Why Meaning Matters: Paul Wong

We are so conditioned by the American dream that most people believe that their first and primary objective in life is to achieve happiness and success through their own strengths.


However, during the recent economic downturn, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the confidence that they can realize their cherished dream only if they put their minds to it. In times of discouragement and despair, a sense of meaning and purpose may be the best way to move forward.


How about those who have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations and already possess everything they have ever wanted? Yet, the view at the top of the ladder could be unsettling. What’s next? Is this all there is to life?


What will sustain us in the face of retirement, aging, sickness and death? All the medical inventions and pharmaceutical discoveries cannot give us the will to live. Viktor Frankl and subsequent research have demonstrated that “the will to meaning” and reasons for living can steel our determination to live life to the fullest till the last breath.


So many people are sick and tired of their work. What enables us to do boring jobs and mundane chores cheerfully? The intrinsic motivation of calling and serving can reward us with a sense of satisfaction.


How do we combat the greed on Wall Street and the violence on Main Street? How do we replace the corrupt politicians with servant leaders? We cannot legislate morality, nor can we banish greed on pain of imprisonment. But we can instill in people the belief that the real strength of a person does not come from money and power, but comes from within the person – it is rooted in deep convictions, character strengths, a higher purpose and an unshakable faith.


What awakens people from their semi-slumbering state of wandering through life and wasting all their talents and potentials? If time is the most valuable commodity, then wasting a life time is a tragic loss punishable by a fearful death.


What is the best way to facilitate recovery from addiction, trauma, or mental illness? Active involvement in discovering and experiencing some meaning for living can go a long way in the difficult journey of healing.


When everything fails, the human capacity of meaning seeking can be the bridge that takes us from desperation to hope and a future goal.

There are just tons of research on the vital role of meaning and purpose in enhancing our well-being and resilience. Much of the research has been documented in my two volumes on The Human Quest for Meaning.


Unfortunately, most people are not fully aware that their life and well-being depend on discovering the hidden dimension of meaning.


Happiness is an easy sell and success is music to the ear, but meaning and purpose is what people really need in order to survive and flourish.