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Purpose in Life Test

This is a case study showing the success of the P.I.L.


Of the six human workplace practices examined in the IBM Work human Research institutes Smarter Workforce Institute Index 2017 ‘Meaningful Work’ emerged as the single most influential driver, contributing more than a quarter (27 percent) to employee perceptions of a positive employee experience.


The primary objective of this study was to determine whether an individual’s experience of meaning in the workplace improves or changes after being given the opportunity to explore the meaning and importance of work in his or her own personal life. The premise was that if a person has a greater awareness and experience of meaning in work, it could change the individual’s attitude towards work and also bring about a greater motivation and commitment to do his or her work, not just as a means of earning a living wage, but as centrally part of a worthwhile and meaningful life.


It was concluded after the research that ” A positive shift in meaning orientation towards work took place during the logotherapeutic intervention and was proved to be statistically significant. Next to this quantitative analyses of the test responses of the research participants, a qualitative technique was also used in analysing the tape-recorded and transcribed sessions with the research participants over the course of the logotherapeutic intervention. A phenomenological analysis of the content of the transcribed logotherapy sessions illustrated the shift towards a greater experience of meaning in the workplace and also allowed the researcher to gain a deeper insight into the diversity of experiencing meaning in life in general and in the workplace in particular.                                                                                                           Zacharia Gurtruida Van Jaarsveld 2004

Psychological attention to the constructs of purpose in life and meaning in life has its roots in the philosophical writing of Viktor Frankl and in the work of many psychologists who have attempted to theorize about and define positive psychological functioning (e.g., Maslow, Rogers, Jung, Allport, Erikson, Buhler, Neugarten, and Jahoda; see Ryff, 1989; Zika & Chamberlain, 1992, for work that reviews the philosophical and psychological underpinnings of purpose in life).

From his experiences in four concentration camps during W.W. II, Frankl observed that life has meaning under all conditions, and that it is psychologically and noetically damaging when a person’s search for meaning is blocked (Frankl, 1959, 1967; in Zika & Chamberlain, 1992).

This work inspired research, especially by Crumbaugh and colleagues (Crumbaugh, 1968; Crumbaugh & Maholick, 1964), into the concept of purpose and meaning in life. In a review of work on the construct, Yalom (1980; in Zika & Chamberlain, 1992) found that a lack of meaning in life was associated with psychopathology, while positive life meaning was associated with strong beliefs in faith, membership in groups, dedication to a cause, life values, and clear goals. Lazarus and DeLongis (1983; in Zika & Chamberlain) suggested that sources of personal meaning influence processes of stress and coping.


A number of instruments have been developed to assess purpose in life. Crumbaugh and Maholick’s (1964; Crumbaugh, 1968) Purpose in Life (PIL) test was designed to operationalize Frankl’s ideas and to measure an individual’s experience of meaning and purpose in life. It is a 20-item scale that has been shown to have good reliability (split-half and test-retest reliability is reported in Zika & Chamberlain [1992] and in Seeman [1991] from the work of others; the PIL had an alpha of .91 in their study; see also Chamberlain & Zika, 1988).

Some support for the scale’s convergent and discriminant validity is summarized in Seeman (1991). Each item is rated on a 7-point scale and total scores therefore range from 20 (low purpose) to 140 (high purpose) (Seeman, 1991). Examples of the 20 items include: “I am usually: completely bored (1) — exuberant, enthusiastic (7)”; “If I could choose, I would: prefer never to have been born (1) — like nine more lives just like this one (7)”; “As I view the world in relation to my life, the world: completely confuses me (1) — fits meaningfully with my life (7),” and “With regard to suicide, I have: thought of it seriously as a way out (1) — never given it a second thought (7).”

The PIL test is helpful for establishing and identifying the degree of meaning and purpose along with their world view or philosophy of life based on how that person attends to their environment. How they attend to it determines what they find influencing their assumptions and attitude towards that environment.

Have you ever wondered why you are a theory ‘Y’ or a theory ‘X’ leader and ‘how’ is your style serving you and your direct reports?


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