When we imagine the meaning of life, we think of it as this mysterious concept that may take an entire lifetime to be fully discovered. People spend years doing research making an attempt to uncover this mystery-driven ideology, trying to figure out what our purpose on this earth really is. What worries most people when it comes to this debate is their inability to discover what their goal in life is. Without finding this meaning, people tend to feel lost and they tend to neglect factors that benefit their wellbeing – mainly happiness. Research suggests that those who are able to make their life meaningful tend to be happier and healthier individuals in general.
Positive psychology researchers define happiness as a positive state of well-being that can be short-term or long-lasting. Short-term happiness can be the result of eating your favorite cookie or drinking hot chocolate. Long-term happiness can be experienced by achieving your goals or attaining financial security. Both types of happiness are important, but to achieve long-term happiness, you have to work hard consistently.
Meaning is the notion that you have some purpose in life and a goal to work towards. It often goes hand in hand with long-term happiness because achieving a goal will give you true happiness that lasts over time. Meaning emphasises that your life is not a pool of nothingness, and that it certainly matters in some way. Similarly, to find your true purpose in life you need to dig deep within yourself and understand your true potential. Ask yourself:
“What matters to me right now?”
“What are the goals I want to achieve?”
“What steps can I take to achieve them?”
A quick internet search will give you millions of articles on finding meaning in your life. However, if you truly want to have a purpose, you simply need to start pursuing activities that will make you feel accomplished. Whether that’s volunteering at an old age home, building a business from scratch, or nurturing your relationships, recognise your life’s goals/purpose and start taking an initiative to make it better.
Meaning and happiness might be differentiated by their definition but they are closely connected. If you make an effort to make your life meaningful, happiness will always follow you.
Here are some strategies that can help you experience a sense of meaning in life:
Reflect on how you impact others
Make a mental list of all your loved ones and think of all the important roles you play in each of their lives. You can think of your parents, siblings, or partners, children or your friends. Take some time to reflect on your relationship with these people and try to identify the roles that really matter to you and the roles you enjoy the most. How do you contribute to others’ lives? What do you do for them? What do they do for you? How can you strengthen your bond with these people?
Practice acts of kindness
The smallest and simplest act of kindness can immediately improve your day – whether that’s giving some food to the homeless man living in your neighbourhood, volunteering online amidst the global crisis, cooking your partner a nice meal, or even paying a colleague an unexpected compliment. Devoting your time to bringing happiness in others’ lives can give your own life a sense of meaning and purpose.
Rethink how you view your work
If you feel as though you are not satisfied with your work, change the way you look at it. Think of all your daily tasks and how they are somehow making a difference in someone else’s life. This doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor or policeman. Let’s say you work as a customer care representative; think of all the different roles you play as part of your job. Remind yourself of the times you have helped customers with a problem, and think of how you doing your job makes the company serve its clients better. If you still find it hard to find meaning, think of how your job is paying your bills if you have a family to support and ends to meet.
Think of how you want to be remembered
An exercise that psychologists recommend for creating meaning in your life is to ask yourself how you’d like to be remembered after death. Would you want others to remember you for your relationships, or your achievements? What would you want them to say about you? Understanding how you want to be remembered can give you an idea of what you really value in life. Once you identify this, think of what changes you can make even in your day-to-day life to be aligned with your values.
Remember this – meaning in life is experienced as a by-product of identifying your goals and working towards them. Make proactive decisions about what you want out of life and take action to make your life more meaningful, starting today.
Brown, L. (2018). How to find meaning in life (it’s easier than you think). Retrieved from https://hackspirit.com/how-to-find-meaning-in-life-its-easier-than-you-think/
Marelisa. (2018). How to make your life more meaningful. Retrieved from https://daringtolivefully.com/make-your-life-more-meaningful
Salters-Pedneault, K. (n.d.). Use this mental exercise to help you find meaning in your life. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/finding-meaning-425380
Moore, C. (2019). Subjective well-being: Your life, your happiness. Retrieved from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/subjective-well-being/