Top Quotes on the Meaning of Life

I’ve been working on developing an online positive psychology course (The Path to Happier which will go live in April 2014 at While doing my reading, I came across some great quotes on meaning in life that I thought I’d share…

Meaning is specific to humans. Dogs don’t worry about meaning in life…

My dog doesn’t worry about the meaning of life. She may worry if she doesn’t get her breakfast, but she doesn’t sit around worrying about whether she will get fulfilled or liberated or enlightened. As long as she gets some food and a little affection, her life is fine.

Joko Beck

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.

Leo Tolstoy

For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.

Viktor E. Frankl

The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm; on the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can.

Paul Kurtz

And this one is simply a favorite of mine from Thoreau…

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

Henry David Thoreau


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

Henry David Thoreau

And  my own thought…

I believe that the meaning of life and the right thing to do are the same thing.

All the best,

Dr. John

Dr. John Schinnerer
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: 
Anger management blog:
Twitter: @johnschin

Materialism Makes Bad Situations Worse, Reduces Resiliency

Materialism Makes Bad Events Even Worse, Lowers Resiliency

Dr. John Schinnerer

The holiday season is upon us with all it’s gift-giving glory…an interesting backdrop to new research that shows new damaging effects of materialism on our well-being.


positive psychology Dr. John Schinnerer
Materialism seems to undermine resiliency

Some of us are more prone to deal with negative emotions and stressors with shop therapy – buying more stuff.  A new study out of the University of Illinois sheds a new light on the negative effect of materialism on how well we deal with a negative event. Having a materialistic approach to life when things go badly, appears to make bad situations worse.


Materialistic people tend to cope with trauma, difficulty and tragedy with impulsive buying and compulsive spending. For many, spending is a salve that soothes our inner wounds.


However, researcher Aric Rindfleisch states that a high degree of materialism is not only detrimental to our individual well-being, it also appears to amplify the inner emotional distress associated with stressful events. Stressful situations, such as robbery, car accidents, cancer and job loss, are more difficult to bounce back from when you are more materialistic.


Why does materialism matter?


“If you’re a materialistic individual and life suddenly takes a wrong turn, you’re going to have a tougher time recovering from that setback than someone who is less materialistic,” said Rindfleisch, the John M. Jones Professor of Marketing in the College of Business. “The research is novel in that an event that’s unrelated to materialism will have a stronger impact on someone because of their materialistic values. In other words, materialism has a multiplier effect. It’s a finding that I think is especially interesting given our consumer-driven economy.”


The research looked at the connection between traumatic stress and compulsive consumption using an Israeli field study and a U.S. national survey.


When confronted with a life-threatening terrorist attack, the study showed that highly materialistic individuals in Israel reported higher degrees of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), compulsive and impulsive purchases than less-materialistic individuals.


How Can I Be Happy? Learn Positive psychology with Dr. John
Materialism Makes Bad Situations Worse

“Materialistic people cope with bad events through materialistic mechanisms,” stated Rindfleisch. “When there’s a terrorist attack in Israel, people who are materialistic suffer higher levels of distress and are more likely to compensate for that through higher levels of compulsive and impulsive purchasing.”


One of the theories is that these effects are due to lower self-esteem in materialistic individuals which reduces their resiliency in dealing with traumatic events.


“You can think of terrorist attacks as a mortal threat to your life,” Rindfleisch said. “To replicate the study in the U.S., as a corollary, we asked people to tell us about their level of death anxiety. Those who had more anxiety toward death were very similar to the groups who were under terrorist attacks in Israel.”


“Both components of the study provide converging evidence that in times of extreme stress, highly materialistic individuals seek comfort in compulsive and impulsive consumption,” Rindfleisch reported.


“At its core, materialism is a value-based response to insecurity in one’s life,” he said. “Our research more broadly suggests that it’s also about existential insecurity. This idea that we’re all aware of our mortality and focusing on that can be almost debilitating.”


And traumatic experiences may be broadly defined as any event that one perceives as traumatic, not solely terrorism-related events.


Traumatic events “…could be about a broad range of stressful life events, including serious illness, an automobile accident or a natural disaster,” he said. “So the scope is broader than a terrorist attack. It’s more like a traumatic event that leads to this insecure sense of self. Thus, our research uncovers a hidden yet potentially quite expansive domain of consequences that have largely gone unnoticed in prior research.”


According to Rindfleisch, it’s a good reminder prior to the holiday shopping season heading into full tilt.


“In times of stress, people often seek solace through shopping,” he said. “The idea here is that we need some form of a cultural-based coping mechanism, because the research suggests that there is actually a short-term fix with retail therapy. Soon after purchasing something, there is a reduction of anxiety. But it doesn’t last very long. It’s fleeting. Materialists seek that as one of their coping mechanisms. And Black Friday and the holiday shopping season play into that.”


