DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Meaning and Well Being

I'm back. For the past three years (has it been that long?) I have been distracted by my long distance commuting job, writing book chapters and finishing up a new edition of the textbook I have been working on with my good buds Carolyn and Julie.

In the realm of this blog, I have been working on (and have given several presentations in the US, Europe and Australia) on a model of meaning and well-being.  One of my goals this year is to finally see the model in print.

The model is based on an idea that is both simple and complex at the same time. The simple part is that it presumes that our overall well being at any one point in time is influenced by our personal life story and how well it seems to be "hanging together." By this I mean, that people in distress sometimes describe their situation with an observation that their lives seem to be coming "unraveled." Metaphors in everyday language are interesting, because they give us insights about the images we use internally to make sense of our situations.

Of course, if we use"coming unraveled" to describe distress, it also implies that our view of a state of well being means  can be represented as strands of our lives that are fashioned together in an acceptable way. By this, I don't mean they represent a perfectly knitted afghan, because every life will have knot or stray thread every once in awhile. But overall, the implication is that we like to think that if things are going to be okay, we need to be able to say that we have a satisfactory pattern or coherence to the various strands of our lives.

So, my concept, based on the work of some outstanding social scientists, mostly from psychology, but also some sociologists and anthropologists (and social psychologists), theorizes that there are some predictable situations that put us at risk for feeling that our lives are missing a strand. These notions are largely based on some outstanding work done by Dan Adams and Roy Baumeister, scientists who have pursued some very disparate research during their careers.

Adams is all about describing the properties of unified, coherent life stories, and his work has been groundbreaking in helping to understand the profiles of lives that are viewed as troublesome (or satisfactory) by their owners. Research has shown that these life story archetypes can predict psychological distress and even health issues. Baumeister, on the other hand, has done work in many areas, but has made some seminal contributions to understanding the notion of meaning. He has identified core needs for meaning that can be construed as necessary strands or threads in our lives.

So, since this is starting to get long, I'll pause it here and take it up again in my next blog. In that post, I will identify four key areas that have been shown to be important anchors or characteristics for having a life that we can view as coherent or integrated—and therefore, one that creates a personal context for well-being.

Meantime, as always, I welcome your comments and observations.


About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.