A fascinating new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science has shown that we're really attracted to people who have "found meaning in their lives."
70 undergraduates answered a series of questions to gauge two variables: Their level of self-esteem and the extent to which they perceived their lives were meaningful. They were then videotaped as they interacted with a friend.
Five trained raters subsequently watched the tapes and answered the question, “How much would you like to be friends with this person?”
“A stronger sense of meaning in life was associated with interpersonal appeal,” the researchers report, “whereas self-esteem had no effect.”\n
A second test showed that a sense of meaning was a more powerful predictor of social magnetism than happiness, religiosity, and extraversion.
So the moral of the story, perhaps, is that if you're toiling away at that corporate law firm or management consultancy because you think money or status will eventually bring you the interpersonal rewards you're looking for, you might have overlooked the real social power of having a deeper purpose.
How, exactly, to find that meaning is its own challenge, of course. But the point is, one should at least be looking. It will make you more engaging at parties.