Living a Meaningful Life
Finding meaning in your life is the best way to ensure you are truly happy. It is the best way to enter a creative flow state, the best way to make an impact on the world and the best way to create something that has lasting impact ñ or that changes the lives of others for the better.
This is your mission statement, your direction, your guidelines for living. It’s something that very few of us spend time developing or thinking about.
This is the existential crisis that much of modern man finds themselves facing. We live in a time when we are so preoccupied with getting Facebook likes, with keeping the house tidy, with working a dull 9-5 job that we end up forgetting to do anything else.
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We have no idea what we’re here for or who put us here. You may have your own opinions on that matter. But the point is that there is no definitive right or wrong way to live life.
In some ways, this is amazing because it means we are truly free. Free to interpret life in our own way. Free to choose precisely who and what we want to be. What we want to accomplish.
It’s also a curse. Because it means we can sometimes feel aimless.
There is no inherent meaning, and so we need to create our own meaning. We create our own rules, we decide who wins.
And if you don’t take the time to do this? You’ll pass the time.
When you find your purpose ñ something you truly believe ñ then you will find that you come alive. You now know precisely what you need to do and everyone around you can feel it. You speak passionately, you hold yourself up high, you feel less preoccupied with your own petty worries.
The Basics of Finding Meaning
So how do you go about finding this meaning? This purpose? How do you define your own rules to live by?
Often it comes down to doing the things we love most. Think about the last time that you were not only very happy, but also truly focussed and engaged with the task at hand.
Chances are, it wasn’t when you were doing the dishes or working your day job.
Whatever that thing was, whatever that moment was, that’s the thing that you are wired to be passionate about. And that’s your first clue.
At the same time though, you also need to think about what you believe in. What’s important to you in terms of your morals, your ethics and your values. Where do you see injustice in the world? What could be better? If you could change the world in one meaningful way, what would you do to do that?
And likewise, ask yourself what you are good at. What are your gifts? What are your talents?
Let’s be honest: if you were to base your life’s purpose entirely around the things you love doing, then you ‘d probably say it was eating cake and having sex.
That’s why we also need to think about our values, what’s important to us and what we are capable of.
We’re asking here what we can do for the world to make it into a better place. What can we do for others. What can we do that will make an impact?
Making an impact is very important because it helps to give our actions meaning. If you do something and no one notices, then you won’t have made any big impact on the world around you. On the other hand, if you can help someone, or if you can do something that others find inspiring or helpful, then you’ll be changing their lives and they might go on to change other lives. Your impact will be felt across the world. And when you’re gone, people will remember the things you did.
This is highly meaningful and especially when that impact is positive. This is why so many people say that they feel the most truly rewarded when they start giving back and helping people. He became a multi-billionaire and created countless products that we still use today in various forms.
He ultimately feels most passionately now about his charity work. That’s what he has given up his role at Microsoft to pursue.
The real win though, comes when the thing you are doing has a real positive impact on the world and at the same time, is something you truly love doing and that you are truly motivated by. And that’s what Bill Gates did before the philanthropy. When Bill Gates created Microsoft, he helped more people to be more productive with their computers, he helped businesses to grow and he changed the face of the world.
And this is something else to consider when making your decision about your purpose and your calling. You don’t have to do something completely altruistic in the conventional sense. I’m not saying you want be happy until you end world hunger.
I’m not saying that you need to change the world or become the next Bill Gates. There are ways that we can find meaning in smaller ways too.
If you love art then you can make others happy by sharing that art with them. Making that impact, knowing someone is happy because of something you did that brings happiness.
Creation often has meaning in its own sense too. In particular, creation that leads to something entirely new.
Recreating a painting that someone else has made is something that can make you feel skilled and rewarded. Painting something completely new ñ especially in a game changing style ñ that is when we contribute something amazing.
Daring to be different is rewarding and meaningful because it helps us to shift perspectives and paradigms to change the way that others think. Steve Jobs was influential because he spearheaded new kinds of technology and using technology in new ways.
And to be new, you need to do what you love. Studies show that when we are completely fixated on something 100%, that is when we become our most creative. That is when we almost seem to channel ideas that come from outside of us. And the reason, it transpires, is that we switch of the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex that is concerned with our sense of self and regulating our behavior and instead we just channel pure creativity.
When we find what we love, then we tap into deeper creative wells that can help to bring new things to the world and new perspectives that change the lives of others for the better.