This list is a collection of ideas which have stuck with me through the years. It’s in no particular order, and by no means an exhaustive list. The items are also not mutually exclusive, but I tried to only list those which have a unique facet in their grouping. Most of these stuck because they repeatedly appeared in most of the books and articles I have read about Meaning and Purpose. Here they are:
1. Purpose – Find “meaningful work”. Something you enjoy doing. Better if you can find a way to earn income from this work and not just because you enjoy doing it. Hobbies and passions can be considered “work”, for example, painting or crafts which can be sold for profit. Don’t ever feel guilty when money comes into play when discussing your “passion”. Money makes your passion more sustainable. It’s difficult to make art when you’re hungry, right?
2. Story-telling – Meaning, for a large part is the narrative you tell yourself about what your life is about. It is a subset of all the other items on this blog post and it is entirely subjective. Pick a narrative that highlights your strengths and your blessings, rather than ruminating on painful aspects of your life. If you cannot prevent yourself from thinking about your painful past, reframe those thoughts as “learnings” and how they made you stronger. Even if you don’t believe they made you stronger, re-frame them as something that makes your worldview “unique”. Your unique worldview makes you interesting, and will make people drawn to your ideas.
3. To ask: “Who are you outside of the roles you play(son, brother, friend, employee, seller)? Who are you to your self? Are you your biggest client? A lover of self? An artist? A writer?”
4. There is no ONE meaning. We find or give meaning to our lives. This meaning changes over the course of our lives.
5. To acquire knowledge. Evolution of organisms has been about developing new forms and senses. From one-celled organisms, we have evolved more and more complex tissues and organs, eyesight, more erect postures and more efficient at movement, becoming more efficient hunters and then growing larger and smarter brains; all to gather more information in the world, and to use that knowledge to perpetuate itself more effectively, to live longer, to survive better, etc.
6. To experience more collective pleasure than suffering.
7. The spiritual and philosophical: Aristotelianism, Buddhism, Altruism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Daoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Existentialism, Ethical Culture, Pragmatism, Secular Humanism; A helpful acronym for me: ABASED CHIC JEEPS
8. Lives may be experienced as meaningful when they are felt to have a significance beyond the trivial or momentary, to have purpose, or to have a coherence that transcends chaos. This definition is useful because it highlights three central components of meaning: purpose: having goals and direction in life; significance: the degree to which a person believes his or her life has importance; coherence: the sense that one’s life is characterized by predictability.
9. To look for a Need in this world and solve that problem. Everything else will follow.
Which idea do you believe in and why? Share your thoughts in the Comments section!