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Three Ways to See Meaning in Your Life:

In his research focusing on the experience of meaning in life (authenticity, and true-self knowledge) professor Joshua A. Hicks of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, has some key findings to share.

Researchers’ definitions of meaning in life typically incorporate three themes: the belief that your life and contributions matter to others and yourself, the feeling that your life makes sense, and the feeling that you are actively pursuing fulfilling goals. Other research further corroborates the idea that significance (mattering), coherence (making sense), and purpose (orienting toward goals) represent three interrelated facets of, or perhaps direct pathways to, the experience of meaning in life. 

Based on those three pathways, here are some relatively simple things you can do to maintain or enhance your experience of meaning in life. 

Research has shown that to experience meaning in life, typically incorporates three interrelated direct pathways: 

  1. Significance (what matters) 
  2. Coherence (what makes sense) 
  3. Purpose (orienting toward goals) 

Based on those three pathways, here are some relatively simple things you can do to maintain or enhance your experience of meaning in life. 

  1. Significance

Existential Mattering states that your life and actions matter in the grand scheme of things. It is a strong component of the experience of meaning in life. It is rooted in a sense that you matter to others. That you are an indelible part of the wider universe in which you exist. Significance is augmented when your behaviors / experiences, matter to yourself. This aspect of significance is related to psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s idea of finding beauty and meaning in life through lived experience. To achieve this, you need to: 

  • Actively seek out intrinsically rewarding experiences, like reconnecting with nature or people who make it easy to express your true self. 
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Savor the positive aspects of situations
  • Cultivate a grateful disposition
  • Learn to evaluate your experiences more positively
  • Naturally foster the detection of significance in your life experiences.

2. Coherence

Our world seems to fall apart when things suddenly do not make sense. Restoring a sense of coherence during these times can be challenging and often requires feedback and reassurance from others (like a coach), as well as the healing power of time to help the mind restore a sense of equanimity. Making sense of your life though doesn’t necessarily mean that life will feel meaningful. Meaning is not simply about connecting the dots but also finding beauty in the picture that emerges. The following can help you make sense of life again:

  • Reconnect with the natural order of the world
  • Reinstate routines that give structure to life
  • Find respite in the arts may

3. Purpose

Feeling a sense of purpose helps us sustain motivation though the thick and thin of everyday life, and purposeful people tend to be more satisfied with their lives and even live longer. Purpose, therefore, is tied to both the quality and quantity of our existence. Purposeful behaviors are by definition pursued for more intrinsic reasons, often related to core aspects of one’s identity. Knowing the why of your actions can infuse even trivial behaviors with value. The capacity of meaning to allow us to wake up every morning and do what needs to be done requires that meaning be present even in suffering. And this is where a sense of purpose is powerful. Purpose —the capacity to invest in goals—no matter the circumstances promises to instill life with meaning.