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In positive psychology meaning is an essential element of wellbeing. For us to feel that life has meaning, we need to feel our actions are valuable and worthwhile, that we belong to and are working towards something which is greater than ourselves. So what are the benefits of establishing meaning in life and how can we discover meaning? 

The PERMA model

The PERMA model comes from the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, often referred to as the founder of positive psychology. PERMA refers to the five elements necessary to create a fulfilling, happy and meaningful life, they are:

P = Positivity

E = Engagement

R = Relationships

M = Meaning

A = Accomplishment

In this series of blogs we’ll take a look at the evidence for element contribution to wellbeing and examine how to strengthen and develop each part of the PERMA model for a fulfilling life.

About meaning

In his iconic book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, psychologist Viktor Frankl explains “Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” Feeling that we have a sense of purpose and meaning is essential to our wellbeing.

Meaning – the research

Adopting a sense of meaning has been shown to benefit individuals and organisations in a number of ways:

  • A life well lived. People who have a meaning and a sense of purpose in life report a feeling of a life well lived with increased satisfaction with life & better health. 
  • Resilience. Those with a more positive approach to challenges, who attribute meaning to adversity are more likely to experience post traumatic growth following adversity.
  • Increased interest and engagement at work. Employees who report feeling a part of something bigger are more engaged and sustain greater interest in their activities.

3 ways to develop meaning

  1. Fire your passion. What are the causes that fire your passions? What prompts a strong emotional response from you? Unfairness? Honesty? The opportunity to learn? Make a list of things that really provoke a strong response from you.
  2. Put your passions to work. How can you implement these passions to inject meaning into your daily activities? You might to choose to join a group that represents a cause that’s dear to you? Maybe you’ll start a group or find a way to bring your passion to your community, social enterprise,  volunteering and sharing expertise are all ways to put your passion to work.
  3. Live your passion. Make sure that the meaning relevant for you is evident in every area of your life. Are your friendships and job aligned with your meaning? If not, do you need to make changes?

Discover more about meaning from the great Viktor Frankl:

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