Dr. Kevin Gazzara
4 min readMay 31, 2023


The Difference between Meaning and Purpose: An Exploration of Importance

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Meaning and purpose are two fundamental concepts that have been widely explored in various fields of study, including philosophy, psychology, and existential theory. While often used interchangeably, it is essential for us to recognize that meaning and purpose are distinct yet interconnected constructs that shape our experiences and provide a sense of direction and significance in life. This article aims to clarify the differences between meaning and purpose and highlight their unique characteristics and roles in our life.


Meaning refers to the significance, value, or interpretation attributed to our life experiences, actions, or circumstances. It encompasses three dimensions; 1) Subjective, 2) Cultural, and 3) Existential.

1) Subjective meaning pertains to personal interpretations and subjective evaluations of one’s life, emphasizing individual perspectives and the emotional resonance attached to specific experiences.

2) Cultural meaning refers to the significance ascribed by a society or community, often influenced by shared values, beliefs, and cultural practices.

3) Existential meaning delves into questions regarding the purpose and significance of human existence in a broader philosophical context.

The 4 Sources that Create Meaning

1) Relationships: Creating meaningful connections and relationships with others, fostering a sense of belonging, love, and social support.

2) Accomplishments and Goals: Pursuit of personal goals, achievements, and the sense of competence or mastery that accompanies them.

3) Contribution and Altruism: Acts of giving, helping, and contributing to the well-being of others or society at large.

4) Self-Transcendence: Activities that go beyond oneself, such as engaging in creative endeavors, spirituality, or experiencing awe in the face of nature.


Purpose refers to the overarching direction or aim that guides our actions and decisions, giving life a sense of direction and intentionality. It involves having a clear understanding of our values, passions, and long-term aspirations. Purpose provides a framework for setting and pursuing meaningful goals, anchoring us during challenging times and promoting a sense of fulfillment and well-being.

The 4 Components that Contribute to Purpose

1) Values: Purpose is deeply connected to our core values, reflecting on what we deem important and worthwhile in life.

2) Passion: Identifying and pursuing one’s passions contributes to a sense of purpose, aligning one’s actions with personal interests and intrinsic motivation.

3) Long-Term Goals: Purpose involves setting meaningful, challenging, and achievable long-term goals that contribute to personal growth and fulfillment.

4) Service and Impact: Purpose often extends beyond self-interest and involves making a positive impact on others or society, fostering a sense of social responsibility.

The Interplay Between Meaning and Purpose

While distinct, meaning and purpose are interconnected constructs that influence and enhance each other. Purpose can contribute to the discovery of meaning by providing a framework for engaging in activities aligned with personal values and passions. Conversely, the search for meaning can help us to discover and inform the development of purpose by prompting us to reflect on their core values and aspirations. The synergy between meaning and purpose facilitates a more holistic and fulfilling life, characterized by a sense of coherence and direction.

Implications for Well-being and Fulfillment

The presence of both meaning and purpose in our lives is associated with enhanced well-being, life satisfaction, and psychological resilience. The absence or lack of meaning and purpose can lead to existential crises, feelings of emptiness, and a diminished sense of overall life satisfaction. Consequently, fostering meaning and purpose can have significant implications for psychological, emotional, and existential well-being.


In summary, meaning and purpose are distinct yet interrelated concepts that play integral roles in human life. Ideally, as humans we love cause and effect relationships. Meaning pertains to the significance and interpretation of life experiences, while purpose provides the overarching direction and guides our actions and decisions. Understanding the differences and connections to meaning and purpose allows us to create deeper exploration of each of their individual and combined influences on well-being and fulfillment. Unfortunately, meaning and purpose are intertwined with each one affecting the other in a circular manner. By embracing both meaning and purpose, we can cultivate a more meaningful, purposeful, satisfying, and enriched life experience.

I hope you found this article on Meaning and Purpose. You can find more Management and Leadership knowledge on our website https://magnaleadership.com/. We are trusted advisors for executives of small to mid-sized organizations who realize an investment in emerging leaders solves their growth and engagement challenges.

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara — is a senior partner and founder of Magna Leadership Solutions, based in Phoenix, Arizona. Kevin is an international speaker and recognized as a Management & Leadership Expert and an Executive Coach. He is the author of “The Leader of OZ” www.leaderofoz.com. Kevin has been a professor at 6 Universities, developing and teaching programs to help others achieve their full potential. You can follow Kevin and Magna Leadership Solutions on our website: https://magnaleadership.com/ on Twitter: https://twitter.com/doctorkevin on our Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/MagnaLeadership or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Magnaleaderhip

I would be excited to speak with you about your current leadership challenges. Please click here to connect with me at: https://Magnaleadershipkevin.youcanbook.me

Thank you,

Dr. Kevin Gazzara
Senior Partner and Certified Positive Intelligence & ICF Coach
Magna Leadership Solutions LLC


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Damon, W., Menon, J., & Bronk, K. C. (2003). The development of purpose during adolescence. Applied Developmental Science, 7(3), 119–128.

Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudemonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 13–39.



Dr. Kevin Gazzara

CEO of Magna Leadership Solutions, Certified ICF &Positive Intelligence Coach, Management Expert, Professor, Speaker, Author. Contact: Kevin@Magnaleadership.com