Existentialism and the Quest for Meaning in the Face of Mortality and Impermanence

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In a world characterized by uncertainty, mortality, and the impermanence of existence, individuals often find themselves grappling with profound questions about the meaning of life and their place within it. Existentialism, a philosophical movement that emerged in the 19th century and gained prominence in the 20th century, offers a unique perspective on these existential dilemmas. This article delves into the core tenets of existentialism, explores its relevance in addressing the quest for meaning in the face of mortality and impermanence, and evaluates the effectiveness of using existentialism as a life coaching approach.

Understanding Existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophical framework that emphasizes the individual’s experience of existence, freedom, and the search for meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe. Key existentialist thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Heidegger explored themes such as authenticity, anxiety, and the confrontation with death. At the heart of existentialism is the belief that individuals have the freedom to shape their own lives and create meaning in spite of life’s inherent challenges.

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Confronting Mortality and Impermanence

Mortality and impermanence are universal aspects of human existence that often lead to feelings of existential angst and despair. Existentialism encourages individuals to confront these realities head-on, rather than evade or suppress them. The philosophy posits that acknowledging the finitude of life can serve as a catalyst for individuals to make conscious choices, prioritize what truly matters to them, and live authentically. By embracing the impermanence of life, existentialism invites individuals to cultivate a deeper appreciation for each moment and find meaning within the transient nature of existence.

The Quest for Meaning

One of the central concerns of existentialism is the quest for meaning. The philosophy suggests that traditional sources of meaning, such as religious doctrines or societal norms, may no longer provide satisfactory answers for individuals in a secular and rapidly changing world. Existentialism encourages individuals to create their own meaning through their actions, relationships, and personal pursuits. This self-generated meaning is often referred to as “existential meaning,” and it derives from a genuine alignment between an individual’s values and their chosen way of life.

Existentialism as a Life Coaching Approach

The principles of existentialism have found resonance beyond philosophy classrooms and have been applied in various therapeutic and coaching contexts. As a life coaching approach, existentialism can empower individuals to navigate existential concerns and find purpose amid life’s uncertainties. Life coaches employing existential principles work collaboratively with clients to explore their values, aspirations, and fears. By addressing existential issues, individuals can gain clarity about their priorities and make choices that align with their authentic selves.

Effectiveness and Benefits

Using existentialism as a life coaching approach offers several potential benefits. Firstly, it provides a framework for clients to engage in meaningful introspection and self-discovery. By acknowledging mortality and impermanence, individuals may experience a shift in perspective that allows them to prioritize what truly matters and shed the trivial. Secondly, the emphasis on personal responsibility and choice can empower clients to take ownership of their lives and actively shape their futures. Additionally, existential coaching can help individuals cope with anxiety and existential crises by encouraging them to face their fears and uncertainties with resilience.

Limitations and Considerations

While existentialism offers valuable insights, it may not resonate with everyone. Some individuals might find its emphasis on confronting existential realities to be overwhelming or anxiety-inducing. Moreover, existential coaching requires skilled practitioners who can navigate sensitive topics with empathy and guide clients towards productive introspection without causing distress. It’s crucial for coaches to be aware of potential cultural, religious, or personal differences that might influence clients’ reactions to existential themes.


Existentialism provides a thought-provoking perspective on the human experience, offering tools for confronting mortality, embracing impermanence, and creating meaningful lives. As a life coaching approach, existentialism can be effective in helping individuals navigate life’s uncertainties, clarify their values, and make choices aligned with their authentic selves. While it may not be suitable for everyone, its potential benefits in fostering personal growth and resilience are evident. Ultimately, existentialism reminds us that within the vast expanse of existence, we have the agency to shape our lives and find purpose in the midst of the unknown.

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