Meaning as per dictionary is the end, purpose, or significance of something. Meaning is a complex term in itself and therefore so is, the search for life’s meaning. How do we find meaning in our lives? Is it possible to live a meaningful life or it is a mirage created by self-help gurus?
We will explore these questions in this post, and hopefully, by the end of it, you will know if the search for meaning is worth for you. You will also how to go about finding meaning in your life.
As usual, we will start with what Elon Musk would call first principles- the basics.
What is the ‘meaning’- the meaning of life? As said before,
Meaning as per dictionary is the end, purpose, or significance of something.
So, does life have significance or it doesn’t matter? Does your life matter?
Now, that’s where we realize that the question has been framed incorrectly. You don’t find meaning in your everyday life. You create it.
The word is creation.
How do you create meaning?
That’s where an alternate story of life needs to be told.
Most of us live lives on auto-pilot. We do things that most people do. Most people do things that most people do.
We live in a society where thinking individually and having an individuality is frowned upon. If you have your own views and you follow your own agenda, you are alienated and you have to make you own course, many times against the wishes of your friends and family who expect you to stay ‘normal,’ which is basically conformed to the general worldview.
How are you to find meaning in your life when you are doing what everyone else does, because meaning is highly individualistic and totally depends on what you think is meaningful for you? You can’t.
Let’s do this post in the structured way the internet likes to read content-in the form of a listicle.
So, what do we need to do to find meaning in life?
Here is a laundry list, which is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it will help you get on course to find meaning in your life.
Step 1 : Understand Yourself
You need to understand that nature hasn’t made you a clone. If you and I were clones of other human beings, we would behave similarly and there would be no differences.
It is proof that we are not meant to live and think similar to other people that we are different. All of us and I mean all of us are weird and unique concoctions of looks, temperament, motivations, desires, and the likes. We are unprecedented. You are unprecedented. Do you understand? You are unprecedented.
Now, if you are unprecedented, it’s your job to understand what makes you, who you are. It is the first and most important step in finding meaning in your life.
Understand who the fuck you are. If you don’t understand who you are, how are you to find meaning in your life when meaning is tied to your self-awareness?
Put it simply, you need self-awareness to be able to find meaning in life. You need to decouple yourself from the society intellectually while living in the society and define the unique attributes that cause you to experience life the way you do.
That is step number 1.
Now, self-awareness is a lifelong process since we evolve as human beings. We change and we mutate. We need to be constantly on the lookout for things that change in us and the kind of impact they have on our life experience.
Make self-awareness a part of your life’s journey. Talk to yourself. Create time to spend with yourself so that once you are away from the crowds, you have time to understand whatever is happening out there and what it means for you.
Step 2 : Create a Life in accordance with Self-Awareness
Now, once you begin to understand yourself, you need to start doing the things that make sense to you irrespective of what the world, or even your own family thinks about you.
If they think you are a fool, so be it.
You know, there is a great quote I have reminded myself of, through my life. It’s by Kurt Cobain.
“They laugh at me because I’m different; I laugh at them because they’re all the same.”
What a beautiful quote. The majority of the world exists in groups of different nature and groups form group rules and make group decisions. There is nothing wrong with being a part of the group. However, there is a problem with not having a distinct identity.
When you do things that you find meaningful, for example, running in the rain, when everyone is taking shelter, they will laugh at you. But, that’s okay, because you are doing something that’s meaningful for you.
When you quit your job to follow your dreams because you value meaning over money, they will laugh at you. But, you are on your search for meaning.
When you kiss your partner in public when everyone is acting shy with their partners, they may wince, but they will hate your guts and your partner would be lucky to have you besides you doing something you believe in.
Finding meaning is a gutsy thing. That’s why most people don’t care.
Step 3 : Connect your Life with a Mission
If meaning needs to be created, it needs a purpose. Only when everything that you do has a purpose, you feel that you are spending your time meaningfully.
You need a mission or a purpose- an overarching reason that connects all the dots in your life. Everyone needs a mission. Even companies have a mission. At least the great companies have a mission. It’s not easy to access personal missions but company missions are all over the internet and you can access them.
Here are a few:
LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.
Alibaba: To make it easy to do business anywhere.
Similar to company mission statements, all of us also need our own mission statements for life. Those mission statements should define the kind of life we want to lead, and things we want to fill our lives with.
