We all want to live a meaningful life since after all, we only have one chance at doing this. Happiness and fulfillment is much more attractive than emptiness, which makes living a life with some kind of meaning one of the widest held goals in the world.
People measure their success in terms of meaningful actions. You will find that everyone is obsessed with life meaning – starting from philosophers and scientists to the ordinary man. And while there is no single or final answer to living a meaningful life, there are several things you can do to get closer to this goal.
Here are 8 amazing tips on how to live a meaningful life:
1. Focus on the Important Things
We all have some things that are more important than others. Pinpointing this is something you must do on your own, since there is no general definition as to what’s most important in your life.
Once you determine the top 5 things that you find to be essential to your happiness, use them to live the life as you want it. If you prioritize your family, focus on spending time with them. If you like singing, turn this into your hobby or job. In other words, pursue your passion in life. The world is your limit.
2. Find Your Life’s Purpose
If someone put a gun to your head and said ‘give me one reason for you to live’, what would this reason be? What do you stand for? What is your life’s purpose? If you want to make your life meaningful, you need to find its meaning first. Otherwise, you cannot really set a meaningful goal.
3. Give to Others
Of course, this does not mean that you should base all your life actions to helping the rest. You are the focus of your life, but giving to others will give your life more purpose and meaning. So, focus on the things you find important, but make sure to help others. This will increase your and their life satisfaction. Sometimes, something as simple as lending a friendly ear or shoulder to cry on can give your life more meaning.
4. Be Aware of Your Actions
What can you improve or change? Review the actions you take on a regular basis to learn what made you stray from your goal or imagined path. Focusing on details will help you accomplish more, as long as you are prepared to make some changes.
5. Find Some Courage
You need to be courageous to live, but living a meaningful life requires a lot more courage. After all, you need to make many changes to achieve this, try new things and put yourself out there.
Once you determine the essential actions to improve your way of living, you can easily find courage. Don’t be afraid to be different or try something new – you can rarely achieve your biggest goals without a bit of a risk.
Rather than micromanaging 20 goals and focusing your attention on them all, focus on one thing at a time. This does not mean that you will leave the rest of your priorities behind. It solely means that you will dedicate all your energy in making sure they are all achieved, step by step.
You can easily achieve this. Make a habit of creating a list of goals you will do over the day or the week, not further. This list should consist of things that are achievable and realistic to avoid failure. If you learn how to do things at their time, you can achieve more.
7. Simplify the Life
This may sound strange, but in order to make your living meaningful, you have to make the life simpler. The life is more meaningful if you spend your time doing things that fulfill you, so get rid of all those things that cause stress and frustration and basically, simplify your way of living.
8. Express Yourself
You are who you are and there is no one else like you. Accept yourself for who you are and be authentic. Instead of fearing and struggling from fear of rejection and criticism, embrace this in a way that allows you to be who you truly are. If you aren’t yourself, your life cannot really have a meaning. Finding your life’s meaning is a journey that never ends. It is not something you will find and be done with it, but you must maintain your living meaningful every step of the way. After all, you may find something to be meaningful today, but this does not mean that you will find it meaningful tomorrow. Seeing that you are the one giving meaning to things, it is your job to pursue them.
Jade Parker is a marketing expert that has worked in the industry for five years. She is developing her own small business and helping others build successful marketing strategies. Over the years, Jade has started writing and contributed several of her works to assignment writing.
S ave money. Take up yoga. Stop binge-watching Netflix. At the beginning of every year we start by making a list of resolutions. By the time December 31 rolls around, we’ve grown so frustrated with all of our flaws and failures that we’re ready to discard our old self for a new and improved one. Jettisoning the past, we think, is the best way — the only way — to move forward.
But that advice — as we come to find out almost every January — is flawed.
If we truly want to reinvent ourselves, we need to think bigger. Instead of focusing solely on the person we hope to become, we need to cast our gaze backward and think about the person we’ve been. We need to conceive of our past experiences not as something to be overwritten by a new and improved self, but as the raw materials out of which we can create a new self. Only by looking back can we better look ahead and move forward into a more fulfilling life.
I’ve spent the last four years researching what the building blocks of a meaningful life are for my new book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a life that matters. Turning to the new and growing body of social science research on meaning, I found that meaningful lives share three features in common — purpose, significance, and comprehension. In other words, when people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because they have valued goals that drive them, they feel their lives matter, have worth and they understand and have made sense of their life experiences, weaving them into a coherent whole.
To zero in comprehension, pe ople leading meaningful lives think about how they became the person they are and the pivotal events that shaped them. Rather than seeing their experiences as random or disconnected, they try to make sense of their lives — to see their struggles and achievements as part of a larger narrative, a story. In one study about the difference between a meaningful life and a happy life, researchers found that happy people were focused on the present, anchored on whether they felt happy now. But people whose lives felt meaningful often reflected on the past, present and future — on the entire trajectory of their lives.
