There are numerous theories and hypotheses about how to live a happy and meaningful life. My own meaning hypothesis posits that a good life consists of meaning, virtue, and happiness, with meaning playing the key role (Wong, 2012, 2015).
After reviewing Viktor Frankl’s contributions and my own research on meaning, I explain (a) the meaning of different types of meaning; (b) the constituents of meaning; (c) the sources of meaning; and (d) the protectives roles of meaning.
Meaning contributes to our well-being in at least three ways: (a) enhancing our positive feelings, mature happiness, and health; (b) protecting us from stress through meaning-focused coping and moderating the effects of stress; and (c) contributing to our capacity for resilience and grit (Wong, 2014).
Regarding the practical ways to live a meaningful life, I argue that one cannot experience the full benefits of meaning simply by believing that one’s life has meaning, while wasting one’s life in pursuing pleasures, money, and power at the expense of others. A meaningful life needs to meet the objective standard of adding some value to society by making a unique and valuable contribution.
Finally, I propose that the pillars of a meaningful life include:
- Believing that there is inherent meaning in human existence;
- Having a deep understanding of who you are and how you fit in;
- Discovering your unique passion and mission;
- Fulfilling your best potentials and becoming your best self;
- Striving to serve something that is bigger and longer lasting than you (i.e., self-transcendence);
- Relating well to people, especially to loved ones; and
- Feeling fulfilled that you are living a productive life as a decent human being.
- Wong, P. T. P. (Ed.). (2012). The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2014). The positive psychology of grit: The defiant power of the human spirit [Review of the film Unbroken]. PsycCRITIQUES, 60(25). doi:10.1037/a0039390
- Wong, P. T. P. (2015, December). The meaning hypothesis of living a good life: Virtue, happiness, and meaning. Paper presented at the research working group meeting for Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life Project, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina. (Funded by the John Templeton Foundation)
Wong, P. T. P. (2017, October 3). Meaning in life and well-being. Invited talk presented at Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan.
Wong, P. T. P. (2017, October 18). Meaning in life and well-being. Invited talk presented at Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages, Kaohsiung, Taiwan