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.
Blog Posts See All Types »
The Way I See It: Emotions That Exacerbate Egocentrism
Mentally stepping into another person’s shoes is believed to be one of the most remarkably unique capabilities of the human mind. But, just because we can entertain other perspectives, doesn’t imply that it comes easily. Inherently egocentric, we tend to be tightly laced in our own point of view and it often takes a few tricky mental maneuvers to get into someone else’s sneakers. What we might not realize, however, is that our own emotional states may undermine even the most sincere desires to connect with another person by understanding their point of view. Recent research identifies the types of emotions that exacerbate our natural tendency to (wrongly) assume everyone sees the world just as we do.
Counting the days: How to start preparing for the future
Most of us never have enough time. We feel like there are so many urgent tasks to tend to in the present that we often neglect the future. We assume that our future selves will somehow have more time, energy, and patience to deal with everything we cannot deal with right now. However, most of us never stop being busy, and thus we often fail to sufficiently focus on the future. Consequently, long-term goals in areas such as finances, health, and professional success may suffer. Pursuing purpose in life requires looking beyond all of the immediate and urgent things that are going on, and to focus on what really gives us meaning. How can we stop delegating tasks to our future selves and start working for our future now?
To Thine Own Self Be True
One of the deepest human desires is to truly be known and accepted by others. Genuinely authentic social connections imbue our lives with purpose and meaning in a way that is unparalleled by many of the other goals that we strive to achieve. However, people are not always authentic - speaking and acting in ways that are not necessarily true to who they are, what they think, or how they feel. While it is well-known that occluding our true selves from others makes us feel less moral, it is unclear whether personal moments of inauthenticity – when we are lying to ourselves – are perceived as violations of the same moral code. That is, do we consider ourselves to be less moral, undermining our own sense of purpose and well being, when we ignore Shakespeare’s wisdom ‘To thine own self be true’?
Why does everyone else have more fun than I do? How social media can make us unhappy
Many of us are active and frequent users of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These tools help us to connect with loved ones, to share our daily experiences with friends all over the world, and even to announce some of life’s most important and meaningful moments like an engagement or a pregnancy. At the same time, we are also passive users who observe the happy news and fun activities that other people share on social media. Considering the amount of time spent using social media and people’s tendency to post their most exciting experiences, it comes to question how using these mediums affects our well-being and our sense of purpose. Maybe, watching other people’s seemingly perfect lives can leave us with envy and unhappiness?
Having Trouble Focusing? A Dose of Cuteness May Be The Answer
For many of us, the sight of a cute baby animal brings an adoring smile to our faces. As anyone who has ever spent any time perusing Google images will tell you: people love pictures of cute puppies and kittens. Although gawking at the latest viral cat meme might seem like a waste of time, could it be that doing so is actually time well spent? According to recent research by a team of Japanese psychologists, the answer is a resounding yes.
You should be happy: How the norm to be happy makes people sad
We all love to be happy, and to be surrounded by happy others. Happiness is certainly one of the most fulfilling experiences and enhances our sense of purpose and meaning in life. Could there by anything wrong at all with wanting to be happy and wanting others to be happy? Surprisingly, recent research suggests a dangerous downside of our love for happiness. Read here how the valuation of happiness can paradoxically make people lonely and sad because they feel unhappiness is not accepted by others.
To decrease your bias, increase your love
As we reflect on the remarkable life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are reminded of the transformative power of love and kindness. We have come a long way in the fight for justice and equality since the days before King. However, our country’s dark history of segregation and racism still has a distressingly strong foot hold today. One need not look very far to see that we are a country divided in many ways, whether racially, politically, financially or spiritually. Negative attitudes (both conscious and subconscious) towards individuals that are different than us often underlie horrific, shameful and deeply unjust behavior, undermining the purpose and meaning that stem from unity and deep social connection. The famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” echo just as loudly today as they did 52 years ago. How then can we heed his call to foster love for others in our own lives in order to drive out the negative attitudes that often live just under the surface of our conscious awareness? Recent research suggests that practicing Lovingkindness meditation might be one small thing we can do at home every day to increase our regard for other humans more generally and reduce our biases against groups that are regularly marginalized in our society.
One Hug a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
During this frigid winter season, most of us would be more than happy to be on the receiving end of a hug from a friend, a relative or a love one. Not only does a hug communicate their love or affection for us, the physical contact that is part-and-parcel of a hug also warms us up. However, could a hug provide something more than just fuzzy good feelings? A recent study by a team of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that you might get some unexpected benefits from receiving a hug. This benefit is quintessential to leading a purposeful life.
Onto the Paper, Out of Mind: When note-taking leads to forgetting
To say that memory is indispensable to leading a meaningful life would be an understatement. At the very least, you need to remember where you are heading next lest you go astray on your quest for purpose. Most of us tend to turn to external memory aids of various kind, such as the old fashioned notepad or the growing list of note-taking apps, when dealing with the challenge of remembering what has been done and what to do. Writing our thoughts down is often helpful, but is there a downside to using these tools?, Recent research suggests that taking notes, instead of fortifying memory, can ironically trigger the forgetting mechanism of the brain. Writing things may tell our brain to write off that information, purging those memories from the mind.
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.