Resiliency, the ability to bounce back quickly following adversity, is a learnable skill.  My suggestion is to learn more adaptive ways to deal with and manage the negative emotions associated with trauma….tools such as mindfulness, forgiveness, gratitude, conscious cultivation of positive emotions, physical exercise, self-compassion and more.


All the best,


Dr. John Schinnerer

Positive Psychology Coach

Anger Management Specialist

Award-winning author of Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion & Thought

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

Positive psychology blog: 

Anger management blog:

Twitter: @johnschin


Positive psychology with Dr. John - How can i be happy
Materialistic values reduce resiliency

Journal Reference:

  1. Ayalla Ruvio, Eli Somer, Aric Rindfleisch. When bad gets worse: the amplifying effect of materialism on traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s11747-013-0345-6

Fulfilling Life Exercise

The Fulfilling Life Exercise

Think about your own life for a moment.
Ask yourself, what would a fulfilling life be like for you?

Write a short story about what a fulfilling life would look like for you?

What would your top 5 values be?

What would you be doing at home? At work?

What would your relationships look like?

Would you change any personal characteristics (e.g., physical, mental, emotional)?

What is it that would make you whole and content?

This is much different than asking “What do you want?”

We’re talking about the search for personal fulfillment.

Most people when answering this question look at what they have…what they don’t have… and see a gap …and then look for things to fill the gap. It may be the obvious – a higher-paying job, a wonderful marriage, more money, a promotion, a successful business and so on.
Unfortunately, the happiness derived from HAVING such things is fleeting. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your own life. You’re ecstatic when you buy a new car. Then the ecstasy fades after a few months.  This same thing happens with relationships, homes, promotions and major purchases.

As long as we are looking for ways to HAVE a fulfilling life, we will only be temporarily fulfilled. Many of us think that more money is the answer. Yet, look at the lives of lottery winners. Most of them have continued to be plagued by the same host of problems that they had prior to becoming wealthy. In fact, for many of them, their problems have been magnified! I know of one couple that said they wished they had never even won the lottery as it led to greater problems, addictions, and eventually divorce.
A different framework is needed through which we view life, a different way of viewing fulfillment. Ask yourself what it would take for you to BE fulfilled.

This minor difference in wording implies that fulfillment is enjoying the journey, not merely a destination. This doesn’t mean that you will stop wanting things. Just that the things are mere expressions of fulfillment, not the means to fulfillment.

This means that we can be fulfilled even in the midst of difficult situations. Fulfillment means that you are fully alive and in synch with the different energies of the universe. It may be described as being in harmony with the environment around you. It also involves living in synch with your personal values. It may involve keeping your cool while others are losing theirs. Everyone’s definition of fulfillment is unique and changes constantly.

And this is largely what coaching is about – inviting clients to look closely, not merely with their brains, but with their heart, soul and intuition, at themselves, in areas which are familiar, but viewed with new lenses, and at places that have never been looked at before.

The famous psychologist, Erich Fromm wrote, “”Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself.” The way in which we give birth to ourselves is by listening to and following our dreams.

How to Access Your Dreams: 

Ask yourself…

  What would make me happy?

  Why would it make me happy, and why is it important to me?

  How will it benefit other people?

  When do I want it to happen?

Keep a journal by your bed to write down your thoughts and feelings. Over time your dreams will reveal themselves to you. As they do, your passion, happiness and engagement with life will soar. Enjoy the ride.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.
For a free copy of my award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, visit the site above, enter your name and email and receive an instant complimentary copy. Begin improving your life today!

Happiness Is Acting According to Your Values – Live With Meaning & Purpose

A happy, successful and satisfying life involves behaving according to a your own set of ethics, standards, or values.  Values are the core beliefs upon which you operate your life. You may be aware of your core beliefs. You may not. In my experience, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people do not have any idea what their top values are.

Remember – You Are a Worthy Individual

To get the most from your life, you must believe at your core that you are a worthy individual – worthy of love, worthy of respect, worthy of making mistakes to learn from, worthy of friendship, worthy of quality friends, worthy of appropriate boundaries, worthy of taking time to refill and renew yourself, worthy of a flourishing and fulfilling life.

Our values are the stars by which we navigate through life. Henry David Thoreau wrote, ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.’

It Is Easy to Lose Track of Values In A Busy World

Ours is much too busy and noisy a world. Our lives take on a frenetic pace and people lose track of the values that give life meaning and purpose.

Everyone says they are for values – individuals, schools and corporations. All are quick to claim lofty ideals. The problem is their actions are not in keeping with their words, particularly at times of high emotion. Thus, we have schools that talk about treating children with compassion while verbally flagellating them in the classrooms.  We have parents that profess to love their children yet rage at them behind closed doors. We have businesses that say they value their customers yet treat them as if they were unintelligent nuisances. 

Ignore Values at Your Peril

People unaware of their values are more likely to be uncaring, conforming, inconsistent, and self-conflicted.

The less we know of our values, the less success and happiness we enjoy.

Clarify Your Values, Enjoy Success

The more we understand our values, the better able we are to make right choices which lead to right action even in the heat of strong emotions. This leads to integrity, happiness and prosperity.

