A Meaningful Life

                                                                           By Brad Bell

         Finding meaning in life may be a fundamental human motive.  Thus, it is important to gain a better understanding of the concept of a meaningful life.

Meaningful Life Definition

      What is a meaningful life?  The definition of a meaningful life can be viewed as related to the concept of finding meaning.  In my book Finding Meaning, (Bell, 2007) I stated, “Finding meaning is the feeling that your life is full and significant.  You feel that you are making progress towards important personal goals.  You perceive many of your experiences as having value and purpose” (p. 5).   Thus, a meaningful life can be defined as the perception that one’s life is full and significant.  This perception may be based on an evaluation of how purposeful the events in one’ life seem to be, and how well one is achieving certain central goals.  Moreover, a meaningful life can be considered an important element in the definition of a good life.

An Example of Living a Meaningful Life

        A meaningful life is a subjective evaluation, and thus there may many possible examples of living a meaningful life.  Below is one hypothetical example of living a meaningful life.
       Imagine that a part-time college professor finds teaching enjoyable, but also has a significant interest in writing. The college professor strongly values creativity, and he would like to devote a significant amount of time to creative writing.  Creative writing fosters a significant feeling of purpose in his life.  However, the college professor has the opportunity to accept a full-time teaching job.  The college professor is concerned that if he accepts a full-time teaching job, he will not have much time to devote to creative writing.  After careful thought, he decides to decline the full-time teaching job.  He perceives that his life will be more meaningful if he only teaches part-time.  He believes this to be true because he will have a significant amount of time that he can devote to creative writing, and creativity is a primary source of finding meaning in his life.

Adversity and a Meaningful Life

       One of the challenges in living a meaningful life is adversity.  Negative events may make it difficult to discern how one's life is meaningful.  However, by striving to find some meaning in adversity or suffering, it may help to view one's life as more meaningful.  In my book, Finding Meaning (Bell, 2007), I included information on two perspectives on finding meaning in adversity.  These are the flip side perspective and the big picture perspective.  The flip side involves seeing the benefits of negative experiences, and the big picture involves perceiving how the negative experiences are a vital aspect in a larger scheme of things.

Types of Meaning

         In my novel, A Bright Purple Sky (Bell, 2019), there is information on three types of meaning in life:  everyday meaning, social meaning, and higher meaning.


Bell, B. (2007).  Finding meaning (3rd. ed.)  Portland, Oregon:  Blue Fox Communications.

Bell, B. (2019).  A Bright Purple Sky.  Portland, Oregon:  Blue Fox Communications.
My book, Finding Meaning (third edition), contains ideas about finding meaning in life, adversity, and work.