What is the Meaning of Life?
What is the meaning of life? This is an important question.
There are many possible ways to address this question. In one
view, meaning of life pertains to the question of why we are
here. It is a question about the purposes of life. It is
something that would be true for everyone.
The question of what is the meaning of life is different from
the question of how we find meaning in life. In the Reflections
section of this website I have an article involving the difference
between meaning of life and meaning in life. The article is
entitled, "Meaning of Life Versus Meaning in Life." (1)
In my book, Finding Meaning (3rd edition), I mention two
conditions of universality. One of them is that it must be
something that everyone can achieve to some degree. The
other condition is that it must be something that can be
achieved regardless of whether one experiences negative or
positive events in one's life. Based on these two conditions of
universality, I suggested that learning and self-transcendence
are two basic purposes of life.
I state in my book (the quotation below can be viewed as one
of a number of important quotations on life), Finding Meaning
As we grow older, we can reflect on all that we have learned in life. Our lives
can be perceived as significant regardless of any external indications of
achievement, such as awards and positions obtained. The perception that we
have learned a great deal about life can help us to achieve a sense of meaning in
life. (p. 27)
Learning is something that everyone can achieve regardless
of their situation. Even if we are experiencing adversity, there
is a signficant opportunity to learn something. In fact, much of
our wisdom and insight may be derived from experiencing
This learning partly invovles gaining self-knowledge. Thus,
self-reflection is an important part of everyday life. We need
to reflect on our thoughts, feelings, and experience in order to
make sense of ourselves.
Self-transcendence is also something that everyone may be
able to acheive to some degree. In my book, Finding Meaning
(3rd edition), I state that "Self-transcendence involves
understanding, appreciating, caring about, and feeling
connected to things that transcend the self. You are concerned
with other people, society, and the environment" (p 31).
Self-trascendence partly involves perceiving one's identity in
the larger scheme of things.
1. See my book, Finding Meaning (3rd edition), for
information about seven possible sources of finding meaning in
life. Also, in the Reflections section of this website I have an
article entitled, "Sources of Meaning."
Bell, B. (2007). Finding meaning (3rd ed.). Portland, OR:
Blue Fox Communications.