Hi my name is Jack Wells. Material affordances have been made available to more of our population than ever before. Yet, many of us are challenged day-to-day with existential doubts about whether we are on the right path, making the right decisions, or living a fulfilling and meaningful life. Questioning the mechanics of meaning, my thesis adopted an existential-positivist perspective to developing and validating a novel intervention that supports young people to reframe their lives as being more meaningful through expressive writing about values, passions, and the ideal future.
Perceiving meaning in life seems central to the formation of well-being as young people construct overarching life aims. In the words of Victor Frankl, paraphrasing Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for, can bear with almost any how.”
This study aimed to develop and validate a novel meaning-making intervention for young adults. These efforts were underpinned by recent developments in the conceptualisation and measurement of meaning-focused life crafting and multidimensional-existential meaning. It was hypothesised that a brief (16 mins) intervention prompting expressive writing about values, passions, and actions that might bring about an ideal and less ideal future would increase perceptions of multidimensional existential meaning in life. A quantitative (2x2) experimental design examined the influence of this intervention versus a similar control measure on a sample of fourth- and second-year undergraduate students (N=74; mean age=21.2, SD=1.87). Results indicated a moderate increase in purpose (p=.003), coherence (p=.006), and mattering (p=.027) scores, as well as life crafting scores (p=.030) for students who took part in the intervention. Furthermore, second-year students scored moderately lower in global life crafting (p=.002), suggesting that students might benefit more from such interventions earlier in their studies. Lacking a longitudinal analysis of how observed increases persisted over time limits the implications of these findings. The remarkable effect size of the intervention despite its brevity highlights two promising directions for further research. Possible explanations for the success of the intervention are also discussed.
Keywords: positive psychology, intervention, meaning in life, purpose, coherence, mattering, meaning-focused life crafting.