Student Psychologist Laura King remembers when she reordered the priorities in her life.
It was about 20 years ago, when her mother died, just as King was beginning her career as an assistant professor.
“So many things that I saw as important at one point, no longer were,” King told an audience of about 50 people. They had assembled on campus April 11 to listen to her speak via Skype.
The author gave her thoughts on the meaning of life, which she entitled, “What Does Not Kill Me Makes Me … More Interesting.”
She said the death of her mother led her to study those who had had difficult experiences which ultimately challenged them to rethink what was important in their lives.
King studied how her psychology patients took the negativity in their lives and turned them into positives.
Her study showed patients who have experienced more difficulties and tragedy throughout their lifetime rate their life and its purpose much higher than she had expected.
She also studied how critically ill hospital patients measured the value of their lives.
“On a 10-point scale of how meaningful their lives were, 25 critically ill people rated their meaning in life at 5.6.”
King said 5.6 is a relatively high score.
She explained how religious faith and a person’s social life contribute greatly to how people measure the meaning of life. A person’s worldview and rules on how life should go play a large role into the way they may feel about their life.
For some patients, King said, the meaning of life is simply based off their moods for that particular day.
“Maybe the meaning of life is something that’s very common,” she said. “Meaninglessness happens when senseless things happen in our lives. We are wired for a world that makes sense,” King said.
Many psychologists struggle to come to a common agreement about the real meaning of life.
“The meaning of life isn’t as complicated as psychologists think,” she said. “A person’s meaning comes from their experience.”
Although people may never know exactly what the meaning of life is, one thing is certain: Meaning is around us every day of our lives, King said. How we measure our lives, however, is completely up to us.