Meaning and Purpose in Life: what is it, why should I care and how can I get some?

Carrillo Gantner Theatre, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, 761 Swanston Street, The University of Melbourne

Photographs from the lecture are available to download.

The quest for meaning is a longtime companion of the human condition. In fact, it may be as old as human culture itself. We begin our exploration of the quest for meaning and purpose with early writing and artifacts that show that many of the ways we talk about meaning are thousands of years old. Despite these millennia of seeking, we are living in a golden age of answers about meaning. We will look at how psychology has framed the question of “what is the meaning of life” in distinctly personal terms, and how it has used rigorous scientific research to forge a deep body of knowledge about the contributions meaning and purpose make to health, relationships, happiness, self-understanding, and even longevity. We end our journey through the eons with a confronting bit of truth: No question that has puzzled us for scores of centuries has an easy answer. Yet, we have learned ways of answering our own questions of meaning, in our own lives. We will close with a dive into several such ways of embracing the question of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Presented by Professor Michael F. Steger
Director and Founder, Center for Meaning and Purpose, and Professor of Psychology, Colorado State University, USA


Michael is the founder and Director of the Center for Meaning and Purpose, as well as being a professor of psychology at Colorado State University. He is endlessly curious about learning how to create a life worth living, and this focus is the inspiration for his research. He has spent the better part of two decades studying the vital role that meaning and purpose play in our work, health, relationships, growth, and happiness. Mike is a sought-after speaker around the world due to his wide-ranging knowledge of meaning, purpose, and positive psychology, presented with humor, humility, empathy, and passion. He has published more than 120 scientific papers, including influential theory and research that has profoundly shaped the way the field understands and measures meaning in life and work purpose and meaning, as well as three published books, Designing Positive Psychology, Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace, and The Handbook of Positivity and Strengths-Based Approaches at Work. He always looks for opportunities to teach and collaborate with others, and has worked with companies, non-profits, and schools across the globe to help them develop tools to nurture meaning. He gratefully receives daily lessons about authenticity, humility, and making a difference from his partner and two children.

During his visit to Melbourne, Michael will share his internationally renowned work on the meaning and purpose in life at the Dean’s Lecture and at the 6th  World Congress on Positive Psychology 18-21st July, for which the Melbourne Graduate School of Education's Centre for Positive Psychology is a proud event partner.