Prioritizing Meaning as a Pathway to Meaning in Life and Well-Being

Abstract

Experiencing both positive emotions and meaning is fundamental to human flourishing. The present study aimed to build and expand upon recent attempts to assess prioritizing positivity, which involves habitual ways of incorporating positive emotions in daily life (Catalino et al. in Emotion 14(6): 1155–1161, 2014), by assessing the prioritization of meaning in daily life and its associations with well-being. Results from two studies, employing adult community samples (N = 107 and N = 251) demonstrated coherent, replicable factor structure and good internal reliability for the 12-item scale of prioritizing meaning. Prioritizing meaning was positively associated with life satisfaction, happiness, positive emotions, sense of coherence, gratitude and presence of meaning, beyond the effect of prioritizing positivity, thus demonstrating the possibility that prioritizing meaning makes a distinctive contribution to well-being. Process mediation models showed that prioritizing meaning is associated with the experience of meaning which in turn mediates the beneficial effects of prioritizing meaning on a variety of well-being indicators. Prioritizing meaning was also directly associated with well-being indicators underscoring its potential role in affecting well-being. Furthermore, prioritizing meaning was found to significantly mediate the effect of search for meaning on all indicators of well-being other than sense of coherence. The findings suggest the importance of prioritizing meaning and hold significant conceptual and practical implications for understanding processes of meaning making and their potential effects on individuals’ well-being.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Note: when valuing happiness is not controlled for, the results for prioritizing meaning are similar, but for positive affect, negative affect, depression, search for meaning and coherence (β = .13, β = − .15, β = − .05, β = .09, and β = .06 respectively), prioritizing positivity is not a significant predictor. For satisfaction with life and happiness, prioritizing positivity is significant (β = .29 and β = .26 respectively).

References

  1. Anaby, D., Jarus, T., & Zumbo, B. D. (2010). Psychometric evaluation of the Hebrew language version of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Social Indicators Research, 96(2), 267–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Meanings of life. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bolger, N., Davis, A., & Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 579–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Catalino, L. I., Algoe, S. B., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2014). Positivity: An effective approach to pursuing happiness? Emotion, 14(6), 1155–1161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Central Bureau of Statistics. (2015). Statistical abstract of Israel 2015: annual data—2. Population. Resource document. Central Bureau of Statistics. http://www.cbs.gov.il/reader/shnaton/shnatone_new.htm?CYear=2015&Vol=66&CSubject=2. Accessed 1 September 2016.

