Principles for Using the Map of Meaning


As the Map of Meaning International Trust, we set ourselves the task of contributing to the well-being of humanity by making the Map of Meaning available to you, and to the world. Since the founding of the group in 2000, we have held responsibility for training people in how to work with the Map of Meaning.

We have learned that there are five principles that support the Map of Meaning being used easily, effectively and responsibly by individuals and practitioners. We ask you to carefully consider the principles below. We have found that when we adhere to these principles the work that we do with the Map of Meaning is profound and produces responsible, sustainable results.

1.  The Map of Meaning is research based.

  • The Map of Meaning is based on high quality peer-reviewed academic research. We therefore ask you to maintain the structure of the map. Although people may want to choose their own words to describe the elements in order to make the Map more meaningful for them, this works best when you, and they, maintain the essential framework of the Map. If you change any element of the Map you change its structure and then it is no longer research-based.
  • The intellectual source of the Map is established through the published research papers. Please cite the source at all times. You can find these on our website under resources.
  • Because we want to make the Map of Meaning readily available we have made the validated questionnaire freely available in the research papers. To reciprocate, we ask that where you see opportunities to further research the Map you consider involving us.

2.  Meaning is both constant and ever-changing

  • While we have discovered that certain exercises with the Map work very well, we have also found that every application is new and fresh. People bring their own spirit to their work with the Map of Meaning and so it is important to be continually open to that creative process.

3.  The data that forms the foundation of the Map of Meaning was gained from ordinary human beings, like you and us.

  • In using this work, please stay present to the fact that all human beings yearn for meaningful lives and work, and that all human beings can articulate what gives meaning to their lives and work, not just managers or professionals.
  • When the Map is used well, it is a humbling process. One is constantly confronted with the depth of insight people from all walks of life have into the purpose of their existence. They know what gives it meaning, and where and when meaning is lost.
  • We ask you to honour the intrinsic dignity of each human being with whom you work by inviting people to stand in their own strength.

4.  Meaning is not a technique, it is an embodied experience

  • The Map of Meaning helps people uncover what is meaningful to them. It operates at all levels of human experience and works physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
  • Meaning is a relational concept. Working with the Map with others is effective to the extent that you understand how meaning works in your own life. Therefore applying the Map to yourself on a regular basis increases your ability to share the map effectively with others.

5.  The Map is the product of people’s generosity

  • Generosity has been integral to the development of the Map of Meaning, to getting it into the world, and to our understanding of how the Map works. We ask you to honour this principle.

Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, Patricia Greenhough, Lani Morris 
Founders of the Map of Meaning International Trust