180 // Psychologically Rich Life

Today we’re going to talk about a third aspect to the rich life that I had just recently stumbled across in an article. It adds a wrinkle to a lot of what I’ve talked about, and I’m excited because I think it’s an interesting wrinkle.

 

James’ Rich Life Formula is Challenged

The rich life that everyone is trying to find is generally found in a balance between that hedonic pleasure, enjoyment, the life to envy, and a life that is full of meaning, and purpose, and self-sacrifice, the life to admire. To summarize that podcast briefly, the life to envy, in and of itself, is not that fulfilling. It might be full of delight and enjoyment, but it’s shallow. On the other hand, the life to admire – a lot of times – has some pain and suffering, and people will admire you for that, but you’re not enjoying that part. That balance of a mix of both is your target.

That’s generally the assumption that I’ve been operating under, but recently I came across an article by Dr. Marianna Pogosyan where she was quoting some studies and research performed by psychologist Shige Oishi. Oishi’s research is on happiness and the author of this article is arguing that Oishi has found that there is a third component to this idea of the good life, and that is a psychologically rich life.

 

The Psychology of a Rich Life

The more we experience what is interesting and unique, the richer our life becomes, and it’s not just experiences that are hedonic (enjoyable, pleasurable, selfish). The way that he describes it is a kaleidoscope. The wider the variation in our kaleidoscope of experience, the richer that life is. As I have digested this concept, it’s fascinating to me because that has been one of the gifts of my experience in working with all these families in my career.

I glean the wisdom of the lives lived out around me; watching people wrestle with circumstances, engage in beautiful relationships, and live multi-faceted lives. It is a gift that they give me, whether they intend to or not. I observe, I stay curious, and I watch what they choose, and then I learn. Oishi is saying that if we stay curious, and we observe all of what life brings us, both the beauty and the tragedy, we don’t necessarily have to assign meaning.

He argues that it is the variety of experience that is the beauty and allowing all of them to be something that you glean wisdom from, whether they’re your own or they belong to someone close to you.

Oishi calls out this idea that the psychology of our wealth is embedded in our stories and sharing with others the perspective that we’ve gained by living out a life of unique experiences. The article starts with a quote that I thought was brilliant by Mary Oliver. It says, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.”

That’s my challenge for you this week. I know this one is a deep dive into psychology, but I think it’s important. As you reflect on the kaleidoscope of your life, what astonishes you, and who are you telling it to? That is going to lead to a much more satisfying sense of that psychologically rich life. As painful, miserable, and difficult as the human experience can be, it is also deeply beautiful and incredibly valuable.

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