Not everyone will experience a true existential crisis, but we all have points in lives when we feel flat and dull.
That feeling that something’s just not quite right.
You’re not quite the optimist that you usually are, you start to complain a bit more often, the grass looks greener everywhere you look. There’s an emptiness inside but you can’t quite figure out what it is or how to fix it.
There’s a reason for that. Your life needs more meaning.
So how do we live a more meaningful life?
From a very young age, our lives are programmed and our brains set up in a very specific way.
We go to school, we study hard and if we do well enough we go to college. We get a degree, move out of home and join the workforce. Hopefully in a well paying job with good benefits.
We are living in an increasingly rewards-based society. And that society tells us that if we do one thing, we will receive something in return.
Whether it happens consciously or unconsciously, our minds are moulded into this way of thinking from what our parents say to us, what our friends do around us, what we see on television, and what we interpret society to value.
Study hard and you will get into a good college. Work hard and you will earn a promotion. Save well and you will buy a nice house.
But then what?
We experience a flatness, a feeling that something is missing.
There is a disconnect between what we have been told we will receive after all our hard work, and our experience of what society has told us is ‘the reward’.
Cue the existential crisis.
But this is not the only time that we search for more meaning in our lives. Fast forward a few years down the track.
You buy a house, you find a partner and get married. You settle down, maybe have a few kids. You keep working hard and earn a few promotions. You’re saving enough to put your kids through good schools and college.
And then what? Cue the mid-life crisis.
Starting to see a pattern?
That feeling of emptiness and soul searching comes from the disconnect between what society tells us is important, and what is innately important to our true self.
Live authentically for yourself. This means being more conscious of what is influencing your decisions.
Do you look up a Rotten Tomatoes rating before going to see a movie?
Do you see how many 5-star reviews an item has before you buy it on Amazon?
Learn to think for yourself. When you are able to think independently and be honest to yourself, you will discover what matters to you and learn to live by those values.
But where do you start?
Every day, try to improve on one of these five areas of your life:
That’s it. That’s as simple as it gets.
Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus put in a very good way in their book The Minimalists. They dedicate a chapter to each of these concepts and why they are so important to a meaningful life.
The first chapter starts off:
“Health is the most important of the Five Values. Don’t believe us, let us prove it.
Imagine winning the lottery, finding a perfect match in your significant other, paying off your debts, moving into your dream home, and not needing to work another day in your life.
Now imagine you wake up tomorrow morning with a sharp pain in your gut. Your doctor tells you “You have less than a month to live, and you likely won’t be able to do much more than get out of bed after today”… Without your health you’re unable to enjoy even the simplest things in life.”
If you think about it, they are right on the money. Health is one of the most important things in our lives as without it, we cannot live to experience the world around us.
The next chapter starts off:
‘Your relationships are the most important of the Five Values. Don’t believe us? Let us prove it”.
But wait, didn’t they say health was the most important of the five values?
Without deep and meaningful relationships, we are unable to share our life and experiences with anyone. We cannot share our joy, work through our sorrows, or celebrate our achievements without meaningful relationships in our lives.
In The Good Life, Hugh MacKay comes to a similar conclusion about the importance of relationships and connecting with others. Humans are social beings after all, even the most introverted of us.
“The good life is one defined by our capacity for selflessness, the quality of our relationships and our willingness to connect with others in a useful way” — Hugh MacKay
The third chapter starts off:
“Cultivating your passions is the most important of the Five Values. Don’t believe us? Let us prove it.”
You see the pattern.
You may be doing well in one, or two, or even three of these areas at the moment. But there is always room for improvement in one of the five areas.
Look to improve in one of these values every single day.
You will begin to find more meaning in your life, a mission that drives you every day. You will meet to people that you never would have spoken to. You will open doors that you didn’t know were there.
Don’t know where to start? Leave a comment or shoot me a message and I’ll try point you in the right direction!
Remember, the key to a meaningful life is to constantly improve yourself.
Originally published at medium.com