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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The pattern of life mission development Wong, Wayne K-M


A multiple case study approach was used to investigate the pattern how a life mission evolves in lives. The participants were one man and two women who described themselves as having a meaningful career or a mission in life. The participants were chosen to portray different careers. The investigation produced three vibrant, detailed narrative accounts of how a life mission evolved. Each one is told from the perspective of the individual who experiences a life mission. The accounts were based on in-depth descriptions of the experience. Each account was reviewed and validated by the case study participant. A comparison of the individual accounts exposed a pattern of experience that was common to all three cases of those who developed a life mission. It can be best portrayed as a six stage model, with each stage possessing unique characteristics and each subsequent stage building on the preceding one. Further, in each case, the development of a life mission exhibited a process that was more dialectical than lineal in nature. Several theoretical implications emerge from this study. First, it supports those models that describe the development of meaning or mission in life from the standpoint of both a general pattern of experience and a general pattern of process. This combination was illustrated remarkably in Cochran's (1990) description of the phases of life for persons with a sense of vocation. Furthermore, the current study's general pattern of process strongly followed Charme's (1984) account of how meaning evolves in lives. Second, the accounts suggest that the meaning of one's life mission can be discovered in a life issue that emerges early in a person's life. This life issue runs through the person's life guiding his or her engagement in activities and a career(s), until he or she transcends the life issue through the clarification of a mission in life. Third, the accounts do not support the idea that a life mission or discovering what makes life meaningful is a nebulous, elusive and abstract endeavour. From a practical perspective, through integrating them, the general pattern of experience and the general pattern of process can serve as a guide for those who are searching for a mission or meaning in life and for those who counsel them.

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