Well-doing: personality, personal projects and the shape of life

Published: Tuesday 4th October 2016

The Institute for Positive Psychology & Education invites staff to attend a research seminar by Professor Brian Little from the University of Cambridge.

When: Thursday, 27 October at 1.30pm
Where: Australian Catholic University, The Peter Cosgrove Centre, Level 22, Tenison Woods House, 8-20 Napier Street, North Sydney
Cost: Free

About the research seminar

Is your life going well? What factors determine whether you are flourishing or floundering, or simply muddling through as best you can? Some personality psychologists have shown that relatively fixed dispositions such as extraversion or emotional stability are the chief sources of whether you are happy or whether you prosper. Such findings are important but problematic. If biogenic traits are relatively stable then they won’t provide much scope for personality development and change.

In contrast to this perspective I propose an alternative that is based on the personal projects that shape your life. Personal projects can range from the trivial pursuits of daily life to the transcendent aspirations of a lifetime. Research on personal projects demonstrates the vital role they play in shaping positive life trajectories. They also reveal aspects of human conduct that are more nuanced than that revealed by traits. You may act out of character, for example, in order to advance a core project in your life.

An introverted person might adopt a free trait of extraversion in order to advance a critical occupational project. Or an agreeable daughter might, for all of August become deeply disagreeable with a care facility that is blocking access to her cognitively impaired mother. Such behaviour is not necessarily disingenuous and may in fact represent a deeper source of authenticity than being true to one’s traits. Acting out of character can be noble but it can also extract a toll if protractedly engaged in. We need restorative niches in which to recover after engaging in free traits or the pursuit of core projects can bring us to our knees.

About the speaker

Professor Brian R. Little received his early education in British Columbia and his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

He has taught at Oxford, Carleton and Harvard Universities and was Distinguished Scholar in the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University from 2011-2013.

For three consecutive years Brian was elected by the graduating classes of Harvard as a “Favorite Professor.” He is an internationally respected researcher in the fields of personality and motivational psychology and pioneered the study of Personal Projects Analysis. He was senior editor and main contributor of the book “Personal Project Pursuit: Goals, Action and Human Flourishing.”

Professor Little currently lectures to psychology students in the Department of Psychology at Cambridge and EMBA students at the Cambridge Judge Business School and he is a Fellow of the Well-Being Institute at Cambridge.

A keen believer in reaching out to the community, he has given more the 800 lectures world wide on personality and well-Being. He is the author of a book for the general reader: Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being and his 2016 TED talk has been viewed over 2 million times.

RSVP for the research seminar to Amy.Myers@acu.edu.au

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