggests that a cultural practice that we all seem to loathe is actually an effective way of winning friends.

By Haotian Zhou, Alex Shaw
Sep 24 2014
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

Finding Happiness in Remembrances of Things Past

Who among us has not smiled and felt a sense of accomplishment and purpose when reminiscing about past triumphs? Of course, our past is not just a highlight reel and is filled with uneventful happenings hardly seem worthy of a place in our finite memory. However, is it possible that these often forgotten experiences could actually be a source of happiness and purpose too? Kim Zhang and colleagues' recent work suggests that we do indeed get joy from a Proustian rediscovery of lost time and undervalue the joy we get from such rediscovery. 

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou

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