Dr. James R. Doty: What Is a Life of Meaning?

JRD Milan (1)Excellence Reporter: Dr. Doty, what is the meaning of life?

James R. Doty: I will rephrase the question to ask what is a life of meaning?

At the end of our days, one wishes that what we have done in our lives will live on beyond our existence, that our actions in sum will have benefitted others and by doing so will be remembered as an example to those we love and to humankind in general.

It is this desire for transcendence that defines the human species and it is the nature of transcendence that for such to occur one must recognize that we are not separate individuals but part of a whole… and that whole is humanity. It is when we see ourselves in this way that life truly has meaning because it is at that point when we act with complete selflessness.


~James R. Doty, M.D., FACS, FICS, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University.
Founder and Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education
America’s Top Surgeons, Consumer’s Research Council of America (2005-2012)
“Best Doctor”, America’s Best Doctors (2005-2014)
Member, Founder’s Circle Stanford University (2009)
Dr. Doty is also an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist having given support to a number of charitable organizations including Children as the Peacemakers, Global Healing and Family & Children Services.

Copyright © 2015 Excellence Reporter

3 replies »

  1. Partly because, as a global trauma psychologist, I have seen many lives cut short in childhood/youth, and because I was also influenced by working with young men who died in relative youth during the worst of the AID pandemic in the US, it matters to me that I “live meaningfully” day after day, hour by hour, more than I’m concerned about a end-of-life legacy (though that’s a commendable goal). Probably our experiences, especially exceptionally painful ones, strongly predict what we find motivating, how we cope, whom we model our living after, what we find most meaningful. I’ve witnessed incredible hope and heroism demonstrated in private moments — by very ill, young, isolated, people who made meaning out of horrid misfortune, and that has moved me profoundly to find meaning in the moment.


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