Meaning in Life

Michael F. Steger

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Meaning in Life

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In this chapter, it is argued that meaning in life is an important variable for human well-being. Literature supporting this contention is reviewed, and complexities regarding defining meaning in life are discussed. Definitions of meaning have focused on several components, two of which appear central and unique to meaning in life, suggesting a conceptual framework of meaning in life comprised of two pillars: comprehension and purpose. Comprehension encompasses people's ability to find patterns, consistency, and significance in the many events and experiences in their lives, and their synthesis and distillation of the most salient, important, and motivating factors. People face the challenge of understanding their selves, the world around them, and their unique niche and interactions within the world, and the notion of comprehension unifies these domains of understanding. Purpose refers to highly motivating, long-term goals about which people are passionate and highly committed. In the framework presented in this chapter, it is suggested that people devote significant resources to the pursuit of their purposes and that the most effective and rewarding purposes arise from and are congruent with people's comprehension of their lives. Literature is reviewed regarding where meaning might come from, and other dimensions of meaning are considered (i.e., sources of meaning and search for meaning). Suggestions for future research are proposed.

Keywords: eudaemonia; existential; meaning in life; purpose in life; well-being

Article.  6446 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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