How fulfilled is your life? Researchers have a scale to check

You may have a firm idea of how fulfilled your life is, but how could you compare it to others? And how might a psychologist assessing you understand your own sense of fulfillment (or lack of it)?

Researchers from the University of Zurich, in Switzerland, have proposed a framework for figuring out how fulfilled people are. They believe their scale – called the Fulfilled Life Scale, or FLS – will provide a useful measuring tool for other researchers, as well as allowing individuals to assess their own fulfillment.

Their scale is published in Frontiers in Psychology.

“There is indeed a difference between happiness and fulfillment,” writes lead author Doris Baumann in an accompanying blog post.

More on the psychology of happiness: Rich feelings: better or worse?

“The latter is long-lasting and comes from deriving a sense of wholeness, from perceiving congruence, and from recognizing value regarding one’s self, life, and impact.”

The researchers developed a model for measuring life fulfillment, based on three sources of fulfillment (self, life, and impact or legacy) and three criteria (wholeness, fit, and value).

When combined, this matrix produced nine facets of a fulfilled life, which the researchers could then base an assessment of fulfillment on. These nine measures were:

  1. realized uniqueness,
  2. a life lived fully,
  3. the making of a positive difference,
  4. authentic pursuits,
  5. a life true to oneself,
  6. a contribution reflecting the self,
  7. worthwhile involvements,
  8. a life that was worthwhile, and
  9. a life that mattered to others.

The researchers corroborated their assessment by surveying 688 adults over the age of 40 (282 in one group, aged from 50 to 83, and 406 in another group, aged from 40 to 85).

They found that older people generally felt slightly more fulfillment.

“People might acquire more resources and qualities to lead a fulfilling life as they get older,” suggests Baumann.

“These may include knowledge, life experience, or expertise that can be passed on.”

Baumann says their questionnaire can now be used by other researchers.

“In addition to its use in research, the FLS can also be applied in practice,” she writes.

“Life and career coaches could employ the scale to support their clients in building a life that suits them well and that they experience as worthwhile. A fulfilled life can be regarded as an indicator of the good life and a proxy for aging well.”

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