Beyond Happiness: Why a Psychologically Rich Life Is a Good Life.

January 18, 2024

Beyond Happiness: Why a Psychologically Rich Life Is a Good Life.

May 29, 2023

Do you want to be happy or successful or both? You hear this question at personal growth retreat centers or with coaches and their clients. It turns out this question doesn’t factor in research by two social scientists who’ve shown that the ultimate aspiration should be a “psychologically rich life.” Shigehro Oishi and Erin Westgate define this as “a life characterized by a variety of interesting and perspective-changing experiences.”

You can learn more about the study in this article.

What does all that mean?

The three key characteristics of a psychologically rich life are variety, interestingness, and perspective-changing experiences. The “Psychologically Rich Life Questionnaire” taps those characteristics.

  • Variety: “My life has been full of unique, unusual experiences.”

  • Interest: “I have had a lot of interesting experiences.”

  • Perspective changes: “On my deathbed, I am likely to say, ‘I have seen and learned a lot.’”

You don’t see comfort, security, achievement, agency, meaning, or purpose here. Instead, you see the qualities of someone who is on a journey. Interestingly, the qualities of a psychologically rich person mirror those of people who tend to live long, healthy lives. They’re curious, open to new experiences, independent, spontaneous, and risk-taking, and they feel their emotions fully. They realize life is not a dress rehearsal. They’re not holding back, and they’re not dwelling on regret. 

According to the researchers, people who lead happy lives get personal satisfaction, people who live meaningful lives get to contribute to society, and people who live psychologically rich lives are rewarded with wisdom (and they’re more fun to talk with at a cocktail party). The researchers believe this wisdom comes from the many different life experiences of people who lead psychologically rich lives. These experiences introduce them to different perspectives and show them life’s complexities.

So, you don’t have to choose between success and happiness as another option exists. It isn’t just Auntie Mame who can live a psychologically rich life. Maybe you can as well.

-Chip

P.S. My new book “Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age” is now out. Would love your help in offering an Amazon or Good Reads review - assuming you enjoy the book. Maybe you’d like to create a book club discussion group? Here’s a discussion guide that you might enjoy. 

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