Yesterday I came across a fascinating article and had a major Aha! moment. Written by Bella DePaulo, PhD, and published on the website Solo Living (wearesololiving.com), Dr. DePaulo separates out the personality types and characteristics of people who are single by choice (yes, this is a ‘thing’ and it’s not bad) and who prefer to live alone from those who live more conformist lifestyles.
“According to Kierkegaard, a married person with a secure, well-respected job and children may have a happy and (in many respects) meaningful life, but not necessarily a life rich in diverse perspective-changing experiences. Although most people choose such a conventional, secure, and well-respected life, others… choose the esthetic wanderer’s life instead—unconventional, unstable, and uncompromising.”
Is This You?
According to Dr. DePaulo, there are three key characteristics of a psychologically rich life: “variety, interestingness and perspective-changing experiences.” What kind of people live psychologically rich lives? According to the article, these people are curious, open to experiences and who experience emotions (negative and positive) more intensely. Does this sound familiar? Writers, or any person involved in artistic endeavors, would certainly fit into this mold. I know I do.
“At least three personality characteristics typify people who lead psychologically rich lives:
They are curious.
They are open to experience (e.g., they have unconventional attitudes, artistic sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, flexibility, depth of feeling).
They experience emotions intensely, both positive and negative ones.”
A light bulb came on and suddenly I made connections with issues I’ve been dealing with for years. Years of struggling because I was ‘different’, because I didn’t fit into the conformist mold that my parents and family members expected. With being more broad-minded, artistic, and so on, I’ve struggled with feeling accepted. For years I’ve felt like a failure because I couldn’t start a business (building a structured environment and all of its details = conformist personality). Now, I realized, I can work in an established business (working inside an already-built structured environment = adaptable/flexible to my surroundings). That changes everything. And it has a name: psychologically rich.
“…psychological richness is the kind of wealth that can contribute to a truly good life.”
To Be or Not to Be…
Some of you may fit into one of the other personality types (happy and meaningful), but if you’re artistic, I doubt it, unless you’re lying to yourself about who you really are. People who live happy lives (or so they think) need comfort and security (white picket fence, 2.5 kids, house in the ‘burbs, etc.). People who live meaningful lives must have significance and purpose as goals. Either way, both of these require a level of conformity and maintenance of static relationships. Living solo frees us from the confines of these personality types.
Do you prefer a happy life? Then you’re going to need time, money (discretionary income) and relationships (romantic, business, platonic, etc.) with the same people over and over again. Maybe you’d prefer living a meaningful life: do you have strong moral principles, broad-based relationships (including networking) and are you consistent? Put plainly, people who prefer to lead happy lives get personal satisfaction (of living up to parents’ and societal standards); people who prefer meaningful lives get to contribute to society in some way (think scientific, medical discoveries and such).
The Best Way to Go, In My (Expert) Opinion
If you want to live a psychologically rich life, expect to be curious, have time on your hands, have plenty of energy and be spontaneous. Novel activities will take precedence over rote tasks and there is a preference for challenging activities where one actually learns and engages. This equates to the gaining of wisdom; this circles us back to the point that this type of life offers a richness beyond material wealth and conformist security.
In summary, people who prefer the solo life generally have many of the characteristics of the psychologically rich mindset. This article validated who I am at my deepest core and taught me to accept that my differences are exactly what enrich my life.
What about you?
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