“I have been led to the idea that emotion is the source of the meaningful life,” Dacher Keltner writes in the preface to his book Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. His decades of research on emotions, which runs the gamut from happiness and compassion to anger and fear, has bolstered the scientific notion that cultivating a positive mind state may be the key to health, longevity, and wellbeing.
But here’s the catch: cultivating positivity is not just about you. Real happiness can’t happen unless we also practice reverence, kindness, and compassion for the people we come in contact with. In this way, we are able to bring out the good not only in ourselves, but in other people as well. Keltner calls upon an ancient Confucian term to describe this shared goodness: jen. And it’s the ratio of jen in your life, he says, that will bring true meaning and happiness.
Keltner, who received his PhD from Stanford University, is the co-director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, a research hub dedicated to gathering evidence-based information about living the good life.
Watch this video interview to learn more.