Defining the purpose of life: a skill that guides us to well-being

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!

In this article we discuss self-management skills and specifically the importance of identifying our meaning and purpose in life to build our present and future well-being.

By Dina Fajardo Tovar/ Tw: @DinaFajardo and Guadalupe Águila Alfaro* / MUxED

A few months ago, around World Youth Skills Day, we published in the purple feather an account of the skills of the future that we would like our students, children and ourselves to develop to face the challenges of the future. On that occasion, some people questioned us about the category we call “self-management” and specifically about identifying our meaning and purpose of life.

What is the meaning and purpose of life? And why is it so important?

Imagine what the world would be like if we were all clear about the meaning of our lives. If we did what we like and what we are good at; And they will pay us for it.

In our opinion, the world would be a better place to live, we would all have a transcendent reason to get up and strive every day, which would lead to a fuller and happier life.

According to Martin Seligman –father of Positive Psychology– one of the elements for people to achieve and live in well-being is to be aware of what gives meaning to their lives. That is, that the person is certain that “his life has a meaning and transcends the ephemeral present” According to Robert Emmons, for most people, there are four important sources of meaning in life: work, close personal relationships , spirituality and transcendence.

Finding what gives meaning to your life allows you to put your strengths at the service of something you believe in and that is superior to you. Have you asked yourself, what is it that gives meaning to your life?

The meaning and purpose of life go hand in hand. Some authors use them interchangeably; others consider meaning to be a broader concept than purpose. The meaning defines what life and the experiences in it mean, while the purpose is the fundamental motive that directs the person to the fulfillment of the goals that inspire and excite them.

Identifying your life purpose allows you to focus all your efforts on those things that motivate you and therefore allow you to feel satisfied with life. According to recent research, people who feel that their life has a purpose experience less depression and anxiety and higher levels of well-being. Furthermore, having a purpose in life is related to physical and mental health, and longevity.

Experts recommend building a statement that reflects the purpose of life and always keeping it visible, it evolves throughout our lives, so it is important to review and adjust it when necessary. This statement guides us to make important decisions. For example, when choosing a professional career, aligned with the purpose of life, it allows us greater involvement, inspiration and commitment, which in turn affects the productivity of companies.

According to the study State of the Global Workplace, conducted by Gallup in 2017, 85% of people collaborate below their potential by not being involved in their work. The remaining 15% are committed collaborators who give their maximum effort, as they dedicate themselves to what they are passionate about, thereby raising individual and corporate well-being levels.

How do I identify my meaning and purpose in life?

There are different resources to create this statement. One of the best known is the Ikigai. The Ikigai is a term in Japanese that describes the happiness of living or in a few words, what motivates you every morning. According to Japanese experts, you can build your Ikigai or life purpose if you think about: what you love, what you are good at, what you need and what you could be paid for. The intersection of these four elements can help you build a statement that describes your ultimate goal, what motivates you, that is, your life purpose. We know that thinking it out of the blue can be difficult, but we recommend you review this book as it includes many trigger questions that can help you think and create your life purpose statement.

Image 1 Adapted from: García and Miralles, 2017

Another practical resource is the book: Your life, your best business. The author compares planning your life with corporate strategic planning. The methodology proposed to build this life plan invites you to define your vision (where you are headed), identify what makes you happiest (what gives you the most satisfaction), your competitive advantages (your strengths, what you are good at). ), your governing values ​​(those that govern your life), the strategies to achieve your goals and establish action plans and metrics. Once this process has been completed, you must periodically review the progress of this planning and, if required, make the necessary adjustments. This feedback is the element that closes the circle and makes the process interactive.

Diagram Description automatically generated
Image 2 Adapted from: Alva, 2009

The life plan defined according to this methodology helps us define our statement of purpose and leads us to identify strategies, action plans and metrics to take action and achieve our goals.

And this is taught in school?

In education we have dealt with developing technical skills for academic and professional success, leaving aside the development of socio-emotional skills. Investigations by experts in Positive Psychology have led to the application in education of tools to achieve well-being known as positive education, which promotes positive emotions and relationships, goal achievement, involvement, character strengths, and therefore supposed the meaning and purpose of life. Positive education develops traditional skills for academic achievement and offers the tools to achieve comprehensive well-being.

