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Happiness and Meaning in Life – Working towards a balance

Source | | Dr. Jason M. Holland

One of the most fundamental conflicts of human existence can be boiled down to two basic questions: If I am not for myself, then who am I? But if I am only for myself, what am I?

Paraphrased from the writings of the ancient Jewish scholar, Hillel the Elder, these questions cut the very heart of what it means to be human.

Part of living a good life must involve pursuing my own goals, seeking pleasure, and avoiding suffering. Yet, as Hillel the Elder acknowledges, if my life were only consumed with these self-interests, it would be a rather shallow existence.

Intuitively, we realise that these self-interests must be balanced by a sense of purpose and meaning that calls us to look beyond ourselves and serve some larger group or cause that we believe in.

Over the past decade, a number of key studies have been conducted allowing for these two life pursuits to be better teased apart and compared in terms of their effect on overall life satisfaction and well-being.

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