Your Negative World Beliefs Impact Your Life Satisfaction and Well-Being, and Adversely Affect Young People

There are different ways to understand life satisfaction. 

  • One idea, called the bottom-up approach, suggests that life satisfaction is a general feeling based on specific areas of life, like work, family, and recreation pursuits. 
  • Another idea, the top-down approach, suggests that life satisfaction is part of a person’s stable (temperament) characteristics. 
  • Another explanation might be that our core beliefs about the world shape our behaviors, which then impact our overall satisfaction. 

Jeremy Clifton, a leading researcher who studies primal beliefs, has discovered that negative beliefs about the world significantly decrease life satisfaction. You might find this surprising, because if someone believes they live in a terrible world, they might consider their own mediocre life as relatively good. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Simply put, it’s more like this:

If someone views the world as a bad place, it’s hard for them to feel satisfied, no matter what their life is actually like. And…they share that with young people who can go on to have the same negative beliefs.

How is Your PERMA?

Life satisfaction can be tricky to measure because people use their own personal criteria to judge it, making comparisons difficult. However, using a more structured approach can help. Martin Seligman’s concept of psychological flourishing, PERMA,  includes five key areas: Positive emotions, Engagement in activities, quality of Relationships, finding Meaning in life, and feelings of Accomplishment.

Research has also found that negative primal beliefs about the world are most strongly linked to decreased overall flourishing. This means that people with negative views are less likely to experience positive emotions, be engaged in their activities, have good relationships, find meaning in life, and feel a sense of accomplishment. 

How Do You View the World?

These findings highlight the importance of fostering positive beliefs about the world in young people. Negative views not only lower life satisfaction but also hinder overall well-being. Encouraging a more positive outlook can lead to better emotional health, more fulfilling relationships, and a greater sense of achievement and purpose in life.

For example, believing the world is safe was strongly linked to higher life satisfaction across various occupations (including law enforcement, where being alert to threats is crucial). Generally, negative beliefs are associated with slightly less job success, moderately less job satisfaction, worse health, higher negative emotions, more depression symptoms, slightly more lifetime suicide attempts, much lower life satisfaction, and dramatically worse overall mental well-being.

What This Means for Parents

These findings suggest that fostering a positive worldview in young people is crucial. While it’s important to prepare them for the realities of life, emphasizing the world’s positive aspects can lead to significantly better outcomes in terms of job success, health, emotional well-being, and overall life satisfaction.

Parents might consider balancing their approach by acknowledging the world’s challenges but also highlighting its beauty and opportunities. This balanced perspective can help young people develop resilience without becoming overly cynical or unrealistically optimistic.

More broadly, embracing a positive worldview not only benefits your individual well-being. When you share your positive worldview, it also contributes to young people to seeing the world as a place with both challenges and possibilities, and worth the effort to engage in. This can foster a healthier, more successful, and more fulfilling life for them, and lead to a more compassionate and optimistic society. 


Learn more about how your beliefs impact your young people:

Free 40+ page downloadable booklet to accompany The Effort Myth: How to Give Your Child the Three Gifts of Motivation

About the author

Sherri Fisher, MEd, MAPP, executive coach and learning specialist, uncovers client motivation and focus for perseverance. She has decades of successful experience working with students, parents, and professionals who face learning, attention, and executive function challenges at school, home, and work.

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