The Human Quest for Meaning: Theories, Research, and Applications

The Human Quest for Meaning: Theories, Research, and Applications

The Human Quest for Meaning: Theories, Research, and Applications

The Human Quest for Meaning: Theories, Research, and Applications


The first edition of The Human Quest for Meaningwas a major publication on the empirical research of meaning in life and its vital role in well-being, resilience, and psychotherapy. This new edition continues that quest and seeks to answer the questions, what is the meaning of life? How do we explain what constitutes meaningful relationships, work, and living?
The answers, as the eminent scholars and practitioners who contributed to this text find, are neither simple nor straightforward. While seeking to clarify subjective vs. objective meaning in 21 new and 7 revised chapters, the authors also address the differences in cultural contexts, and identify 8 different sources of meaning, as well as at least 6 different stages in the process of the search for meaning. They also address different perspectives, including positive psychology, self-determination, integrative, narrative, and relational perspectives, to ensure that readers obtain the most thorough information possible. Mental health practitioners will find the numerous meaning-centered interventions, such as the PURE and ABCDE methods, highly useful in their own work with facilitating healing and personal growth in their clients. The Human Quest for Meaningrepresents a bold new vision for the future of meaning-oriented research and applications. No one seeking to truly understand the human condition should be without it.


Like you, I am searching for meaning. More precisely, I am working on constructing a meaningful life. With that goal in mind, I read this book with great interest, looking for guidance borne out of theory and science. I found more than I expected as the chapters nudged me toward deep reflection about my life and what matters most. Here I share some of my discoveries and encourage you to see this book for what it is—an intervention that could inspire you to make meaning.

Thinking about meaning conjures up memories of conversations with important people in my life. the first I will recount was a conversation, or series of discussions, between my mentor and me. While hanging out in his office, C. R. “Rick” Snyder and I chatted about our meaningful lives and the science that might explain them. of course, we believed that hope had lots to do with meaning, and indeed, some of his research supported this notion. He and David Feldman were curious about hope’s links to various conceptualizations of meaning. Through their simple psychometric study, they found very high correlations between hope and meaning measures that were rooted in three different theories and measured with different tools. These findings, and my conversations with Rick, suggested to me that hope might be necessary but not sufficient for meaning.

Hope is necessary but not sufficient for meaning. Is that true? Well, I could launch a 10-year program of study to test this theory. With other plans for the next decade, I decided to approach this unscientifically. I talked to the person that contributes most to my life’s meaning, and I observed the most hopeful person I know to determine how hope and meaning coexisted in daily life.

Alli, my wife of 18 years, is my role model of a flourishing person. She is very happy and makes meaning for herself and others daily. How does she do it? That is what I asked her. “I think about where I need to go. I think about it everyday,” she said. At the same time that she focuses on where she is going, she works hard each day to enjoy herself. Her simultaneous hot pursuit of the future and cool enjoyment of the present, and the experiences of my psychotherapy clients who found hope while suffering, affirm that the passionate pursuit of goals that matter to you and others is integral to a meaningful life.

So hope may be necessary for meaning, but is it sufficient for meaning? Are high-hope people meaning-making machines by nature? I thought I would try to answer this question by spending time with my super-hopeful 6-yearold son Parrish. He repeatedly demonstrated that he is an expert at nexting . . .

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