Engagement: A Source of Value, Quality of Life, or Both?

Easy and simple as this seems, many people don’t actually make use of such rituals, because they think they have too little time to lose or don’t know what they could do during breaks. Even calling a close friend or your grandma for a few minutes takes your mind off work and at the same time shows the person that you care for him or her. In fact, implementing positive rituals is an intriguingly useful thing to do, because after a while they become habits one does not have to think about anymore and that therefore do not require conscious effort anymore. Moreover, the idea of building up capacities by positive rituals goes in line with the assumption from positive psychology that a sound and solid basis of positive feelings, habits, and ways of thinking buffers against negative events and adds to the perceived quality of life. In practice, the training usually starts by assessing a person’s current behavioral patterns, physical health, personal strengths, deepest values and goals, as well as asking him or her about their most disturbing performance barriers at work, like lack of focus, negative thinking, little passion, or dissatisfying personal relationships. Then, the person together with the trainer comes up with a few positive rituals targeted to remove these barriers and build up the appropriate “muscle” to deal with them in a more effective way, as well as a concrete timeframe for when to implement each ritual. Again, making intentions specific or even framing them in an “if…then…” sentence increases the likelihood of actually performing a behavior (Gollwitzer, 1999). Overall, for people who are thinking about changing something in their daily lives because they don’t feel energized or dull, or those who want to make better use of their time, this book might be a fun and motivating companion with plenty of suggestions that are easy to try out. However, it should be noted that the authors use a rather Western approach that might make little sense to people from other cultures, and their claims are based on a mixture of years of practical experience and some scientific findings. For those with a preference for scientifically established “facts”, findings seem to suggest that in terms of improving the quality of life through engagement, the following things are important: First, you need to find things you value, let yourself become immersed in them, and you will value them even more. Second, make sure that you don’t completely neglect aspects of life that are highly important to you, like social relationships or activities you enjoy for intrinsic reasons. And third, allow yourself to renew energy capacities, for example with physical activity or rest.

Ultimately, a lot of empirical work is still necessary not only to reconcile the applied perspective with scientific views, but also to find out what engagement really is, what exactly it does to us, when engagement is useful and when it is necessary to disengage. How people are able to do that is yet another question to address, for if positive things become more valuable to us the more we engage in them, how would we ever try out something new? One thing is for sure: No matter how people arrive at feeling engaged and absorbed – either in their lives or in a specific activity – it is certainly not a bad thing at all.


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Cantor, N., & Sanderson, C. A. (1999). Life Task Participation and Well-Being: The Importance of Taking Part in Daily Life. In: Kahnemann, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

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