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A picture says a thousand words

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12 Images
1 Partner Optional if you prefer to write a description of the meaning of the images rather than explaining it to someone else.
"10 Keys to Happier Living" book by Vanessa King

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A picture says a thousand words

The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it. — Carl Jung

  • 1 week
  • Medium



A creative exercise to gain access to your meaning in life.

The following activity has been taken from Vanessa King’s book 10 Keys to Happier Living: A Practical Handbook for Happiness. The book advocates for 10 elements essential to happiness, summarised with the acronym GREAT DREAM (Giving, Relating, Exercising, Awareness, Trying Out, Direction, Resilience, Emotions, Acceptance, Meaning). It also provides important insights into the definition of “wellbeing” whereby wellbeing includes: “a sense of self-acceptance and worth; good relationships with others; feeling our life has meaning and purpose; being interested and engaged in much of what we do; using our potential and/or experiencing a sense of achievement.”

This activity focuses on the last of the 10 keys: meaning. According to King, “meaning has three different elements: feeling that we, and what we do, matter in some way; our life story and understanding of how the different parts of our life fit together; and having purpose – our overarching mission and aims for our life, from which we can develop goals.” Having meaning is core to your work as a changemaker, but it is easy to lose track of us in the midst of overwhelming pressures and never-ending to-do lists. With this activity, piloted by Dr Michael Steger, we invite you to use photography to access more creative and richer thoughts and feelings about your meaning.

To find out more about Vanessa’s work, please visit the Action for Happiness website: http://www.actionforhappiness.org/about-us/vanessa-king.


1 week

Gathering pictures

Over the next week take a maximum of twelve pictures that visually show what makes your life meaningful. These could be pictures of actual things, or people themselves, or of something that represents them - perhaps an object, souvenir or work of art: anything that is an important source of meaning for you.


Exploring the pictures

At the end of the week download/print your twelve photos and either:
1. Write a short description for each one of what it represents for you and how it adds meaning into your life. Or:
2. Find a trusted friend or partner who'll listen as you explain why you chose each picture and how it adds meaning to your life. Their role is to listen, not to judge, comment or add their opinion! How they interpret the picture doesn't matter - it's about what it means to you.


Ranking the pictures

When you've reflected on each picture, put them in order of importance. Make a note of your ranking.



What does this make you think about your purpose, priorities and goals?

Greta Rossi

Chief Empathy Officer at Akasha Innovation. Co-founder of ImpactAimers and Recipes for Wellbeing. Regional Coordinator for Ashoka's ChangemakerXchange. Youth coach and FRSA.

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