I was talking with someone recently who said they had given up trying to figure out the purpose and meaning of life. They said it was too difficult and had made them feel a bit hopeless. It sounded like they were experiencing some grief over this and that it was putting them in a mood of resignation. I introduced the thought that maybe they could recognise some purpose and meaning in life, in the everyday things that make sense to them and help them feel that their life is making a difference (Steger 2009). We had a thoughtful and reflective conversation which covered a lot of ground. The distinction between finding the meaning “of” life and the meaning “in” life did help.
Meaning of life and meaning in life are two concepts that are central to discussions about meaning and fulfilment. While they are related, they refer to different aspects of our existence and quest for understanding. I think an understanding of the distinction between the two concepts is important to consider in our journey of self-discovery.
The distinction between finding the meaning “of” life and the meaning “in” life did help.
The purpose and meaning of life is a philosophical question that has been asked for centuries. It refers to the ultimate reason for why we exist and what our place in the world is. The purpose of life can be seen as a universal question, one that is not unique to an individual but rather a question that people from all walks of life, cultures, and time periods have asked. The search for the purpose of life often leads people to explore spirituality, religion, or philosophy, and many believe that it is something that is predetermined or set by a higher power.
Meaning in life, on the other hand, is a more personal and individualised concept. It refers to the specific goals and aspirations that we have for our own lives. It can be seen as a more concrete expression of what gives our lives meaning and direction. It includes things like career goals, relationships, personal growth, and making a positive impact in the world. Purpose and meaning in life are unique to each individual and can change and evolve as our experiences and perspectives change.
The difference between the meaning of life and meaning in life is an important distinction to make. While the meaning of life is a more abstract and universal concept, meaning in life is more personal and specific. However, the two are interconnected in that our beliefs about the meaning of life can influence our sense of purpose and meaning in life, and exploring the meaning of life may help us to understand better what we want out of life right now.
There’s no one size fits all with what gives meaning in your life. What I find meaningful might be different to what is meaningful to you. But it’s worth reflecting and thinking about and connecting with the people, routines, and experiences that help you find meaning and purpose daily – the little things can make a difference.
Steger, Michael F. 2009. “What is the Meaning of (Your) Life?” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-meaning-in-life/200902/what-is-the-meaning-your-life