participants in the Stanford LEAD Program

Creating a Life of Consequence: How Happy, Meaningful, and Successful Lives Really Happen

The goal of this course is to change the way you think about your life and its possible impact on the world. In particular, we will explore what it means to live a more consequential life. To unpack this somewhat abstract-sounding idea, we will examine cutting-edge concepts from the exciting and still emerging science on human flourishing.

This science takes on some very grand questions that lie at the heart of the human experience: the quest for happiness, the pursuit of meaning, and the desire to leave a legacy. For example, around the globe, people routinely report that living a “long and happy life” are among their most cherished goals. Yet, many also indicate they hope to live lives that will feel meaningful and entail some sort of significant and enduring contribution. In this course, we will investigate just what it takes to create a life that hits this coveted “sweet spot” — that rich, psychological intersection where individuals feel they have successfully achieved a happy life but also one that feels deeply meaningful and leaves behind some trace that impacted or benefited others.

Course Introduction


By engaging the most powerful concepts from contemporary research on happiness, meaning, and achievement, you will have an opportunity in this course to develop a personalized framework for thinking about how you can pursue such a life for yourself. To enhance your personal exploration and learning, the course will include insightful readings, case studies, and illustrative videos. You will also have the chance to participate in a variety of reflective writing and experiential exercises designed to further stimulate your thinking. Finally, you will have numerous opportunities to actively discuss your ideas with your classmates and me, as well as work collaboratively on several creative projects.

  • Mastering life’s moments: We will explore how to make the most of life’s “best” moments, using proven techniques for promoting psychological flourishing and well-being.
  • Managing expectations: Many people, perhaps paradoxically or ironically, entertain such high expectations regarding their lives that those expectations become a psychological burden and creative obstacle, making it more difficult for them to enjoy their present moments and to plan most creatively for their future.
  • Resilience: Understanding how to be a more resilient human being when facing some of life’s more difficult moments is vital to success at pursuing a life of consequence, including learning how to cope more creatively and effectively with life’s disappointments, setbacks, and other forms of adversity.
  • Exploring the role other people play in a consequential life: Research shows that pursuing a happy and meaningful life depends not only on what we do individually but also how we engage with other people around us. Accordingly, the course will enhance your understanding of how other people make you feel about your life, especially how positive social relations can enhance your overall happiness and sense of well-being.
  • Crafting a more consequential life story: Drawing on research on the benefits of generative writing about life-stories, we will explore how the way we tell our life stories influences how we feel about ourselves, the particular lives we are living, and our appraisal of their ultimate significance.
  • Exploring your own legacy: You will have a chance to explore how to think more creatively and expansively about the impact of your life on other people around you and the world writ large, including those closest to you as well as those who are in more remote or “distant” relationships to you.

Course Faculty


Marineh Lalikian
Director, Stanford LEAD Online Business Program Executive Education