In the fall of 1966, at a university in the Northeast, 350 students signed up for a psychological survey on personal development and happiness. In 1977, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, then a young psychology professor, came across the study and decided to expand it. She tracked down the study's original participants and questioned them every decade until she had forty years' worth of data. Now, in this groundbreaking book, Whitbourne reveals the findings of this extensive project, a seminal piece of research into how people change over the course of their lifetimes. The results indicate something fascinating: No matter how old or how content you might currently feel, it is never too late to steer your life toward a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction.
Western society often paints a pessimistic view of aging, a "best years are behind you" attitude. But Whitbourne challenges this notion and posits that it's possible to find fulfillment at any age. Guided by her research, she identifies five different life pathways and provides a questionnaire that will help you discover which one you are currently on:
• The Meandering Way You have a low sense of identity, lack priorities, and feel lost, unable to settle on a clear set of goals.
• The Downward Slope You seem to have it all, until one or two poor decisions send your life into a spiral.
• The Straight and Narrow Way You embrace predictability, shy away from risk, and don't enjoy shaking up your routine.
• The Triumphant Trail Your inner resilience has allowed you to overcome significant challenges that could have left you despondent.
• The Authentic Road You take a bold and honest look at your life, assess whether it's truly satisfying, and take the necessary risks to get back on track.
Whitbourne shows how you can work yourself off a negative pathway and onto one that is more fulfilling. And if you identify yourself as being on one of the more positive pathways, you'll learn how to keep enhancing your feelings of satisfaction.
Filled with insight and candid personal profiles of Whitbourne's subjects, The Search for Fulfillment offers proof that change is not only possible but ultimately rewarding. Revolutionary and inspirational, this encouraging book provides a new way of looking at our lives—and a guidepost for making changes for the better, at any age.
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.