Relevant examples of implementation of positive education in the world are:

  • The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP), developed by Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • The Geelong Grammar School in Australia which in 2014 was the first educational institution to open an institute for positive education research, training and development.
  • The Tecmilenio University in Mexico, which in 2017 became the first positive university in the world, recognized for implementing a positive education model that includes the purpose of life in its vision. In addition, in 2013, he created the Institute of Happiness Sciences dedicated to the study, training, and development of well-being and happiness sciences.
  • The University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom, which also in 2017 became the first positive university in Europe.
CREDIT: © Anders, J. @Adobe Stock

Which is the message?

In the post-pandemic it is essential to learn and teach tools that allow us to live in well-being. The mental and emotional health of our students and ourselves has been affected. According to David Bott, director of the Positive Education Schools Association In Australia, those who were educated under the precepts of positive education have had better tools and greater resilience to face the psychological consequences of social distancing and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

In addition to all the skills of the future that are important and have already been gradually integrated into academic programs and educational systems, it is also important to think about these skills that allow people to know themselves better and have tools to make decisions that lead to well-being. .

As we discussed here, a first step can be to question and work on identifying what gives meaning to your life? and what is your life purpose? As a second step, reflect if what you do leads you to your life purpose or if there is something else to do differently to get closer to your purpose and live a happier life. If you find these ideas useful, share them with others; surely many people could benefit from reviewing or identifying their life purpose. Lastly, as education professionals, it is worth asking ourselves and looking for a way to bring this skill within everyone’s reach.


Dina Fajardo Tovar and Guadalupe Águila Alfaro *

Dina is a member of MUxED. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Cambridge in England where she belongs to the PEDAL Center (Play in Education, Development and Learning). Her research focuses on understanding the educator’s perspective on the use of learning through play as a means to develop future skills. Social networks


Guadalupe is a guest pen. She is currently a higher level professor at the Universidad del Valle de México, she has worked in the education sector for more than 20 years, she has been a teacher and collaborator in academic, student experience and administrative areas at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and Tecmilenio University. She has also collaborated in the private initiative in areas related to the development of human talent. LinkedIn:


Adler, A. (2017). Positive Education: Educating for academic success and for a full life. Retrieved from:

Alva, S. (2009). Your life, your best business. Mexico, DF LID Editorial Mexicana.

Dagnino, F. (2021). Positive education, a paradigm shift born in the 21st century. Retrieved from:

Emmons, R. (2003). Personal Goals, Life Meaning, and Virtue: Wellsprings of a Positive Life.

C. Keys, & J. Haidt, In CK (Ed.). Flourishing the Positive Person and the Good Lifefaith, (105-128). Washington, DC, USA: American Psychological Association.

Garcia H. & Mirelles, F. (2016). Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Penguin Publishing Group.

Kashdan, T. & McKnight, P. (2009). Origins of Purpose in Life: Refining our Understanding of a Life Well Lived. Psychological Topics (18, Special Issue on Positive Psychology), 303-316.

Kotsiou, A., Fajardo-Tovar, D., Cowhitt, T., Major, L. & Wegerif, R. (2022) “A scoping review of Future Skills frameworks, Irish Educational Studies”, 41(1), 171- 186, DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2021.2022522

Positive Education – Geelong Grammar School. (nd).

ProPositive, RN (sf). 18 facts that perhaps you did not know about Tecmilenio.

Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York, New York, USA: Free Press.

Steger, M. (2009). Meaning in Life. In S. Lopez, & C. SnyderOxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (2nd ed.). New York, USA: Oxford University Press

Tecmillennium (nd). Meet the unique model that accompanies you to live your Life Purpose.

The University of Buckingham. (2018, September 10). To become Europe’s first Positive University. University of Buckingham.

Social networks



Independent journalistic portal, made up of a network of national and international journalists who are experts in social issues and human rights.

Related Articles

Back to top button