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The Search for Fulfillment: Revolutionary New Research That Reveals the Secret to Long-term Happiness Hardcover – January 12, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at UMass-Amherst, has put her entire life's work in the pages of her new study, a full 40 years' worth of research, focused on a single group of human subjects. The data Whitbourne has gathered in this 28-UP-style journey are distilled into an enlightening compass to guide readers through the various possible pathways, as she calls them, to happiness and to making the changes necessary for a meaningful life. Whitbourne deserves commendation for both the hopeful message she delivers and the elegant prose with which she conveys her complex research. (Jan.)
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"This remarkable exploration into the core dimensions of human nature takes readers of all ages on a journey of liberation. The psychologically revolutionary ideas that flow through every chapter free us from simplistic pop-psych notions of 'midlife crises' and confining age-based passages. We come to appreciate the extraordinary fluidity of human nature as people mature and embark on life's dynamic pathways, ideally toward personal fulfillment on triumphant or authentic paths. Emerging from solid, original research, The Search for Fulfillment's sound, practical advice can transform your life. This is a must-read-now book."—Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox
"In her groundbreaking new book, psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne shows that the path to happiness comes in many forms and can start at any point in our lives. Vividly portraying the lives of a group of baby boomers over a forty-year period, she draws lessons that compellingly illustrate that it's never too late to foster significant change in our own lives, and that fulfillment is within the reach of each of us." —Robert S. Feldman, associate dean and professor of psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst; author of The Liar of Your Life
"It took me most of my life to discover what Susan Krauss Whitbourne has now proven irrefutably: You can create a whole new life with a new kind of happiness at any age."—Michael Gates Gill, author of How Starbucks Saved My Life
"The Search for Fulfillment is an engaging, thought-provoking, and compelling read. Susan Krauss Whitbourne does a masterly job of integrating scientific research on personality development over the lifespan with vivid, real-world examples. Perhaps most important, she provides all of us with practical and helpful suggestions for finding meaning and making positive change in our lives. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about what psychological research suggests are the best strategies for finding happiness, joy, and psychological well-being."—Catherine A. Sanderson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, Amherst College
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Top Customer Reviews
Because of the importance of this work and because there have been few reviews that I see here since 2010, when the book first came out, I shall write a lengthier post.
First, I generally agree with many of the points made by the negative reviewers who were writing with certain semantic and methodological contexts (from what I can discern). However, as a "set of data", even if presented, through an anecdotal and presumed Eriksonian perspective, the broader and lasting value of this book makes if worth your while to slog through it, if that is what it feels like to you. (Btw, a sample size of ~180 is not necessarily bad at all for psychological research.)
Second, for myself, practically all non-fiction I read is strategic. I do not really care whether is scintillating, or not, as long as it fulfills my objectives considered from various contexts, and time frames, and levels of activities.
This work reports on the only research that exists, as far as I know, that connects people's presents to their futures. This is a popularization of that work, not an academic report. That is certainly quite disappointing to me, but probably not to the 7.6 billion other people living on this world who may like to know how they can better connect their presents to their futures, to create more value in their lives and leave better legacies.
My suggestion is that you read this book as if you are mining for gold. If you do, you will find quite a bit, no matter what your circumstances or your achievements. To help you along, you may want consider how many tons of rock and sand gold mining companies process to end up with one ton of gold.
For you it will not be nearly as challenging to identify how you might significantly improve your future, but YOU WILL HAVE TO DO THE RIGHT KIND OF SIFTING. Unfortunately, the author did not place enough emphasis on this issue.
Regarding "the pathways", personally, I believe that the author's categories are rather useful. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the many ways that we can categorize life perspectives, and the author's pathway types are as good or better (useful) than many other categorizations.
Also, I have spent most of my life thinking about the ways that people positively connect their pasts and presents to their own futures and that of their families. It is the tragedy of humans that they do not do nearly enough of it.
For example, during the last year, I often think about the parents and grandparents of the Syrian and Libyan refugees (or name any other set of refugees, yesterday, today, or tomorrow). Did they not care enough about their children and grand children? Are they not accountable in some ways, and does this book have something to imply about that? [Well, it might if you extend people's life values even relatively few years into the future.]
Finally, the author suggests that legacy is the key to fulfillment. Empirically, this is probably not correct for most people in the world, but it could be made so, and is very likely a strong prosocial benefit, in better cultures.
This book is not without its flaws, and as another reviewer mentioned the author is filling in the blanks in sections where she is talking about specific people / cases.
However, I personally think she is exceptionally honest and this becomes her redeeming quality for me.
This well-written book begins by describing some of the theory behind development and aging and the ongoing study which Whitbourne has used to develop her findings. The book then segues into a questionnaire you can use to assess which pathway you're on. While the questionnaire might not be applicable for all readers (namely the younger ones), the lessons on the different pathways--the bulk of the rest of the book--are. Whitbourne explains each of the five pathways she's developed, with examples from her research, and ways that you, the reader, can get off of some of the more negative paths and get, or stay, on some of the more positive paths.
This book will be incredibly beneficial and enlightening for a whole range of people--it's certainly appropriate for people like me who are really just starting off; for those in a period of transition; for parents (this is a book I'll certainly be sharing with my parents!); and for individuals who have gained enough experience in life both to look back and recognize the path that their lives have taken and to look forward and see the way they'd like their lives to go. The take-home lessons are simple, but vitally important: First, no matter where you are in life, you can make changes to make your life more fulfilling. Second, the happiest people weren't necessarily those who had accumulated the most money, but instead had pursued fulfilling activities and professions. Overall: highly recommended.