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Logotherapy: Meaning and Avenues to Meaning-Discovery

4 minutes to read
Nerine Gregersen

Nerine Gregersen

(MBBCh, MSc Med (Genetic Counselling), Cert (Medical Genetics), Diplomate in Logotherapy, Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator, Supervision Skills training, RYT200- trained yoga teacher)

Having meaning and purpose defines us, and our existence. There are three concrete ways we connect with meaning, and this is through:

  • the things we do
  • the things we experience/feel
  • the stance we take toward situations

We discuss these in more detail below.

What is Meaning?

When discussing meaning from a Logotherapy perspective, it’s important that we’re all on the same page about what we, well…, mean!

When we talk about what something means we are usually referring to the underlying intention or purpose. For example, “What did you mean by that?” or, “I meant you well.”

When Viktor Frankl referred to meaning, he was using the word in a broader sense. Meaning, for him, referred to the translation of the Greek word, ‘logos’, as in “the controlling principle of the Universe”.[1]

Meaning already exists and we do not create it.

Because meaning is such a core and irreducible concept it is difficult to define (like love or happiness). Nevertheless, here are some attempts to capture what it represents.

   “Meaning is the essence of existence.“ [2]
— Viktor Frankl

“Meaning is finding the most correct answer or response to any situation in which we find ourselves.”      
— Viktor Frankl

“Meaning is a perception of significance”

— Park and Folkman[3]

Why is Meaning important?

Frankl held that meaning was the primary force that draws us forward in life. Unlike instincts, driving us from within, meaning exists beyond us and we connect to it from our human essence (noetic dimension). He called this the Will to Meaning.

RELATED — Introduction to Logotherapy: Our meaning and purpose in life

Further, Frankl said that meaning is unique to the person, the moment and the situation. What may be meaningful today may not be so next week, next year, or in a decade. What is meaningful to you may not be to me.

What is meaningful today, may not be next week

Therefore, recognising the meaning in each moment is the key thing that motivates humans. It is everything!

How is discovering Meaning different from creating/making Meaning?

Meaning-making is a rational process to make sense of something. It is based in the mind and emotions, meaning the psyche. Certainly we can rationally make sense of words, ideas, equations and facts and determine what they mean.

On the other hand, logotherapy promotes discovery of the meaning that already exists. Meaning-discovery requires that we tap into the human essence, the noetic dimension, which allows us to connect with something beyond ourselves.

Meaning-discovery is a felt experience, a deep sense of knowing and rightness that we have arrived at that place of understanding the significance of a situation or moment.

What are the Avenues to Meaning?

Meaning is present in every moment, through every action, encounter and choice we make.

Frankl determined that there are three concrete ways we connect with meaning. This is through:

  • the things we do
  • the things we experience/feel
  • the stance we take toward situations[2]

These have been called the Meaning Triangle, the Three Values to Meaning and also the Three Avenues to Meaning.[1,4]

Let’s detail the creative, experiential and attitudinal avenues to meaning-discovery.

Creative actions

Giving of ourselves and contributing to life through meaningful work, deeds, or achieving meaningful goals.

Example: Helping someone in need, or completing a task to one’s own standard of excellence.


Receiving from life through meaningful experiences or relationships.

Example: Being moved by music, art or nature.


Adopting the right (for us) attitude to situations, especially those of unavoidable suffering.

Example: Choosing to stay calm during a natural disaster.

Sometimes the most meaningful things encompass all three avenues to meaning. Take gratitude, for example. Gratitude can be an act (creative value), when we say heartfelt thanks. 

It can also be an experience (experiential value), when someone is deeply thankful for something we have done, or when we are grateful to experience the gift of life. 

Gratitude can also be an attitude we adopt toward a situation, even a difficult one beyond our control.

How do we discover Meaning?

We are guided to meaning by our values and conscience.[4] Both of these are present in the essence, at the core, of each person. 

We must take time to determine our individual values, and to familiarise ourselves with the voice of our conscience. Then we must practice using our values and conscience to guide us in every circumstance.

When we demonstrate our values through our actions, we feel good. Our actions and values are aligned, and in these moments we discover meaning. This is the creative avenue to meaning. Similarly, when our actions oppose our values, we feel uncomfortable. Our conscience speaks to us, letting us know that we are moving away from meaning.

When we experience a meaningful moment in a relationship, or in a moment of natural beauty, that experience connects with our values at the deepest part of us. We are on the experiential avenue to meaning. Meaningful experiences are gifted to us, and we do not create them.

And when our values and conscience guide us to choose our attitude toward a situation beyond our control, and it leaves us feeling centered and peaceful and powerful, then we have stepped onto the attitudinal avenue to meaning.

Finding meaning allows us to feel connected to life

It invigorates us so that we have a future worth living for and brings a sense of control. 

Meaning-discovery connects us to our sense of wellbeing, activating and honouring every part of us — body, mind and spirit.

Related Questions

1. What does it mean to have meaning and purpose?
Meaning and purpose give us a reason to live. We feel connected to life. 

We are here to accomplish a task of deep significance to us. By completing our unique tasks and experiencing life we also contribute to the whole.

2. What is the difference between meaning and purpose?
Meaning can be discovered in many ways: through tasks, experiences and our attitude toward situations. 

Purpose refers more specifically to meaningful goals or tasks we do, or want to, engage in. 

3. How do I find my purpose in life?
Usually we have many purposes in life, as they change over our lifetime. Purpose is meaningful, so we can connect to our values and conscience to guide us to our purpose.

If you have any questions, please feel free to share in the comment section below, and we’ll reply (very) promptly.

Nerine is a qualified medical doctor, who practiced as a paediatrician and clinical geneticist, and has completed training in Logotherapy, earning the Diplomate credential from the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy (USA) in 2017. More recently she became a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator in 2019.

Nerine has a long-standing interest in, and passion for, energy medicine, yoga and meditation, and exploring the interface between science, consciousness and spirituality. She is an RYT200- trained yoga teacher with particular skill in yoga nidra (deep relaxation).

After more than 25 years, Nerine stepped away from medical practice in 2019. She now focuses on using her diverse skills to provide Logotherapy, professional supervision for medical colleagues, and facilitate the Dare to Lead™ curriculum in workshops.

Nerine aims to facilitate conversations and reflections that promote shifts in perspective for healing, resilience and thriving.

To learn more about Nerine and get in touch, please visit Grateful Living


(1) Graber, A.V. (2004). Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy. Method of Choice in Ecumenical Pastoral Psychology. Wyndham Hall Press.

(2) Frankl, V.E. (2004). Man’s Search for Meaning. Random House.

(3) Park, C. L., & Folkman, S. (1997). Meaning in the context of stress and coping. Review of general psychology, 1(2), 115-144.

(4) Frankl, V. E. (2014). The will to meaning: Foundations and applications of logotherapy. Penguin.

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