Supporting Well-Being with PERMA+: Meaning

Meaning put the M in PERMA+, psychologist Martin Seligman’s scientific theory for maintaining well-being. Finding meaning in our lives looks different for all of us. For some, it may come from a spiritual or religious place. Others may find purpose through work, a vocation, or a hobby. Wherever it comes from, meaning lives beyond the individual, representing something greater than ourselves. Finding meaning has been tied to improved health, greater resilience, and increased life satisfaction. Here are some resources to help you discover it in your life.

  • On Coronavirus Lockdown? Look for meaning, not happiness. Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness, writes about cultivating an attitude of tragic optimism (the ability to maintain hope and find meaning in life despite its inescapable pain, loss and suffering), a term coined by Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and psychiatrist.
  • Many people find meaning from helping others. Shipley’s Director of Service Learning, Margie Winters, has provided this list of ways that you can practice compassion in action at home and in the Greater Philadelphia area
  • If you want to look beyond our local community, CNN’s Impact Your World is a list of resources to support healthcare workers, service workers, refugees, blood banks, and the elderly. 
  • We can add meaning to daily activities by finding a way to serve the community while doing everyday tasks. Leave positive messages in chalk on your neighbor’s sidewalk or ask elderly neighbors if you can do their grocery shopping.
  • Ryan Niemiec, Education Director of the VIA Institute, shares how we can use our character strengths to cultivate meaning in life. How to Make Your Life More Meaningful | VIA Institute


Learn more about PERMA+ and how we support well-being at The Shipley School.

About the Author


The Shipley School is an independent, coeducational day school in Bryn Mawr for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world. Through a strong college-preparatory curriculum in the humanities and sciences, our school encourages curiosity, creativity, and respect for intellectual effort. Shipley upholds and promotes moral integrity, a sense of personal achievement and worth, and concern for others at school and in the larger community.