PERMA Series – Part 4: ‘M for Meaning’

M

 

Hopelessness and helplessness are two key characteristics of people who are deeply depressed or suicidal and it’s this lack of meaning in life leaves people struggling emotionally. To have no answer to the question ‘What’s the point of living?’ is certainly indicative of an unhappy, at risk existence.

Alternatively, associating meaning to your life is a well recognised predictor of wellbeing. Knowing why do we do the things we do gives meaning to our existence and our work which in turn affects our behaviour and consequently outcomes for students.

The belief in something bigger, more powerful, even more important than you is the starting point behind this concept of meaning. It might be your meaning in life is to serve and benefit all humanity; it may be faith in religion or some higher power or in humankind. For others, unity towards a common cause such as democracy, environmentalism, feminism, animal rights or even something as simple as supporting your local football team meets this criteria.

What gives meaning to your work as an educator? What is your professional mission? Is it the belief that you can make a difference in the lives of the students with whom you work? Is it a sense of social justice that gives you meaning? Is it the belief that young people have the right to receive quality education for free? 

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