If you’re trying to discover the meaning of life… good luck with that – I certainly don’t have an answer for you. However, research from the field of applied positive psychology suggests that if you’re not living a meaningful life, the reality is you’re probably living a meaningless life… and rather than flourishing you may be on a path to languishing… in your personal and work life.
So how can you bring more practical meaning in your life without actually discovering the meaning of life?
One of the five essential ingredients for human flourishing identified by positive psychology founder, Martin Seligman, is meaning in our life (the other four are positive emotions, engagement in life, relationships and achievement). But what does it mean to have meaning in our life, and how does it help us to flourish?
In Roy Baumeister’s book ‘Meaning of Life’, he outlines his research that reveals the quest for a meaningful life can be understood in terms of four main needs for meaning.
The first is the need for purpose in our life. This is about a sense that our actions and experiences today will lead toward either goal achievement or desired life fulfilment.
The second is the need for values in our life. This is about having a clear set of beliefs and guiding principles about right and wrong.
The third is the need for self-efficacy. This is about a belief that we can make a difference in the world in some way.
And the fourth is the need for self-worth. This is a belief that we are good and worthy of love and respect.
Therefore, to live a meaningful life is one where we have and take intentional action based on clear purpose, values, efficacy and self-worth.
We get this sense of meaning (and fulfilment of the four needs for meaning) from multiple sources in our lives including our family, work, religion, experiences and pursuits. It’s fairly rare for us to satisfy all four meaning needs from just one area of our life.
A range of research studies validate that when we have meaning in our lives we are more able to engage in meaning-making to help us handle the ups and downs of our life experiences, and living a meaningful life is strongly correlated with positive physical and mental health.
Baumeister points out that a happy life and a meaningful life are not the same thing, and that living a meaningful life is probably not enough to ensure happiness. Having said that, he also highlights that in the majority of cases, a more meaningful life will be a happier one.
A great start on discovering and gaining clarity of purpose, values, self-efficacy and self-worth is to define your intentions for each of your life roles. This is just one of the inescapable truths outlined in the Intentionomics Blueprint and you can get a free copy of the Intentionomics Guided Study Workbook by clicking here. Following the 9 inescapable truths for a prosperous life is your road map to living a more meaningful life, a more happy, flourishing and prosperous personal and work life.