In order to understand the meaning of life, we need a deep understanding of meaning itself, and thereby we can find that meaning, which is hidden inside our own lives. Yes, there is a meaning to your life and the purpose of this article is to help you in finding it. We need reasons to live, and that life has meaning is a powerful reason to live.
However, now or even 1000 years in future, if it continues to exist would be searching for the meaning of life. Does life have meaning and purpose is one of the core questions and therefore, we all need to face or ask till we find the answer.
What is the ‘Meaning’ in Meaning of Life?
Do you think you feel meaning of life?
Think about your life right now. Do you feel that your life has meaning? It is not quite difficult to answer. There are times your life has meaning and there are times your life doesn’t have meaning, and so you can tell it, because you feel it.
When you do something that aligns with who you are, and it feels that you are adding value to someone’s life, you would feel that your life has meaning. Meaning of life is also closely linked to the purpose of life. Moreover, if life has meaning, it also has purpose. Purpose and meaning cannot exist without each other.
Moreover, when there is meaning and purpose in life, there is substance in life and it seems that you are a part of something significant. Or else, life seems like a meaningless chore we must pass through just because we were born. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
What is a Meaningful Life?
How do we understand if life has meaning or not?
Let us take an example. Let us say that two people are working on creating a building. One is a civil engineer and one is an architect.
The civil engineer considers the activity a chore. He did not become a civil engineer because he loved it but because his parents wanted him to study any form of engineering, and he found civil engineering as the only one branch of engineering he could bear.
When he tried software, or mechanical or electronics engineering, it wasn’t fun for him at all. He could bear civil, and so he became a civil engineer. Now, his work is only a chore to make money for himself and his family. Does the activity of creating the building a meaningful one for him?
The answer is clearly no.
The architect on the other hand loves architecture and takes massive amount of pleasure in it. He wanted to be an architect from early childhood, and his parents allowed him to pursue what he loved.
He became one of the most successful architects in town, sought after for both residential and commercial projects. Does the activity of creating the building a meaningful one for the architect?
The answer is clearly yes.
What do we learn from this example?
The meaning of life is hidden in our life story and how we live our lives. For most of recent human history, we haven’t really tried to find meaning. The last few generations spent their time in doing whatever was most convenient to them to lead their lives, and not seek meaning,
If we continue with the building example, the architect seems to have a purpose, while the civil engineer doesn’t. Even if the architect hasn’t defined the purpose for himself, he is trying passionately to make the best and most beautiful buildings possible. That gives his life purpose because when people use those buildings and appreciate his work, he feels more excited and encouraged to make even more beautiful and prettier buildings.
The civil engineer on the other hand, has no purpose. Making money cannot be a purpose in life since money at best could only be a resource to realizing our dreams, and not the mission of life. This is a mistake millions of people around the world make. They feel that money is the purpose of life, and consequently, when they have more and more, it would deliver meaning to their lives. When it doesn’t happen, they feel a void in their lives because now they have money but their lives feel empty.
Think about Maslow’s hierarchy for a minute.
The search for the meaning of life is an actualization need. Once we have achieved the basic needs of food, water, air, safety, security, love and self-esteem, we begin to wonder if all that makes sense, and gives meaning to our lives.
The only problem we should have we the hierarchy is that it assumes that we have a lot of time on our hands, when we are mortals with an uncertain future. We need to figure out the meaning of life as early as possible in our lives, so that we don’t end up wasting most of our lives in meaningless pursuits.
How do we go and create meaning of life?
Now that we understand a bit about the meaning of life, let us try and see how we can go about finding it. Where does meaning lie? Where should we go to find the meaning and purpose of life?
Meaning essentially comes from 2 key sources, both of which have to draw from your life.
The only way to start on your journey of finding meaning of life is through self-awareness. You need to understand yourself quite well. It is not a one hour exam. Finding self-awareness and living a life in accordance with that awareness takes an entire lifetime. The more we practice it consciously, the better we get with it.
The process of finding self-awareness starts with reflection. You need to ask yourself some deep and meaningful questions, in order to get meaningful answers. Questions like the below:
What makes me unique?
