Joshua Hicks: Discovering Meaning in Life | Sero Boost #15

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by Joshua Hicks, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University with a Ph.D. in personality and social psychology

Do you believe that each person has a life quest waiting for them to unravel? Or is it people who create their own journeys? Are concepts like purpose and meaning all the same, or does each impact a person’s life differently? How do our surroundings contribute to our sense of meaning?

Meet Joshua Hicks

Joshua Hicks is a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University. He received his Ph.D. in personality and social psychology at the University of Missouri. His research aims to understand how people answer the “big” questions in life and how their answers influence their feelings and behavior. Specifically, his research examines the antecedents and consequences of the experience of meaning in life, authenticity, true self-knowledge and self-alienation, perceptions of free will, and mortality awareness.

Joshua has approximately 100 academic publications. His work has been featured in Scientific American, Washington Post, Vice Magazine, Greater Good Magazine, Prevention, and IAI TV. He has also been a featured guest on the podcasts Existentially Human and NPR’s Think.

About the episode

In this episode hosted by Lu Ngo, Joshua Hicks defined happiness as the experience of feeling secure, content, calm, and peaceful in various aspects of life. It involves the absence of worries and the ability to be true to oneself in specific circumstances.

He also debunked the common misunderstanding that happiness requires a constant display of loud laughter or a particular demeanor. Instead, happiness can manifest differently depending on the individual and the context.

Moving on, Joshua tackled the concept of meaning in life, which is complex and multifaceted. “It is important to examine our own lives and experiences to identify what gives them meaning, as this can vary from person to person.”

According to Joshua, many things in the world inherently have meaning and can provide meaning to individual lives. While most people actively construct meaning in their lives, sometimes significant experiences can provide meaning, too.

Joshua mentioned that having a clear purpose in life can also contribute to a sense of meaning, as purpose involves setting long-term goals that are intrinsic to the individual. However, the purpose is just one aspect of meaning, and there is much more to it than just having clear goals.

Finally, Joshua revealed that the most significant contributors to meaning in life are a sense of belonging to a community and having social connections. It is crucial to be altruistic, help others, and lead a morally good life since meaning is derived from social experience.

In conclusion

There is no pre-existing or predetermined meaning in life that one can discover. Instead, individuals are responsible for constructing and determining their own meaning in life. People can benefit from slowing down and recognizing the things that are truly meaningful in their overall life experience. By being mindful and reflective, individuals can identify what brings them a sense of purpose and fulfillment and actively pursue those things in their lives.

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