Meaning, Purpose, and Significance with Michael Steger

July 31, 2018

Today we have Michael Steger on the podcast. Dr. Steger is a Professor of Psychology, and the Founding Director of the Center for Meaning and Purpose at Colorado State University. He studies the link between meaning in life and well-being, as well as the psychological predictors of physical health and health-risk behaviors, and the facilitators and benefits of engaging in meaningful work.

In this episode we discuss the following topics:

  • The definition of meaning in life
  • The measurement of meaning
  • The dark triad and meaning
  • “The Hitler Problem”
  • Life satisfaction vs. meaning in life
  • Different forms of pleasure
  • The possibility for “meaning exhaustion”
  • Meaningful work
  • The difference between coherence, purpose, and significance
  • Different meanings of purpose
  • The strongest sources of meaning in life

9 Responses to “Meaning, Purpose, and Significance with Michael Steger”

  1. Fiona says:

    Hi Scott, I feel like your research on Maslow is such feature of the show, because you talk about it and other people talk about it, but it’s a void in my mind about what you actually think about it. It’s referred to but we don’t hear about it because you’re always the interviewer. Maybe get a buddy on to interview you? It’s like a weird, tantalising mystery.

  2. Roman Rodriguez says:

    Hola Scott,
    I’m not a researcher or student or work in the field of psychology, yet don’t we all, regardless of status, live and work in a psychology lab? I’ll admit many of the podcast discussions are over my head, but I still enjoy listening and trying to take some part of it with me. This podcast with Michael Steger, was one of those that I struggled with intellectually but was hooked by the content. I’ve discovered for myself how the definition of something, such as purpose or meaning, is relative depending on who you talked to. My initial thought in trying to make some sense of what you and Michael were saying is that “meaning” is the idea, and “purpose” is the action of that idea. I’m not saying this is what I think you meant. It’s the thought that I formed for myself. I began asking co-workers around me how they defined meaning and purpose. Again, I’m not scholar, just a regular dude that listens to your podcast. Keep up the good and fun work.

    Best wishes.
    Roman Rodriguez, El Paso, TX

  3. Hey, I really loved this article. It was simple and straight to the point. I have had depression and anxiety in that past, and most of it for me was the fact that I was not aligned with my heart, meaning and purpose. From what I have learned I think having that sense from within is what drives us as humans forward. I think meaning and purpose drives us forward and gives us that sense of operating from authenticity and integrity. In that place its easier for us to really connect with people on a deeper level and get that sense of love we are all after. After all, Freedom lies in unbecoming all that isn’t you and stepping into greatness!
    Some really cool books that help with this are: Mans search for meaning some other ones that are also great are Don Miguel Ruiz books and Authentic Happiness. I would also love to add that setting boundaries can increase ones happiness. I talk a lot about it with people I coach and it has helped them tremendously. I write about it here .Check it out!

  4. Keith Johnston says:

    Is it still possible to view the links associated with this episode?

  5. Keith Johnston says:

    Was there another episode on meaning where Scott shared a definition of meaning which he liked?

    I’m almost certain it was Scott on this podcast, but I can’t find it.

  6. Tammi Coleman says:

    Great talk!
    Is it possible to print a transcript of this talk?

  7. Tom Rotelli says:

    Great discussion! Thank you.

    Thinking about purpose and the different frameworks discussed, one might suggest that any framework should be able to handle some archtypes: a zen monk, a Confusian, Mother Teresa, Jonas Salk, Marie Curie, Hannibal Lecter… The frameworks discussed today revolved around the concept of striving. Our zen monk friend would be sadly left out, or we would be forced to come up with a byzantine definition of ‘striving’ that no one would like. Likewise, the Confusian who recognizes that the present need of the present company defines the right thing to do, i.e, purpose.

    What if purpose turns out to be a boolean? One has either accepted one’s place in the universe and and acts in harmony with that, or one has not and does not…yet.

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