  7. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Datu, J. A. D. (2015). Validating the revised self-construal scale in the Philippines. Current Psychology, 34(4), 626–633.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. de St. Aubin, E. (2013). Generativity and the meaning of life. In J. Hicks & C. Routledge (Eds.), The experience of meaning in life. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2011). The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100(2), 185–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York, NY: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Eriksson, M., & Lindstrom, B. (2005). Validity of Antonovsky’s sense of coherence scale: A systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthy, 59(6), 460–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ezrachi, E. (2004). The quest for spirituality among secular Israelis. In U. Rebhun & C. I. Waxman (Eds.), Jews in Israel: Contemporary social and cultural patterns (pp. 315–328). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Ford, B. Q., & Mauss, I. B. (2014). The paradoxical effects of pursuing positive emotion: When and why wanting to feel happy backfires. In J. Gruber & J. T. Moskowitz (Eds.), Positive emotion: Integrating the light sides and dark sides (pp. 363–381). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Frankl, V. E. (1963). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Washington Square Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Friedman, E. M. (2012). Well-being, aging, and immunity. In S. Segerstrom (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of psychoneuroimmunology (pp. 37–62). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. George, L. S., & Park, C. L. (2016). Meaning in life as comprehension, purpose, and mattering: Toward integration and new research questions. Review of General Psychology, 20(3), 205–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54(7), 493–503.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Gross, J. J., & Thompson, R. A. (2007). Handbook of emotion regulation. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Huta, V. (2016). Eudaimonic and hedonic orientations: Theoretical considerations and research findings. In J. Vittersø (Ed.), Handbook of Eudaimonic well-being (pp. 215–231). Cham: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Huta, V., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Pursuing pleasure or virtue? The differential and overlapping well-being benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic motives. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 735–762.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Huta, V., & Waterman, A. S. (2014). Eudaimonia and its distinction from hedonia: Developing a classification and terminology for understanding conceptual and operational definitions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(6), 1425–1456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). (1999). Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43, 207–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. King, L. A., Hicks, J. A., Krull, J. L., & Del Gaiso, A. K. (2006). Positive affect and the experience of meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(1), 179–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lewinsohn, P. M., Sullivan, J. M., & Grosscup, S. J. (1980). Changing reinforcing events: An approach to the treatment of depression. Psychotherapy: Theory. Research and Practice, 17, 322–334.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Little, B. R. (1983). Personal projects: A rationale and method for investigation. Environment and Behavior, 15(3), 273–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Littman-Ovadia, H., & Steger, M. (2010). Character strengths and well-being among volunteers and employees: Toward an integrative model. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(6), 419–430.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Lounsbury, J. W., Saudargas, R. A., Gibson, L. W., & Leong, F. T. (2005). An investigation of broad and narrow personality traits in relation to general and domain-specific life satisfaction of college students. Research in Higher Education, 46(6), 707–729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46(2), 137–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Maddi, S. R. (1970). The search for meaning. In M. Page (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation (pp. 137–186). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224–253.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Martela, F., & Steger, M. F. (2016). The three meanings of meaning in life: Distinguishing coherence, purpose, and significance. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11, 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Massimini, F., & Delle Fave, D. A. (2000). Individual development in a bio-cultural perspective. American Psychologist, 55(1), 24–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Mauss, I. B., Tamir, M., Anderson, C. L., & Savino, N. S. (2011). Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion, 11, 807–815.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. May, R. (1967). Psychology and the human dilemma. New York, NY: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  40. McAdams, D. P., & de St Aubin, E. (1992). A theory of generativity and its assessment through self-report, behavioural acts, and narrative themes in autobiography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(6), 1003–1015.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. McGregor, I., & Little, B. R. (1998). Personal projects, happiness, and meaning: On doing well and being yourself. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 494–512.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Nave, C. S., Sherman, R. A., & Funder, D. C. (2008). Beyond self-report in the study of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being: Correlations with acquaintance reports, clinician judgments and directly observed social behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(3), 643–659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Park, N., Park, M., & Peterson, C. (2010). When is the search for meaning related to life satisfaction? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2(1), 1–13.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 25–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 386–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 139–170.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–1081.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 1–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Ryff, C. D., Singer, B. H., & Dienberg Love, G. (2004). Positive health: Connecting well-being with biology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1383–1394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Schnell, T. (2009). The sources of meaning and meaning in life questionnaire (SoMe): Relations to demographics and well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 483–499.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Schooler, J. W., Ariely, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2003). The pursuit and assessment of happiness can be self-defeating. In J. C. I. Brocas (Ed.), The Psychology of Economic Decisions (Vol. I, pp. 41–70). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Scollon, C. N., & King, L. A. (2004). Is the good life the easy life? Social Indicators Research, 68, 127–162.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?). Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1(1), 129–145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Steger, M. F. (2012). Experiencing meaning in life. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning (pp. 165–184). NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Steger, M. F., & Kashdan, T. B. (2007). Stability and specificity of meaning in life and life satisfaction over one year. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8, 161–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Oishi, S. (2008a). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 22–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., Sullivan, B. A., & Lorentz, D. (2008b). Understanding the search for meaning in life: Personality, cognitive style, and the dynamic between seeking and experiencing meaning. Journal of Personality, 76, 199–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Steger, M. F., Kawabata, Y., Shimai, S., & Otake, K. (2008c). The meaningful life in Japan and the United States: Levels and correlates of meaning in life. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 660–678.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Steger, M. F., Oishi, S., & Kesebir, S. (2011). Is a life without meaning satisfying? The moderating role of the search for meaning in satisfaction with life judgments. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(3), 173–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Temane, Q. M., & Wissing, M. P. (2006). The role of subjective perceptions of health in the dynamics of context and psychological well-being. South African Journal of Psychology, 36(3), 564–581.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Vanhoutte, B. (2014). The multidimensional structure of subjective well-being in later life. Journal of Population Ageing, 7(1), 1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Vittersø, J., Overwien, P., & Martinsen, E. (2009). Pleasure and interest are differentially affected by replaying versus analyzing a happy life moment. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 14–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 678–691.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Wong, P. T. P. (1998). Implicit theories of meaningful life and the development of the personal meaning profile. In P. T. P. Wong & P. S. Fry (Eds.), The human quest for meaning (pp. 111–140). Mahwah: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Wong, P. T. (2010). Meaning therapy: An integrative and positive existential psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 40(2), 85–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Wong, P. T. (2014). Viktor Frankl’s meaning-seeking model and positive psychology. In A. Batthyanny & P. Russo-Netzer (Eds.), Meaning in positive and existential psychology (pp. 149–184). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2008). Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the five factor model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 49–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pninit Russo-Netzer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Russo-Netzer, P. Prioritizing Meaning as a Pathway to Meaning in Life and Well-Being. J Happiness Stud 20, 1863–1891 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-0031-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Meaning in life
  • Well-being
  • Prioritizing meaning
  • Hedonia
  • Eudaimonia