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Science and Religion on Meaning and Purpose

Science and Religion on Meaning and Purpose

This videotaped discussion between a United Methodist Minister, Caleb Pitkin, and a professor and scholar of meaning and purpose, Gleb Tsipursky, uncovers both differences and some surprising parallels in the approach of religion and science to these eternal issues.

According to the mainstream opinion in the United States and many other countries, meaning and purpose come from religion. At the same time, research shows that having a clear answer to the question of life meaning and purpose can greatly improve our mental and physical wellbeing. Thus, many people claim that you should believe in God and go to church in order to have strong meaning and purpose and improve your health and wellbeing.

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Yet more and more young people are distancing themselves away from religious faith, with a growing number of “nones,” people without any religious affiliation in American society. Many nones, and young people in general, are seeking for answers that don’t necessarily include a God as part of the equation. Recently, several books have explored this possibility, that of having life meaning and purpose or a sense of spirituality without God, as part of the public conversation.

Four Key Elements

So what do studies on this issue show? Apparently, the important thing is simply to gain a sense of life purpose and meaning: the source of the purpose itself is not so important.

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There are four crucial elements to gaining a sense of meaning and purpose, according to the scientific literature. It is key to gain a sense of your long-term goals, as meaning and purpose are at heart about the overarching drivers that motivate your everyday activities. Getting a clear sense of how your long-term goals connect to what you do in day-to-day life will help you gain those drivers and that sense of having a fulfilling life experience.

The second element is self-reflection. For instance, studies illustrate that people who self-reflect on the kind of meaning they experienced in their lives from their joys, sorrows, sacrifices, and blessings have a richer sense of meaning and purpose than those who do not.

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Community and social bonds are crucial to experiencing a rich sense of meaning and purpose. Those who improve their community and social bonds are highly likely to experience a greater sense of meaning and purpose as a result.

Fourth, we gain an increased sense of meaning and purpose from a connection to something bigger outside of ourselves through serving others. Thus, doing charitable giving and service work would result in a growth in our personal sense of meaning and purpose.

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Religion, Meaning, and Purpose

Religion can be one among many channels to help someone gain a sense of life meaning. The video explores the question in more depth. It discusses how serving God and being in a community of fellow religious devotees can help one gain a richer sense of meaning and purpose. This satisfies all four criteria shown by science to be necessary for a rich sense of meaning and purpose: long-term goals; self-reflection; community bonds; and service to others.

At the same time, other venues can also enable one to gain a personal sense of meaning and purpose. Anything that accomplishes these four key elements will do. The choice is up to you, but remember to make sure that you satisfy the four key elements.

For additional resources, check out this workbook with exercises on finding meaning and purpose using science-based strategies; this free science-based web app to evaluate your current sense of meaning and purpose; this free online class on finding meaning and purpose using science; and the wide variety of other resources on meaning and purpose.

Featured photo credit: Mcfarlandmo/Flickr via flickr.com

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Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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Last Updated on October 18, 2018

50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

Life is filled with highs and lows —happiness and struggles that will test your resilience and integrity, push you to overcome challenges and leave you with lessons that will make you even stronger on your way up.

It’s the way you feel and think about yourself, including your expectations and beliefs about what is possible to you, greatly determines everything that happens to you.

It all starts with your thoughts. When you change your thoughts, you transform the quality of your life. (Right, Nancy’s story is a typical example!)

Below is a list of the best motivational quotes to inspire you to start your day with a blast:

Quotes for self-assurance

1. Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality, upgrade your conviction to match your destiny.

    2. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

      3. You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.

        4. The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others

          5. You attract what you are, not what you want. If you want great, then be great.

            6. It’s not who you are that holds you behind, it’s who you think your are not.

              Quotes about positivity

              7. Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.

                8. You should never regret anything in life. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it is experience.

                  9. Falling down is an accident, staying down is a choice.

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                    10. If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.

                      11. Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.

                        12. Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for great.

                          13. Remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually learned from worst times and from the worst mistakes.

                            Quotes for work and success

                            14. Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.

                              15. Never stop doing great just because someone doesn’t give you credit.

                                16. Discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you don’t want to.

                                  17. Work while they sleep. Learn while they party. Save while they spend. Live like they dream.

                                    18. The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not things we fear.

                                      19. Never apologize for having high standards, people who really want to be in your life will rise to meet them.

                                        20. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

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                                          21. Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it, time will pass anyway.

                                            22. Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.

                                              23. A hill is just another opportunity to leave your competition behind.

                                                24. Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.

                                                  25. Hustle until you no longer need to introduce yourself.

                                                    26. You didn’t come this far only to come this far.

                                                      27. Be selective in your battles for sometimes peace is better than being right.

                                                        28 If we keep doing what we are doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.

                                                          29. You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.

                                                            30. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.

                                                              31. The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.

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                                                                32. If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.

                                                                  33. If you can’t handle stress, you won’t manage success.

                                                                    34. Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams.

                                                                      35. Don’t mistake silence for weakness. Smart people don’t plan big moves out loud.

                                                                        36. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

                                                                          37. Obsessed is the word the lazy use to describe dedicated.

                                                                            38. You become who you spend your time with.

                                                                              39. Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.

                                                                                40. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

                                                                                  41. If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.

                                                                                    42. Between stimulus and response is our greatest power –the freedom to choose.

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                                                                                      43. What comes easy won’t last, what lasts won’t come easy.

                                                                                        44. Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.

                                                                                          45. Work until your idols become your rivals.

                                                                                            Quotes about money

                                                                                            46. Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.

                                                                                              47. I create new enemies every day, it’s called business.

                                                                                                48. When you have a Million Dollar vision, don’t surround yourself with 1 cent minds.

                                                                                                  49. You can’t get rich thinking poor.

                                                                                                    50. Doing what is comfortable is rarely profitable.

                                                                                                      51. If you can count your money, work harder.

                                                                                                        If you find yourself feeling lost and frustrated, it’s never too late to change things up. Check out this guide:

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