Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Age of Outrospection


Nearly everyone I work with wants their life to be meaningful and fulfilling. My own research indicates that meaning is something that can be accurately predicted and defined. And one of the things that predicts it best is the idea of a transcendent purpose - an objective beyond your own interests. This does not have to be 'good' or 'worthy', but is more akin to Steve Jobs' idea of 'denting the universe' - impacting something beyond just yourself.

It's interesting to note that a transcendent purpose is something you can choose. It is not a trait, or even a state. It's more like a goal or a vision, but is also enduring like a value.

What a transcendent purpose leads to is an attitude of openness and curiosity about the world.  And one of the key attributes that this outlook teaches over time, is empathy.

Empathy is an idea whose time has come. Introspection is essential, and indeed I use psychology primarily to enhance self awareness. But self awareness is only ever part 1 of a journey to find meaning. 

Meaning can't be found in isolation, it can only be found by understanding the interaction between ourselves and the world around us.  This involves empathy.

The brilliant Roman Krznaric at the School of Life has a better word for this.  He argues that if the 20th century was the age of introspection, the 21st century must be the age of outrospection.   And to examine this further, he writes a brilliant blog of the same name.

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