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The Dynamics of Searching for Meaning and Presence of Meaning in Daily Life

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Journal of Personality

Published online on


Objective Research on searching for meaning in life has focused on trait‐level relationships rather than within‐person relationships. Our goal was to examine within‐person relationships between daily states of searching for meaning in life, daily states of presence of meaning in life, and daily states of well‐being. Method To advance our understanding of searching for meaning in life, we conducted a daily diary study with two samples in which 254 undergraduate students (Mage = 18.54, SD = 1.55; 66.9% female) completed daily reports of presence and search for meaning in life and well‐being for 2 weeks (n = 3,288). Results Between persons, search was negatively related to presence and well‐being. In contrast, within persons, daily search was positively related to presence and well‐being. Relationships between daily search and daily well‐being were mediated by daily presence of meaning in life. Lagged analyses indicated that greater search on one day led to greater presence the next day. Conclusions The implications of these within‐person findings suggest that researchers should reconsider the potential consequences that occur from searching for meaning in life, including the possibility that greater searching is associated with increased well‐being.