For the last few years, I have used the following as my mission statement:
To make the world an inspired and happier place.
This mission is the reason I wrote a book on happiness. This mission is the reason I have started this blog focused exclusively on the idea of happiness.
I want to fill up this blog with so many perspectives on happiness that it becomes the go to resource for anyone looking for information on the subject.
Why do you do what you do?
If you are to find meaning and joy in your days, it will help if you create your own mission statement- one that defines the mission of your life broadly. Later, you can break that mission down into visions with deadlines.
That alone will make you days meaningful because everything that you do will be connected to a singular purpose.
I recently read somewhere that we should also create a family mission statement which defines the kind of family we want to be and create. It is a wonderful idea. I haven’t yet done so, but would recommend it.
Step 4 : Recognize your Life Mission when it appears
You will know when you find meaning. You will feel a greater sense of purpose and connection between who you are and what you do. Finding meaning in life is a matter of connecting the dots between who you are, and what you do on an everyday basis.
Therefore, there is no grey area here. You either have meaning in your life or you don’t. Either you feel good or not. You are either happy or not. Once your reach a state of balance where there is meaning in your days, you will know. There is a reason to celebrate.
Step 5 : People can’t judge you if you have your Meaning of Life
All the time through our lives, people pass judgement on our lives. They tell us how we should live our lives, when they aren’t happy. One, they have no meaning in their lives and they want you to clone them.
Whether you have meaning in your life or you don’t, you are the only judge of it. Nobody, not even your parents, or your spouse can tell you if you find your days meaningful.
Somebody may find meaning in following orders. I recently wrote about the story of Hiro Onoda who spent over 29 years after the second world war was over on the Philippine’s’ Island of Lubang. He was told to fight and not surrender and he did not surrender for 30 years, unless he had to.
Somebody may find meaning in entrepreneurship and not working for others.
Somebody may find meaning in feeding dogs, while others run away from them.
You and only you are the judge of what gives you days and hours meaning. Nobody can do that for you.
Step 6: Be Patient. It will not happen immediately
If you have never done the things that I have mentioned in this post, it may take you time. Do not panic. I have been thinking about happiness and meaning all my life. I have written 6 books and I still continue to search for the things I find most meaningful to do with my time.
It will take you time as well, in case you have never asked yourself the tough questions of life- the questions that reveal who you are and what is your ideal purpose on earth.
Once you find some answers, you will be able to avoid the void that most people’s lives are, and be able to create a meaningful life. So, do not panic and stay patient through the process.
Step 7 : Ask the Right Questions
You need to ask yourself important questions about what you find meaningful and in case you don’t get any answers, you need to ask deeper questions.
Here are a few I recommend:
When do I feel more in sync and not distracted?
What are my natural strengths?
Things that don’t feel like work?
What kind of people do I like?
How do I enjoy myself without pretense?
What doesn’t feel real in my life?
When do I feel immersed in the moment?
These are only a few questions you can ask on your searching on finding meaning in your life. You can frame a few more questions if these do not suffice. It is a journey and as long as you keep at it, you will find your days full of meaning and joy.
Step 8 : Meaning lies inside of You
Some of the most important things in life cannot be found in the external world. You can buy a few kinds of happiness. For example, you can buy a spa session that will make you happy for a while but you can’t buy meaning.
Meaning appeals to your soul. It is who you are. Meaning is the essence of your life.
Step 9 : When you find meaning, you will find deep seated Joy
One of the tests of having found meaning in your life is how happy you feel inside of you. Meaning creates a certain kind of happiness which refreshes your soul, your being. There is a deep seated happiness which only gets kindled when you connect with your true self.
When you find that kind of joy, you would have found meaning. Without meaning, that kind of happiness will always elude you and you will delve in superficiality.
Step 10 : Keep looking, Don’t Settle
I would like to end this post with the prophetic words of the great Steve Jobs. Keep looking. Don’t settle. There are a few emotions in life which are too precious to give up on, no matter how long it takes and how difficult it gets.
Your search for meaning is one of those missions. Till you find meaning, keep looking and don’t settle.
Do share in the comment section what you thought of the article. It took me a few days to put it together and I sincerely hope you find it useful.
Thank you for reading.
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I appreciate the time you spent in reading the blog and wish you happiness.
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