Meaning as Motivation: The Power of Knowing that What You Do Matters

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The father of American psychology, William James, advocated for a fairly simple but brilliant philosophy of life: Act as though what you do makes a difference. It does.

    Your ability to make hard life changes largely depends on what those changes mean to you.

Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark

Believing that ‘What I do matters’ is highly motivating. From this vantage point, my actions are no longer just about me. They extend to the people I care about and merge with larger life values.

So, going to the gym isn’t just about looking great in a swimsuit, it’s also about staying healthy for your family, so you can dance the funky chicken at your great-granddaughter’s wedding. Quitting smoking isn’t just about getting your doctor off your back, it becomes part of a larger mission to live a long life and keep making a difference in the world.

This week we’re going to be talking about how to stay motivated, break habits, and make change happen in your life.

And we’ll be discussing a number of strategies for accomplishing these goals.

But one theme we’ll be coming back to in these conversations is that your ability to make hard life changes largely depends on what those changes mean to you. What’s really at stake if you succeed or fail? What personal values will be compromised or upheld? Who will be affected most by your actions? And what do those people mean to you?

If you’re striving for change, but having a hard time sticking with it, tune in everyday this week for more on making change happen. And in the comments below, let us know what changes you’re wanting to make in your life. What’s hanging in the balance if you succeed or fail?  



Bailey, T. H., & Phillips, L. J. (2016). The influence of motivation and adaptation on students’ subjective well-being, meaning in life and academic performance. Higher Education Research & Development, 35, 201-216.

Chalofsky, N., & Krishna, V. (2009). Meaningfulness, commitment, and engagement: The intersection of a deeper level of intrinsic motivation. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 11, 189-203.

De Klerk, J. J., Boshoff, A. B., & Van Wyk, R. (2006). Spirituality in practice: Relationships between meaning in life, commitment and motivation. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 3, 319-347.

Parks, L., & Guay, R. P. (2009). Personality, values, and motivation. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 675-684.


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