Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Practical Tools for Purpose

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: Practical Tools for Purpose.

With work on Practical Tools for Purpose, we acknowledge that although people routinely strive to achieve their intended goals and aspirations, they are not always as successful as they would like to be, and successful individual strategies for achieving intended goals are not readily translated to broader audiences. Accordingly, we ask: What tools would allow the benefits of purpose to be realized in policy, educational, medical, and organizational settings? What interventions—at the individual level, the group level, or the societal level—can best promote the adoption, pursuit, and achievement of purpose in human life? How can the impact of such interventions be quantified and sustained across time? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

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Feb 25 2016
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

A Little Bit of Gratitude Goes a Long Way Promoting Your Love Life

According to recent breakthrough from psychological science, it turns out that people’s romantic relationships can have huge impact on their physical health. As a matter of fact, in terms of ramifications, a pleasant romantic relationship can have the same effect on longevity that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can have on mortality. The upshot should be apparent: it pays to build and nurture a congenial romantic relationship. But what exact should we do to achieve such a desirable goal? The answer might surprise you a little to say the least.

By Haotian Zhou
Jan 31 2016
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being

Finding happiness by choosing time over money

Life is full of decisions, and many of these involve tradeoffs between time and money. We all sometimes lean in one direction and sometimes in the other, sometimes choosing the more expensive direct flight over the cheaper one with a layover to save time, but sometimes choosing to work some extra hours for some extra cash. But what if you’re someone who routinely chooses time over money? Find out how your decisions about time and money can shape your happiness.

By Janina Steinmetz
Dec 16 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Valuing negative emotions protects people from lasting health effects of bad moods

Although we all seek happiness, life also has negative things in store for us that make us angry, sad, or anxious. Experiencing these negative emotions frequently can harm one’s psychological health and physical well-being. However, some people seem almost immune against the harmful effects of negative emotions. These people also experience negative emotions, but they don’t suffer lasting consequences from that. But how do they stay healthy even when faced with negative emotional experiences? So what exactly is their secret?

By Janina Steinmetz
Nov 18 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

No mountain too high: How a sense of purpose fuels people’s energy

A sense of purpose in life can alleviate the greatest hardships and give people a boost to deal with adverse circumstances. After having mastered getting a college degree, finishing a marathon, or paying off debt, people often say that knowing what these struggles were for helped them through difficult times. But how exactly does a sense of purpose help people to find the energy for life’s uphill battles? Recent research suggests that with a sense of purpose in life, the hill literally looks less steep.

By Janina Steinmetz
Nov 11 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Can You Mend a Broken Heart with A Sad Love Song?

It might come as a surprise to you that as a scientist, I frequently engage in a whole slew of activities that does zilch to the advancement of sciences. One thing I am particularly fond of doing is to wallow in my make-believe misery with Sinead O’Connor’s "Nothing Compares 2 U" playing at Level 11. Of course, this does not mean that I am twerking gaily to Jagger-Bowie’s "Dancing in the Street" when I truly feel miserable.  When the heart aches, I console myself with Def Leppard’s "Bringing on the Heartache." And I’m pretty sure you do it too. You might play "Love Bites" rather than "Bringing on the Heartache" to nurse your bleeding heart but that doesn’t alter the fundamental fact that you and I both resort to sad music to deal with our melancholy. Surely, great minds think alike but thinking alike rarely breeds great wisdoms. The self-pitying "Nothing Compares 2 U" and its ilk might just not be the way out of the heartbreak hotel.

By Haotian Zhou
Oct 29 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

The Secret to Building Rapport: What Extroverts Do That Introverts Don’t

Making friends is not always easy, but it seems to be more difficult for introverts than extroverts. Previous research has identified that the more extroverted you are, the happier you are and the more likely you are to be able to establish social rapport with others. But exactly what do extroverts have (or do) that introverts don’t to ease their social interactions? Recent research suggests that subconscious non-verbal behaviors may be the secret to the extroverts’ heightened ability to build rapport. 

By Brittany Christian
Oct 21 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Only humble wishes: How humility fosters self-control

We all love celebrities who still do their own laundry and go grocery shopping despite their multi-million dollar assets. We also admire the stars of sports who give all the credit for their successes to their teams. Humility seems especially endearing in times like these where unshakable confidence seems to be the key to get ahead. Humility undoubtedly makes people nicer and more pleasant to be around, but maybe being humble also benefits people in entirely unexpected ways. Read here what humility has to do with eating chocolate! 

By Janina Steinmetz
Sep 19 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

You are the greatest gift: The science of giving

One of the most beautiful things in life is the glow we see in someone’s eyes when we give them a gift they are truly happy about. However, we must admit that these gifts are hard to find, and ever too often do we select something that seems just okay to not show up empty-handed. Can science help us to become better gift-givers? Here is what recent research has to say about what makes a good gift that can help us connect with the person we’re giving to.

By Janina Steinmetz
Sep 13 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Don’t Forget Your Souvenir: How material possessions influence long term happiness

It has been argued time and time again that positive experiences are more important than material possessions when it comes to making us happy in the short term. But what about the long term? Does the joy of a wonderful experience fade more quickly than the happiness associated with gifts and gadgets? Recent research suggests that combining the material with the non-material might be one strategy to ‘get the best of both worlds’ in order to preserve and extend the feelings of happiness derived from life’s richest and most purpose-laden experiences. 

By Brittany Christian, Zach Bradley
Aug 18 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being

Do rose-colored glasses make you happy? How happiness and a positive focus influence each other

In our happy moments, the sun seems to always shine and everyone around us is warm and friendly. And, indeed, past research has shown that when we’re happy we perceive more positive things in our environment. But some people are naturally happy. What is their secret? Recent research suggests that naturally happy people might wear rose-colored glasses more often than the rest of us. 

By Janina Steinmetz

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