Life in itself has no meaning. Life is an opportunity to create meaning.Osho
In a culture obsessed with happiness, too many of us live our lives chasing happiness rather than meaning. We are too busy looking for happiness in various aspects of our lives, be it relationships, health, work lives or in our creative pursuits. None of us take time to pause and reflect upon-whether or not our lives make sense in any way or to know what makes our lives worth living. Most people’s goal is to find happiness. Living a meaningful life however is in no way connected to how comfortable or happy one is, whether you have enough money or how good you are at satisfying your wants or needs. It has more to do with discovering your true purpose and leading life in connection to that bigger purpose.
A happy life is not necessarily be a meaningful life
Happy life and meaningful life often go hand in hand. However, happiness is related to our biological needs and desires, whereas meaning has more to do with our overall life satisfaction and contentment. If one wants to pursue meaning in life, they need to stop searching for happiness in whatever they do. Even though happiness makes you feel your life is worthwhile in the moment, it doesn’t guarantee you will find meaning in whatever you do.
Seeking happiness without meaning is short lived and would probably be stressful. When your expectations of happiness are not met or when you realise you aren’t happy, you again feel empty and experience negative emotions. On the other hand, people who really strive to pursue meaning in their life acquire better attitudes that cause them to look beyond their current situation and connect with a bigger purpose. Finding a way to seek meaning rather than happiness makes it easier to glide through life’s ups and downs. Seeking meaning in what you do always results in long-term happiness and creates lasting relationships leaving you intrinsically motivated.
Quest for meaning begins with self awareness
Many of us struggle with finding meaning as our days get controlled by worldly perceptions of what we are and what we have to do to fulfil our responsibilities. We often end up feeling swept along, rather than living in control of ourselves. Searching for meaning can often seem as a daunting task in our busy schedules in wanting to become something which we are not. This can be for social acceptance or for external validation. Some psychological studies have however made searching for meaning more manageable by narrowing down to three dimensions —coherence, purpose and significance as the elements that we need to gain a healthy sense of meaning in life.
In other words, meaningful life is one where one leads a significant life, with right purpose and a coherent plan to pursue that purpose. All this however is possible only with the knowledge of self. Since everyone has their own idea of what meaningful work is, what’s meaningful to you might not be the same for someone else. Only when you know who you really are that you can truly envision the right purpose and true meaning in life. Without the proper understanding of your own self, you remain restricted to the way others perceive you or the way world sees you.
This is the reason many of us have gotten used to defining ourselves in terms of possessions that feel like extensions of our own self. They are all things that are external to us. And identifying yourself with your worldly self, or the way others perceive you, you can never be able to find what really it is to live meaningfully means for you. Any search of finding meaning or what makes our lives more meaningful has to start with an inward quest. With awareness of our real self, we find our purpose. With enlightened self, we find the true meaning. So therefore allowing your true self to seek meaning begins with controlling your perception of life.
Meaning, purpose and goals
There are so many demands on our time and focus that if we don’t become clear on what our primary goals are we’ll end up trapped, going around in cycles doing work that makes us feel unfulfilled.
When aspiring for a fulfilled life, it might make more sense to look for things you find more meaningful. Having meaningful goals imparts emotional significance. Since meaning doesn’t exist on its own and it is something we create, it is important to live with intention and prioritise your highest values above everything else.
An intention to live a meaningful life can be a motivation to having a right purpose. This can further motivate you to create goals that take you in the right direction. An inward urge to find meaning fuels right purpose that connects you to the bigger perspective. When you become overly focused only on your daily tasks or goals, you can lose sight of your bigger purpose. It is only when your purpose, meaning and actions align, whatever you do becomes significant.
choices based on values make your life more meaningful
Our values are however central to who we are. They are the foundation of how we think, act and feel. They bring meaning into our lives and are the basis for the choices we make in life. They are more like direction we take in life towards a meaningful life. Inspite of experiencing disappointments, regrets, conflicts, or losses in your life, having values doesn’t take away your life’s purpose or meaning.
Identifying values that drive you most create more meaning. Some people value social cohesion, some knowledge and creative endeavours while others value service to others or helping/giving. No matter what yours are, having goals that reflect your values allows you to connect to your unique self and help you make wise choices in any situation. Not syncing them on the other hand leads to dissatisfaction, resentment and frustration. Whereas being guided by values.
- Discern what is important to you. Make a list of your priority values. Write down your top five things that you believe are the essence of how you want to live your life. Reflect on your deeply held values that you want to base your most important life choices on. And then go onto Invest your time and energy into activities and people that help you fulfil those.
- Regularly take time to self-reflect to raise your level of awareness. When you focus your attention on yourself, you can relate to your true self rather than your worldly or perceived self. Start small and take ten minutes everyday to reflect on your choices, values and attitudes. Remain mindful of what you do and your actions to connect to what makes meaningful.
- Identify what you are passionate about to create a list of goals that you find fulfilling and meaningful. Gain clarity as to what type of work inspires you the most and what jobs or activities allow you to pursue your interests. Setting goals you are passionate to achieve provide you with a sense of direction that will help you find more meaning.
- Discover your purpose to articulate meaning in life. Connect what you are doing to a meaningful or bigger purpose. These tasks can range from creative pursuits to inventing or building meaningful relationships. You can invest your time in lending a helping hand to people in need or in growing and learning new things.
- Simplify your life. Most often, we focus on many things or seek more in order to feel valued, accepted or more successful. In the process, we lose touch with our authentic self. But when you focus on being aware of yourself and your purpose, you can create more time and space for activities or tasks that give you a sense of meaning.
One can try and discover a meaning in life by doing things in alignment with their deeply held values. Instead of aspiring for a well-lived life, pursue goals that you find more meaningful or purposeful. Look beyond your limited beliefs to draw meaning from goals in larger context and that with bigger perspectives. Once you are aware of your true self, your motivations, preferences and priorities, it becomes more challenging to justify misusing your time doing anything other than meaningful pursuits.
The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life.”Victor Frankl