Clarity of values leads to decisive acts of courage which are becoming exceedingly rare in this world. Don’t be driven by the whims of your emotions. Be character driven.   Be value driven.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

For a free copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, visit, enter your email and name and be rewarded with instant access to your own PDF version of the book!

Reading terrorists minds about imminent attack – Specfic brain waves related to guilty knowledge

July 30, 2010

Imagine technology that allows you to get inside the mind of a terrorist to know how, when and where the next attack will occur.

That’s not nearly as far-fetched as it seems, according to a new Northwestern University study.
Say, for purposes of illustration, that the chatter about an imminent terrorist attack is mounting, and specifics about the plan emerge, about weapons that will be used, the date of such a dreaded event and its location.

If the new test used by the Northwestern researchers had been used in such a real-world situation with the same type of outcome that occurred in the lab, the study suggests, culpability extracted from the chatter could be confirmed.

In other words, if the test conducted in the Northwestern lab ultimately is employed for such real-world scenarios, the research suggests, law enforcement officials ultimately may be able to confirm details about an attack – date, location, weapon — that emerges from terrorist chatter.

In the Northwestern study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe “terrorists,” they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab, said J. Peter Rosenfeld, professor of psychology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

For the first time, the Northwestern researchers used the P300 testing in a mock terrorism scenario in which the subjects are planning, rather than perpetrating, a crime. The P300 brain waves were measured by electrodes attached to the scalp of the make-believe “persons of interest” in the lab.

The most intriguing part of the study in terms of real-word implications, Rosenfeld said, is that even when the researchers had no advance details about mock terrorism plans, the technology was still accurate in identifying critical concealed information.

“Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details,” Rosenfeld said. “The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity.”

Rosenfeld is a leading scholar in the study of P300 testing to reveal concealed information. Basically, electrodes are attached to the scalp to record P300 brain activity — or brief electrical patterns in the cortex — that occur, according to the research, when meaningful information is presented to a person with “guilty knowledge.”

Research on the P300 testing emerged in the 1980s as a handful of scientists looked for an alternative to polygraph tests for lie detection. Since it was invented in the 1920s, polygraphy has been under fire, especially by academics, with critics insisting that such testing measures emotion rather than knowledge.

Rosenfeld and Northwestern graduate student John B. Meixner are co-investigators of the study, outlined in a paper titled “A Mock Terrorism Application of the P300-based Concealed Information Test,” published recently in the journal Psychophysiology.

Study participants (29 Northwestern students) planned a mock attack based on information they were given about bombs and other deadly weapons. They then had to write a letter detailing the rationale of their plan to encode the information in memory.

Then, with electrodes attached to their scalps, they looked at a computer display monitor that presented names of stimuli. The names of Boston, Houston, New York, Chicago and Phoenix, for example, were shuffled and presented at random. The city that study participants chose for the major terrorist attack evoked the largest P300 brainwave responses.

The test includes four classes of stimuli known as targets, non-targets, probes and irrelevants. Targets are sights, sounds or other stimuli the person being questioned already knows or is taught to recognize before the test. Probes are stimuli only a guilty suspect would be likely to know. And irrelevants are stimuli unlikely to be recognized.

“Since 9/11 preventing terrorism is a priority,” Rosenfeld said. “Sometimes you catch suspicious people entering a building. You suspect that they’re terrorists, and you have some leads from the chatter. You’ve heard they’re going to attack one city or another in one fashion or another on one date or another. Our hope is that our new complex protocol – different from the first P300 technology developed in the 1980s – will one day confirm such chatter in the real world.”

In the laboratory setting, study participants only had about 30 minutes to learn about the attack and to detail their plans. Thus, Rosenfeld said, encoding of guilty knowledge was relatively shallow. It is assumed that real terrorists rehearse details central to a planned attack repeatedly, leading to deeper encoding of related memories, he said. “We suspect if our test was employed in the real world the deeper encoding of planned crime-related knowledge could further boost detection of terrorist intentions.”

Provided by Northwestern University

The implications of this are far-reaching, disturbing and reassuring simultaneously.

Disturbing since this same procedure, when perfected, can be used with any of us (which is fine along as you’re staying away from involvement in destructive activities, OR activities which arouse guilt in you!).

Reassuring as it will provide a better means of discovering solid leads on imminent attacks by domestic threats. 

Far-reaching because this technology can and likely will be extended far beyond the scope of hunting terrorists. Easy rationalizations can be made to use it to fight drug trafficking and other major clear cut illegal operations. But where does the line get drawn once we get into lesser, gray areas?

Obviously, it will be many years before the technology is accessible and affordable enough to use ubiquitously. However, what about if the IRS uses it around issues of tax evasion? Or the courts use it in child custody evaluations? At what point do our civil liberties get breached?

This will be an ongoing issue as we head into the next decade because, like it or not, it’s coming!


John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.comWeb site  Awarded Top3 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

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