Sense of Purpose

Think about the world you live in. This includes your home, your community, and the world at large. Imagine you’ve been given a magic wand, and you can change anything you want to change in the world. What would you want to be different? Why? Describe your ideal world.
Is there anything you can do to help move the world closer to this ideal? If so, please explain how. If not, please explain why not. – from the Stanford Meaning/Purpose Project
Great! If you’ve done this with full sincerity, you’re significantly closer to living with meaning and purpose. A majority of Discovery for many people is finding out who they are, and understanding/developing a sense of identity. A sense of meaning and purpose comes from each of the 4 cornerstones — Discovery, Expression, Service, and Love — and there is a synergy between them. They compliment each other.
Having an idea of who we are, we decide what to do, whether that dictates how we explore our curiosity (discovery), create and play (expression), work and give (service) or engage in relationships (love).  This “Type” of happiness is reviewed in further detail HERE.
There is a spectrum in the world of a sense of meaning and purpose. A lucky few of us would read the passage above with a sense of certainty, in which their imaginings align closely with what they actually have.
On the other end, there are those of us who build entire lives around pretenses other than what brings us meaning and purpose. It is REMARKABLY common. And it is even harder to let go of what we have when we have so much.
Fortunately, this site is full of enablers to help you make the shift into more meaning and purpose. Giving you more freedom in your work, relationships, and personal growth, there are exceptional resources here at your disposal.
To assist you in living with a sense of meaning and purpose, this page will highlight some of the benefits and strategies of that outcome. Here you will find articles, videos, excerpts and quotes from around the web to help steer you forward with a clear picture of meaning and purpose.

The Ryff Scale

Dr. Carol Ryff points out the connection of meaning and purpose to health.

The Ryff scale is one of the tools out there for measuring an individual’s ‘well-being,’ including happiness, joy, and contentment. Within her model, there are six key elements to well being: Self-acceptance, Personal Growth, Purpose in Life, Environmental Mastery, Autonomy, and Positive Relations with Others.

Along with giving researchers a reliable method for measuring a well-lived life, The Ryff scale has again pointed to clear factors that affect a person’s well-being. One of the profound findings from Dr. Carol Ryff’s research was the connection a sense of purpose has to physical health. Especially in older adults, a sense of purpose leads to lower morbidity and more longevity. View research paper.

The Ryff scale has some differences from the model we us on this site. We pinpoint meaning and purpose specifically as a foundation for well-being, joy, and flourishing, and submit that a sense of meaning and purpose comes from 4 cornerstones: Discovery, Love, Expression, and Service. Parallels between Ryff’s and others’ research findings are present. For example, Ryff’s research branches into the role of the arts (expression) in eudaimonic well-being.


A priceless resource, full of videos, cliff notes of books, and breakdowns on a number of strategies, from meaning and purpose to general happiness, productivity, etc.
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There is increasing importance being put on finding meaning and purpose during youth. But meaning and purpose is important for midlife and older adults too. This article reveals research on purpose later in life, and even how what kind of purpose matters with age.
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From a financial blog: “Financial independence ought not to be your aim; it’s merely a means to an end.” A diverse and powerful approach is taken in offering 12 different exercises to help you discover where you find a sense of purpose.
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A fun case study of a brewery and its roots/philosophy in following a purpose.
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Here is a scientific paper proposing a trichotomy of purpose, coherence, and significance as aspects of meaning in life.
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“Can a Sense of Purpose Help Teens Through Hard Times?” – observing what effect it has on young minds.
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In this article from Fast Company, purpose is addressed from a business point of view, and directly contrasted with mission. It will even give business owners concrete steps for connecting with the “Why” behind what they do.
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An almost curt guide on living a life of purpose. Including clearing away distractions, this guide will help you put your deepest missions front and center in every task you take part in.
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This article highlights the difference between happiness and joy, and is a preview of the focus of our happiness section.
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“A Stanford research project explored the key differences between lives of happiness and meaningfulness. While the two are similar, dramatic differences exist – and one should not underestimate the power of meaningfulness. “The quest for meaning is a key part of what makes us human,” the researchers concluded. ” this article will detail their findings.
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How do we measure existential meaning? This scientific paper lays out the best tools and challenges we face in quantifying meaning.
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Steve Taylor – The Power of Purpose

Remembering Victor Frankl and moving into motivation and resilience, this speaker explores the power of living with a sense of meaning behind us.

Carol Ryff – Keynote: Is Purpose Good for Your Health

Ryff’s scale for measuring psychological well-being, broken down. In this talk, she shows the reasoning behind her model, and speaks about the effects of purpose on physical health.

Michael Steger – What Makes Life Meaningful

Another speaker providing their own framing for meaning in life, and presenting the power of purpose (especially at 9:40).

Jennifer Aaker – The Power of Purpose

From the Stanford School of Business, learn about meaning/purpose at work, the Ryff scale, and more, all conveyed with great illustrations.

Robert Waldinger – What Makes a Good Life?

Director of a 75-year-running study on adult development, this researcher draws conclusions from a wealth of data on life satisfaction, showing that relationships (which usually contain all 4 cornerstones) are perhaps what matter most.

Dr. Robert Quinn – How to Live a Purpose Driven Life

Giving a lecture at Google, the founder of the Center for Positive Organizations outline the benefits, and his own how, of living with a sense of purpose.

Vic Strecher – On Purpose

A compelling talk by Academic Vic Strecher, whose research and recent book, Life on Purpose, shows the astounding effects of a sense of meaning and purpose on a person’s health and satisfaction.

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” ~Rumi

“He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How.” – Nietzsche

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” – Victor Frankl

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” – Thomas Carlyle

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy