Have you ever wanted the perfect recipe for a meaningful life? Here is one that we subscribe to at The Mind Room. This post is written by Rachel Collis - a Brisbane based Executive Coach - and focuses on three key ingredients.

What are the Three Things You Need for a Meaningful Life?

Research psychologists Deci and Ryan long ago identified three basic psychological needs that have to be met if we are to see our life as meaningful: Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness. What does that mean?


Competence is about feeling effective and capable. It means that you can bring about important outcomes in your life. You can master challenges and acquire skills. The activities you engage in are at the right level of challenge for you - not so easy they are boring and not so difficult that you feel overwhelmed. People you trust give you positive and constructive feedback. 


When you have a sense of autonomy, you have a sense that your behaviour is due to own choice and is aligned with your values. You feel that others support you to act in accord with your values and you have a sense of who you want to be.


Relatedness is about feeling close and connected to others. Feeling both cared for and caring for others. When this need is being met, you have trusting relationships with significant others. You feel a sense of belonging. Others support this by relating openly and authentically to you and express caring and concern for you.

When people have these three psychological needs met, they often feel a deep sense of meaning, and fulfillment. However, research by Tim Kasser suggests that if these needs aren’t met then there is a risk we will go after‘compensatory’ goals instead.

Compensatory Goals

Compensatory goals are things like wealth, fame or appearing attractive to others. Unsurprisingly, Kasser found that pursuing these goals is associated with a lowered sense of meaning in life.

Which creates a vicious cycle - your needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness aren't met which makes you feel bad, so you try to make yourself feel better by buying stuff, earning more money or getting a face lift and this actually makes life feel even more meaningless.

Of course, a sense of belonging and autonomy, a sense that we have an impact on the world, aren't easy to achieve. It is no wonder it is tempting to go after things that are more concrete.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is - when you feel that life isn't meaningful - don't go shopping, work harder, or binge eat. Reach out to some one you care about. Sit down and get something done that matters to you. Connect with your values and think about how you could express them in this moment.

Rachel Collis posts at rachelcollis.com.au