When do I feel more in sync and not distracted?
How do I find my natural strengths?
Which activities 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?
When do I feel lost?
These are some questions to get started on your journey of self-awareness. It is quite important to understand that nobody can really help you find self-awareness. Like I am trying to help you, somebody may be able to help you with the process. However, the answers have to come from inside of you.
Why is that so?
The reason the answers need to come from inside of you is because the meaning of life resides inside of you. Life inherently doesn’t offer us meaning but it offers us clues within our lives, using which we can find meaning.
In order to find meaning, we need to look inside and not outside. We need to figure what makes who we are, and then try to live a life in line with that realization. The reason most people would not find meaning is because they live an externally driven, and not an internally driven life.
Only people who have the courage to go inside of themselves in a spiritual sense would be able to find the true meaning of life. The rest would just linger about life, never really finding meaning.
The second source of meaning is Purpose or Mission.
How do we find purpose of life?
You would not have meaning in life unless you have a purpose of life. The way to finding purpose in life is again through a process of self-awareness. Self-awareness is the prerequisite to finding your mission in life.
However, the meaning of your life is hidden in your life story. It is there, you just need to unearth it.
What is a Purpose?
A purpose is the underlying reason beneath all of your actions. You do what you do you because of the purpose. When you don’t have a purpose life feels like a directionless maze. You keep moving from one end of the maze to another without really knowing why.
The problem is there is no clear framework for finding your purpose in life. But, it is not impossible. The fact that you are reading this article is proof that you want to find meaning in life and now I am telling you that meaning is not possible without finding purpose.
So, how do you find your purpose or mission in life?
As I started by saying, the key is self-awareness. However, that’s the first step and doesn’t complete the process of finding the purpose. You need to go beyond self-awareness. Once you think you have a fair level of self-awareness, you need to figure out how you can marry or start dating your self-awareness with making the world a better place.
You see, the world is quite an imperfect place. There are hundreds of problems in the world like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, depression and unhappiness, among others. If you want to find true meaning in life, you need to use your self-awareness to solve one of the problems in the world, and thereby, making the world just a little better because you existed. If you are able to do that, you would find meaning of life.
In terms of the process of aligning your self-awareness with your purpose, you need to go step by step. It is not a direct process and you may have to try a few permutations and combinations.
Let’s say that you realize from the process of self-awareness that you are at flow when you are dancing, for the sake of simplicity. Now, how can you use this realization to find your purpose?
Dancing is a powerful activity which makes everyone who engages in it happier for the time they are dancing. You could say that you don’t just enjoy dancing but you also love to teach dancing. So, possibly, your purpose could sound like the below:
My purpose is to heal the world through the transformative power of dancing.
Now, this is an example of a purpose statement, and it doesn’t have to be framed like this. However, the important thing about purpose is that it has to be emotive and powerful in the way it has been phrased. It must push you to do something extraordinary.
Once you have a purpose or a mission, you can break that down into time bound vision and tactical goals. The purpose should guide everything that you do.
However, that’s now even a vague statement to make. We are all unique and nature has designed us differently. Clearly, there is something that we could do that would be in line with how nature has designed us. The secret to finding meaning of life lies in understanding ourselves as we have been created and then using that understanding of ourselves to connect to a larger mission to make the world a better place.
Once we learn how to use who we are, to make the world better, even in small ways, we would begin to feel that life has meaning. So, we conclude that if life has meaning, it is upon us to find it. The effort has to be made by us and nobody else.
We need to within ourselves to search for the meaning of our individual lives, and then it is on us to be able to create that meaning. Meaning can only be created through a process of self-awareness married with purpose.
However, purpose is the key to the creation of meaning. If there is no purpose, the implication is that there is no meaning.
I am sure a mathematical equation to finding the meaning of life would be useful. I have never been good at mathematics, but I am quite sure that if there is an equation to finding meaning in life, it is the below, and with this equation, we would conclude our search for the formulae to find meaning.
Thank you for reading.
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