What would make life not worth living?
What makes life worth living
A more recent study by the Psychological Institute of the University of Zurich has explored the concept of “fulfillment in life”, which has hardly been studied so far. What makes life worth living What makes people from different generations and communities flourish? What is important in life? We asked the project manager Doris Baumann about the results.
Ms. Baumann, you were the project manager for the new study entitled “Values and ideas about life from people from five generations”. How did you come up with the idea of researching the concept of “fulfillment in life”?
I examine the subject of fulfillment in the context of positive psychology, the science that deals with the successful life - consequently those factors that make individuals and communities flourish. I have been interested in what promotes a good life in all phases of life, but also especially when it comes to aging. Now this topic seems to be very topical and relevant, especially in view of the longer and healthy life expectancy. We have an unprecedented opportunity to make something out of this free time and to shape life in such a way that one can look back on a fulfilled life. I am personally motivated and inspired by the life of my father, who for me represents a role model for fulfilled aging. Finally, through various discussions with the main supervisor of my dissertation, Prof. Dr. Willibald Ruch, came up with a specific topic and is very grateful to be able to investigate this extremely exciting topic.
In addition to the often mentioned “great love”, what events are there in life through which one can flourish and feel fulfilled?
Fortunately, the results of my study show that fulfillment can be drawn from different sources. For example, nature is a place that is experienced as very fulfilling, but also the profession, non-profit activities, learning and personal development, having a life task or achieving a life goal are classified as fulfilling. An event is a special occurrence, whereby what makes life fulfilling is also related to a longer time perspective. The personally important things in life that contribute to a fulfilling life usually require a long-term investment and commitment, such as cultivating friendships, cultivating a hobby, raising children or acquiring expertise in an area.
What are the differences between the age groups?
Initial results indicate that people across the three age groups (18-39, 40-64, 65+) experience fulfillment in nature, with the oldest age group finding this source to be even more important than the youngest. Furthermore, compared to the youngest, the middle and oldest age group attach greater importance to the fulfillment of the job, learning and personal development, a life task. Experiencing fulfillment in spirituality seems to increase with age.
And what are the prerequisites for experiencing an activity as fulfilling?
Activities that you love, that you experience as meaningful and in which you can contribute your own strengths, are experienced as fulfilling. For example, generative activities, in which values, knowledge and experiences can be passed on, also contribute to fulfillment, in that people experience meaningfulness, feel needed and can make an impact in the lives of others.
Do you need a certain attitude towards life or a certain personality so that you can find fulfillment in life at all?
There are various attitudes and qualities that are beneficial for experiencing a fulfilling life. A positive and hopeful view of the world helps us to be proactive and to shape life consciously, to pursue our own goals and to realize dreams. If we see life as a gift and enjoy life (joie de vivre), we will also find life more meaningful and want to contribute to the community and well-being of future generations. Not to be forgotten is the quality of courage, which helps us to live according to our own values and convictions, to remain true to ourselves, and to pull off personally meaningful things, even when we are faced with setbacks. Achieving a fulfilled life requires that we also take risks, e.g. leave our own comfort zone in order to seize an opportunity in life. As a rule, people do not regret what they have dared and then did not work out, but rather regret what they have not done and that they have not dared enough.
Do you have another tip for us on how we can find more fulfillment in everyday life?
It is fulfilling when we can express ourselves in activities and activities, but also when we have the feeling that we are doing something positive for others. We can therefore consider where we want to increasingly use and develop our own strengths in combination with our own interests. What do you want to achieve, where or for whom do you want to make a positive impact? In addition, we can consider whether we should give the things that are really important personally, over a longer period of time, the appropriate priority. In order to achieve a fulfilled life in the long term, it can also help to look at life from the end: What would we regret at the end of our life if we had not tried? Or to put it another way: what do we want to look back on in old age?
And what fills you in life, how do you flourish?
I experience great fulfillment in my professional activity, which enables me to do what I enjoy deeply, to examine topics that inspire me and to experience a lot of meaningfulness in the process. It also fulfills me a lot to see when people in my family or in my environment can develop and they succeed in their endeavors. This gives them a place in life and in society where they can show their uniqueness, realize their potential and give their best - for their own fulfillment, but also for the benefit of the community.
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