• Anna Sutton

Living the good life: authenticity, well-being and engagement

We have been trying to figure out what makes a ‘good life’ for millennia. And everyone from the ancient Greek philosophers to modern day business executives claims that being authentic, or true to ourselves, is a key ingredient of the good life. Psychologists, too, have got in on the act, conducting studies to find out exactly how important authenticity is and how it benefits us. But making sense of all this psychological research can be challenging, especially when the studies use such different approaches and find such different results. We can end up wondering "Does authenticity really matter?"

One of the joys of my job is that when I hear that kind of question, I can set out to find an answer. In this case, I carried out a meta-analysis, a type of research that summarises the current state of our knowledge. I collected 75 studies (involving 35,500 participants) which tested how authenticity was related to two indicators of the good life: engagement in work and general well-being.

The unambiguous conclusion was that authenticity does matter. It has a moderately strong relationship with both well-being and engagement (r = .4 for those of you who like statistics).

We are increasingly seeing both well-being and engagement used as measures of economic and societal success. Knowing that authenticity is so important to these outcomes tells us that becoming more authentic is not just a ‘nice to have’ but is critical to building better economies and societies. Encouraging and promoting authenticity will have wide-reaching positive impacts at work and in wider society.

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