What is the Meaning of Life for You?

Series: Find Your Purpose

Written by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, Intentional Insights Co-Founder and President.



Article republished in The Huffington Post.


“What is the meaning of life?”

I struggled with this question throughout my teenage years and young adulthood. My parents tried to convey their meaning of life to me when I was a teenager. Yet my contrarian streak prevented me from really listening to them. Instead, I thought and talked about the meaning of life with my friends. I remember long conversations when we would discuss and debate this topic with each other. I particularly remember one conversation when I was 18 – my two closest friends and I stayed up until 5 AM, playing cards, drinking, and trying to convince each other that our individual vision of the meaning of life made the most sense.

Going to college prompted further thought. Listening to professors and reading great books caused me to rethink the meaning of life many times. I really gained a richer perspective, but never a clear answer to my question – “What is the meaning of life?” That was until discovering research about this question.

But, before going into that, let me answer a question that some of you may have on your mind: why does my story matter? Who cares whether some guy figured out the meaning of life or not? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry in the world – hunger, disease, polarized political debate? Why even spend time worrying about the meaning of life?

Recent research shows that people who feel that their life has meaning experience substantially higher sense of well-being and even physical health. For example, Michael F. Steger, a psychologist and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University, found that many people gain a great deal of psychological benefit from understanding what their lives are about and how they fit within the world around them. His research demonstrates that people who have a sense of life meaning and purpose feel in general more happy as well as more satisfied on a daily level, and also feel less depressed, anxious, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Additionally, research on life meaning and purpose shows that it does not matter how you get this sense of meaning and purpose in life. What’s most important is that you experience your life as having a meaning and purpose. The key question is not “What is the meaning of life?” In fact, research seems to show that there is no one clear answer to this question. The only question that matters is “What is the meaning of life for you?” Each of us is free to formulate her or his own answer to this question. By doing so you get a personal sense of life meaning and purpose, and thus gain a sense of agency and choice by and through understanding your own personal life goals.

So let me ask you a question: “What is the meaning of life for you?” How did you reach your answer? Future blog posts in this series will discuss some strategies for answering this question, and for enacting your sense of meaning and purpose into everyday practices so that you can most effectively live your purpose and meaning on a daily level.




To avoid missing out on content that helps you reach your goals, subscribe to the Intentional Insights monthly newsletter.

The generosity of readers like you made this article possible. If you benefited from reading it, please consider volunteering or/and making a tax-deductible contribution to Intentional Insights, as well as buying our merchandise. Thank you for being awesome!

Recent Posts 10

Why You Don’t Think You’re Beautiful

Why You Don’t Think You’re Beautiful

May 23, 2016

How our minds fail in thinking about beauty standards.

Trump Feels Your Anger and Anxiety:  How Neuroscience Helps Expla

Trump Feels Your Anger and Anxiety: How Neuroscience Helps Explain Trump's Triumphs

May 16, 2016

Puzzled by the election results? Neuroscience helps provide some insights.

Why You Should Be Public About Your Good Deeds

Why You Should Be Public About Your Good Deeds

May 4, 2016

Learn about how being public about your good deeds can help improve the world!

How Feedback is Good For You (even when you feel bad about it)

How Feedback is Good For You (even when you feel bad about it)

April 26, 2016

You can improve from ANY feedback.

The Smart Way to Work With Purpose

The Smart Way to Work With Purpose

April 18, 2016

Use research about community bonds and serving others to build a meaningful workplace.

9 Strategies for Effective Donors

9 Strategies for Effective Donors

April 10, 2016

What are the steps you can take to donate effectively?

Video: How To Reach Your Personal and Societal Goals

Video: How To Reach Your Personal and Societal Goals

April 6, 2016

Learn how to apply the latest science on goal achievement to your life and our society!

How Can You Be Safer From Terrorism?

How Can You Be Safer From Terrorism?

April 2, 2016

You have the power to encourage political leaders to make us safer from terrorism!

The Truth About My Mental Illness

Video: The Truth About My Mental Illness

March 30, 2016

In this video, our President Gleb Tsipursky shares about his mental illness experience

12 Tips For Happy, Long-Lasting Relationships

12 Tips For Happy, Long-Lasting Relationships

March 21, 2016

Science-based strategies for achieving long-lasting happiness in your relationships!