Where are You on the “Life Significance Scale”?

Does the idea of completing a “life significance” scale sound . . . significantly intimidating? A life satisfaction scale—no problem! A life significance scale? Many of us just swallowed hard and wiped beads of sweat off our temples.

Will the scale involve a panel of white-coated experts, meticulously assessing the lives we’ve been living, solemnly handing us our results in a sealed, manila envelope?

Result options include:

Life Significance Scale Results

Don’t worry, this assessment is far less dramatic than that; bloodwork won’t even be required. Before I unleash the scale, a quick background . . .

What is “Life Significance”?

Life significance is a specific conceptualization of meaning. It encompasses the ways and extent to which we see life as intrinsically and existentially valued.

Life significance refers to our perception of value with experiences in our lives, relationships, or goals. These perceptions can be altered with adversity and loss (welcome to the human condition) and are then rebuilt as we reconnect to things that matter to us (like helping to coach a youth softball team, spearheading a new division at work, volunteering at the library, hiking in Yosemite, etc.).

Psychologists developed the Perceived Life Significance Scale (PLSS) to measure our perception of value of the intrinsic aspects of life. Originally intended for the assessment and treatment of grief and loss, it helps individuals identify their current state . . . and changes in how they appreciate life and believe their lives are significant.

The scale indicates the extent to which you’re actively pursuing goals and interests, how open you are to beauty in the big and small things in life, and a reverse score for how empty and meaningless you feel your life is. Sounds like fun, right?

The Perceived Life Significance Scale

Please respond to each of the following statements by indicating how often, or how completely, each statement is true for you. Use the following scale:

1 = never/completely disagree, to 7 = always/completely agree

  1. I feel satisfied and fulfilled by the things I do.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  2. There’s nothing in my life that really matters*.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  3. I try to live my life to the fullest.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  4. There are moments when I am powerfully aware of how valuable life is. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  5. I feel alive and full of vitality. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  6. I’m involved in activities that field rewarding. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  7. My life feels like a waste of time*. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  8. I really care about the things I am doing with my life. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  9. Sometimes something so special or meaningful happens that I get choked up. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  10. I feel I have nothing to live for*. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  11. My life is empty*. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  12. The pain and suffering I’ve experienced connect me to other people who have also suffered. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  13. Life is too short to waste time on petty things. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  14. My life feels pointless at times*. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  15. If you look closely, the world is a beautiful place. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  16. I am energized by the things I want to do in my life. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  17. I am deeply engaged in my life. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  18. I feel disconnected from the world*. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
  19. I am an active participant in my own life. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7


Active life significance: Item numbers 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 17, 19
Negative life significance: Item numbers 2, 7, 10, 11, 14, 18
Receptive life significance: Item numbers 4, 9, 12, 13, 15

Are you feeling an active or negative sense of life significance? Skip the scoring for a moment (or entirely, because who has time to score?) and zero in on a particular line item . . . what stood out to you on the scale? Maybe #13 resonated because you’ve been sweating the small stuff more than you’d like? Maybe #19 gave you a twingle because you feel like you’ve been sitting on the sidelines? It’s now up to you to decide what, if any, action you’d like to take.

Memento Mori, But Of Course

Since all roads lead back to mortality here at Four Thousand Mondays (in a hyped-up-for-life way—not the buzzkiller way), let’s put this into perspective.

Remembering that you are going to die is the secret to a well-lived life, because it jolts you to attention that you can’t just dick around and “get to Sweden someday” or “write that poetry book later.” You, my ephemeral friend, might die before you get to Stockholm, before you get your haikus out on the page.

When death becomes more salient, researchers make clear that most of us report a sense of appreciation for life and its temporary nature. This happens in the midst of trauma, hardship, and when a woman inside the internet with a penchant for memento mori forces you to contemplate your inevitable demise.

Let’s use your insights from the scale to tailor the rest of your existence. You deserve to feel like your life is comfortably full: full of purpose, meaning, joy, beauty, vitality, activities, and all the enchiladas you can fit into your remaining Mondays. Let’s make the rest of the ride not just satisfying, but also significant.

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: Do you use that new social media platform called Instagram? Me too!

P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!


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