Applied Psychology

Applied Psychology

Quotes on Meaning Provide Inspiration

quotes on meaning enlighten March 11th, 2018

Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author of the epic War & Peace, discovered that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  Tolstoy was an interesting figure.  Not only did his belief in passive resistance influence Gandhi later in the twentieth century, Tolstoy contributed to the world’s understanding of meaning in life.  Though he was wealthy, noble, and famous, he was not happy.  At age 50, according to Irving Singer in the book Meaning in Life, he had a “breakdown,” a mid-life crisis as it were.  Singer noted that the conditions that preceded the author’s despair, “in some respects resemble the condition of many affluent baby boomers in present-day America who feel a sense of emptiness even though they may have satisfied their own personal ambitions and lived up to the demands of their society. …they are perturbed by the possibility that their lives may be ‘meaningless.’”  I believe Tolstoy’s and others’ quotes on meaning, echoed in his wise words, can be helpful to us as we move through the world.

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How to Find Happiness in Modern America

happiness March 9th, 2018

Attitude is everything, so they say. There is truly something to that. According to one strain of research, our happiness is about 50% “determined” by our genes. There is little we can do to stray very far from our “set point” level of happiness. A death will bring us very low, and that “new car smell” will give us a happiness bump for days, perhaps weeks. A promotion will engender some greater satisfaction, but it’s effect, too, will fade (perhaps only leaving a somewhat larger paycheck and potentially greater stress associated with increased or different responsibilities). The point is, If genes account for 50% of one’s level of happiness, what does that leave us with? This is a blog about psychological research, applied philosophy, and values and virtues such as personal growth, free will, and responsibility.

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Meaning in Life is About Involvement

meaning in life March 7th, 2018

I was reading a piece by the very influential philosopher (and fellow generalist!) Robert Nozick, as part of my class on meaning in life. The excerpt comes from his book Philosophical Explanations. In this blog, I want to share some of my understanding of Nozick’s approach to finding meaning in life. In a word, it’s about connectedness to things outside yourself which have intrinsic value. People, pursuits, ideas, causes – it’s about getting out there and transcending yourself. The quotes set apart in blue are his, though not necessarily from this book. Just relevant thoughts by the late, mostly-great philosopher, Robert Nozick.

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Fulfillment and Happiness Are Worthy Goals

fulfillment and happiness March 5th, 2018

According to half of the population, it’s all about happiness. Whatever gets you through the night, as it were. Football, nachos, sex, rest, hanging out by the pool – these are considered lower-level forms of happiness. The extremely influential 19th-century philosopher and more-or-less libertarian John Stuart Mill, however, noted that in this “utilitarian” pursuit of the greatest happiness by the greatest number, much is lost. He favored higher pleasures, and noted that it is better to be Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied. American writer George Will put it this way: “Modern Americans travel light, with little philosophic baggage other than a fervent belief in the right to the pursuit of happiness.” We can do better, and go deeper; somewhere between pigs and philosophers lies the truth. In this blog, I will explore the fundamentals of finding fulfillment and happiness, considering them as worthy goals for a person who wishes to live life in the best possible way. Psychology and philosophy will assist me, as usual!

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Humility is the Opposite of Certitude

humility February 22nd, 2018

We are smack-dab in the middle of the white-hot debate about guns, mass murder, 2nd Amendment rights, the power of gun manufacturers, democracy, and peace in America as of this writing. I sometimes lock horns with my intellectual and erudite interlocutor, Robert L. Lloyd, Ph.D., and this topic is no different. Though we both own, gosh, ten guns between us, I tend to be less of a 2nd Amendment supporter and I see public violence a bit differently. The larger issue  beyond what works and what doesn’t, how politics either facilitates or impedes social progress, or whether America is looking at a bright future or if we are witnessing the sclerotic attempts at social change that characterize all empires in decline  is virtues of civility and humility. In this blog, I recapitulate a bit of our dialogue on guns specifically, but conceptualize the heart of the matter as certitude, intellectual humility, willingness to hear the other, compromise, and unity. Many additional quotes about humility, quotations on certitude, and tolerance quotes are brought to the fore.

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Is Education 2nd or 3rd Place at Elite Universities?

education February 17th, 2018

I am on a liberal education trip these days. I have zipped through books with titles such as In Defense of a Liberal Education; Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life; and Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. It’s a fascinating subject, considering I like things ancient, think Good Will Hunting and Dead Poet’s Society were fantastic movies (can you tell that I miss Robin Williams!?), and spend a heckuva lot of time reading and recording fantastic quotations about values. My latest acquisition is by scholar William Deresiewicz and is entitled Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. In this blog, I highlight some interesting quotations about education and reflect a bit on the Ivy League, America’s values, and what education means.

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Meaninglessness and Finding Meaning

meaning of life February 10th, 2018

This blog is an analysis of the short essay of Richard Taylor’s, “The Meaning of Life”, from his book Good and Evil (2000). Questions of meaninglessness, meaning, will, existentialism, free will, determinism, despair, and hope are touched on. In the end, the questions are asked, what a human is meant for, what makes him truly happy; what makes her have the will to go on? It is an easy argument to follow, and the culmination is fairly hopeful. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus is integral to the essay. Quotes about meaning bookend it.

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Happiness: Tips and Insights

happiness February 8th, 2018

The Week (a weekly magazine I recommend) put out a little report on “the science of happiness,” with the question being asked: “Can we train ourselves to live happier, fuller lives?” Happier is worth exploring, and so is fuller. Some of the questions I aim to explore briefly in this blog include: What makes people happy? Does money help? Can happiness be improved? To what degree are greater fulfillment, meaning, joy and contentment within our control? I also tap into some scientific findings and wisdom perspective by psychologist Mark Leary of Duke University.

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Social Violence: Causes and Prescriptions

violence February 7th, 2018

Mass murder is different than 1:1 murder and suicide. It symbolizes deep social decay. Add in heavy weaponry and you got yourself one big social problem. What issues underlie the phenomenon? It is mental illness? Is it guns? Is it endemic to a country that is in “the waning days of empire?” Is it an outgrowth of massive wealth inequality? What role does race play? Read on for some exploration of this noxious type of social violence that seems to constantly recur like an absurd Sysephean tragedy. 

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Evaluating Evidence: A Superlative Skill

evaluating evidence January 30th, 2018

Evaluating evidence is a superlative skill. That is, if one can sift through various claims and find the truth (or at least, the validity of a particular question or issue), one is at a great advantage in this world. Indeed, there are compelling reasons to hold that an ability to see two sides of an argument – both with passionate and seemingly-confident defenders – is a critical skill. Rare though it may be, and challenging as it is, it will pay huge dividends if one can harness this power. In this blog, I will present examples of complex dilemmas that call for a keen mind and an excellent skill set.

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