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| Finding Meaning
Author: Brad Bell, Ph.D.
This book contains ideas about finding meaning in life, adversity, and work. Seven possible sources of finding meaning in life are described. These are authenticity, creativity, continuity, wholeness, coherence, purpose, and connectedness.
Sources of Meaning
Finding Meaning in Adversity
8 The Flip Side
9 The Big Picture
Finding Meaning in Work
10 Job Characteristics
11 Self-Concept Compatibility
12 Coworker Relations
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
My appendix ruptured when I was 12. I remember feeling no pain after waking up from the operation. One night I became vividly aware of my true situation. I could have requested that the nurse come to do something about my pain. However, I did nothing about my pain that night. I believe I needed to experience the pain in order to find meaning in this experience. Feeling no pain was incompatible with being very sick. Feeling pain made my hospital experience more real.
My hospital experience taught me a valuable lesson. A sense of realness may be necessary to find meaning in some experiences. Authenticity may play a role in how much meaning we find in life.
Excerpt from Chapter 4:
When I was an undergraduate student I would listen to a particular song a few times before going to class. There was something magical about the way this song made me feel. It helped me to get through the day. Why was it such a great song? When I analyzed the song, the song lost its magical appeal. The lyrics seemed overly idealistic, the melody was too simplistic, and the vocals were not exceptional.
This anecdote suggests that some things are best experienced as a whole without trying to evaluate the parts. The song I used to listen to as an undergraduate student only had great value if I didn't think about what attributes made it a great song.
Wholeness is a principle that may play an important role in finding meaning in certain experiences. Consequently, wholeness can also have an impact on the perceived meaningfulness of our lives.
Excerpt from Chapter 8:
Adversity can lead to self-knowledge. For example, Rokach (1990) found that self-reflection was a way that some people reported coping with loneliness. This would include such things as thinking about what really matters in life, sorting out feelings, and learning about what you like to do.
Tragedy may lead to discovering talents and interests. Imagine, for example, that you were in an automobile accident that left you paralyzed. It is unlikely that you will ever walk again. Before the accident, you were very athletic. You loved to run, swim, hike, and play basketball. For some time after the accident you felt as though your life was over. Your mood was dramatically changed when you began writing poems to express your feelings. You discovered that you really loved to write. You decided to take some writing courses at a community college. Your instructors were impressed with your writing. This inspired you to become a writer.
Excerpt from the Epilogue:
Wholeness may be a fundamental principle in our search for meaning. We may strive for self-unity in which all aspects of our personality are reflected in our behavior. Authenticity is partly achieved when there is unity between the inner self and overt self. Pursuing a combination of personal goals that reflect a generic life theme can help us to feel a sense of purpose. The principle of continuity reflects the need to avoid the feeling that one's life is fragmented. Meaningful learning is partly analogous to putting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. Reconnecting with the past may help us to perceive our lives as more integrated. A sense of coherence involves perceiving how the events in your life reflect an underlying order. Creative expression can involve integrating elements into a coherent whole. Meaningful work may involve working on projects from start to finish. Finally, finding meaning in adversity may partly depend on viewing negative experiences from a more holistic perspective.