According to research in a new field of science — existential psychology, the question of the meaning of life is not at all empty or meaningless. The main questions that people ask themselves play an extremely important role in their lives. Existential psychologist Joshua Hicks tried to reduce the ways of finding the meaning of life into a short formula.
Joshua Hicks, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, studies existential psychology. He strives to understand the “main questions” of life. He describes his work as the study of people’s subjective sense of whether their life has meaning.
Psychologists generally agree that there are three main sources of subjectively meaningful existence:
— Coherence of existence. A person’s life is experienced by himself, as a whole, and not a set of random fragments.
— Long-term goals. A person’s life is built around long-term, usually difficult-to-achieve goals. The very existence of such goals in many ways ensures the connectedness of existence.
— The belief that your actions matter to other people. A person should not focus only on himself, only on his long-term goals, he should feel that his activity is important for others as well. Imagine a writer writing a long novel. His existence is bound and subordinated to a difficult goal. But if he does not see his work printed, read and evoked a lively reaction from other people, his life will be meaningless.
The fourth factor
In their latest study, Hicks and his co—authors argue that in addition to “big tasks” there are also small ones, and it is extremely important to appreciate and find beauty in your everyday experience – this is the fourth fundamental factor for finding the meaning of life.
Scientists surveyed the study participants how strongly they identify with statements related to the search for beauty in life, and assessed how such searches for everyday beauty correlate with the meaningfulness of life as a whole.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that big goals in themselves, apparently, are not enough for a person to feel the meaningfulness of his existence. He needs some kind of daily reinforcement. But not everyone succeeds.
According to Hicks, people with a certain personality type recognize inner beauty better, but this does not mean that everyone cannot develop this skill. According to him, in order to appreciate the little things in a rapidly changing world, people just need to slow down.
The scientist says: “The meaning is around us when we can feel the natural beauty of the world. It can be the beauty of another person’s face, the food we eat, or the songs we listen to. Cell phones and social media, I think, detract from our sense of meaning. All these means of communication are interesting and important, but there are too many of them, and they can distract from what is real, for example, from natural beauty.”