Emerge and Spread Your Wings

The Source of a Meaningful Life?

We are in the midst of supporting our eldest to make some study choices for next year. It has raised some very interesting conversations as you might imagine. The next generation has some high expectations of what a job might give them – satisfaction, high income, life-long interest, stimulating work environment. Big asks of just one aspect of one’s life (work). So it was with interest that I read a recent article by Seph Fontane Pennock – a writer from the Positive Psychology Programme. With his positive psychology background Seph has some interesting, and thought provoking insights into how we experience a meaningful life. Here is the gist of it in a quote from another of his writings.

“meaning is about life’s relevance, significance or value and can be positive and negative
we draw meaning from different aspects of life (spouse, work, etc.)
the more sources of meaning, the more meaning you are likely to experience
these sources of meaning have different depths
the more self-transcendent the source, the deeper the meaning
helping other experience more positive – or less negative – meaning is a source of deep meaning itself
What we’re left with is a 3D-model that looks like this:

Total experienced meaning in life = (Sources of meaning) x (Depth of meaning)”    Seph Fontane Pennock

Some of the concepts he discussed are complex, but I found this interesting. When we talk about a meaningful experience, we are identifying its value, relevance or significance. We can explore the breadth of an experience as well as the depth.

As a practitioner one idea stood out for me. People can experience positive meaning and negative meaning. When we assist our clients to increase their experience of positive meaning and/or alleviate their experience of negative meaning, our own meaning experience, in turn, increases. Put another way, fundamentally when we help our clients feel better, or less bad, we, ourselves, feel more meaning in our lives. Funny huh? I wonder how many of us got into the helping professions for just this reason?

To read more on positive psychology have a look at this earlier blog on Positivity, and this on Strengths Based Practice.