The ability to think of our life in terms of a story is critical for meaning. We might not all know what our purpose in life is, but we are all storytellers. The challenge to writing our story is that our lives don’t follow a neat arc. Our identities and experiences are constantly shifting. Like a jazz musician improvising, we may follow one path and then abandon it for another.
Storytelling is how we make sense of these swerves and improvisations. It requires us to reflect on the past in a deep and sustained way. When Dan McAdams of Northwestern University, a psychologist who studies narrative identity, asks research subjects to tell the story of their lives, he instructs them to divide the story into chapters and to recount key scenes. McAdams and his colleagues also tell them to think about their personal beliefs, values and philosophy of life — to distill a central theme of their stories.
Finding the narrative thread in their lives changes people in profound ways. Take the case of Emeka Nnaka, one of the people I interviewed for my book. In 2009, when Nnaka was 21, he injured his spinal cord in a football game and became paralyzed. In the months after his injury, Nnaka spent a lot of time making sense of who he had been before the injury and who he wanted to become in its aftermath. Eventually, he came to see that there were aspects of his identity that he did not like. He realized that he had been self-absorbed, something of a drifter. “I was a guy who partied a lot and didn’t think a lot about others,” he told me. “I thought, ‘You only live once, so do whatever you want to do right now.’ I was living a purposeless life.”
As Nnaka’s old identity was unraveling, he started weaving a new one. In the spring of 2010, nearly a year after his injury, he began to volunteer at his church as a youth leader. Mentoring children, he now tells me, is his purpose.
Most of us will never experience a terrible injury like Nnaka, but all of us have faced suffering and adversity, or have had experiences that divided our lives into a before and after — from having children to losing or finding faith. Nnaka’s transformation shows us that storytelling not only allows us to forge meaning, but also influences our behaviors. Research backs this up. When you tell a story about a time you were generous to others, for example, you’re more likely to behave in generous ways moving forward. And McAdams has found that people who — like Nnaka — tell “redemptive stories” are more “generative,” or more likely to contribute to society and younger generations.
There are also tangible benefits to the storyteller. Other research shows that when people craft a narrative around a definitive life experience, their health and well-being improves in concrete ways. In a series of studies, James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, and his colleagues invited people to spend fifteen minutes each day, for three or so days in a row, writing down their deepest thoughts and emotions about the most upsetting experience from their lives. Although their stories were dark — people wrote about losing loved ones, about being raped, and about attempting suicide — the researchers found that those who did this “expressive writing” ultimately displayed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who were asked to simply recount the event or vent their raw emotions about it. The expressive writing group also went to the doctor’s office less often, reported better grades, registered lower blood pressure and heart rates and even enjoyed better-functioning immune systems after the experiment.
The reason was storytelling. Those in the expressive writing group actively worked to craft a narrative that would make sense of what had happened to them.
They used more of what Pennebaker calls “insight words” — words and phrases such as “realize,” “I know,” “because,” “work through,” and “understand.” They also were able to find a positive meaning in their traumatic experiences. In fact, the people who benefited the most after the experiment were those who demonstrated the greatest progress in sense-making over time. Although their initial responses were emotionally raw and their stories disjointed, their narratives became smoother and more insightful with each day.
Through writing, they came to see the crisis not simply as a disruption, but as an essential chapter in the broader narrative of their lives, and that helped them move into the future with more strength and peace.
The stories we tell about ourselves change who we become. So if you want to be a better you in 2017, set a different kind of resolution for this year.
Instead of focusing only on fixing your bad habits, try putting aside 15 minutes each day to write about the person you’ve been. Reflect on how your experiences have shaped you. Find a positive meaning in them. After a few months, try weaving all of those ruminations into a broader narrative of your life. Tell a story that moves you forward.
Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, published by Crown. She is also an editor at The Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
MOTTO hosts provocative voices and influencers from various spheres. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of our editors.
Satisfaction and Meaning
Living a life that has some kind of meaning is one of the most widely held goals in existence — something by which we motivate and measure ourselves.
Just how to do this is a conundrum that has challenged philosophers, scientists, and so many people throughout the ages.
But perhaps the solution may not be as complex as it seems.
While there is no single answer, research has shown that there are several factors that influence our ability to find satisfaction and meaning in life.
Here then are a few pointers:
Develop a Sense of Purpose
If there is one factor that influences our ability to live a meaningful life it’s having a sense of purpose — a reason to get out of bed in the morning and to keep on going.
Not only does a sense of purpose fuel a sense of meaning in life, but it also brings with it more time in which to enjoy that meaning.
Research conducted at the University of Rochester has shown that having a sense of purpose in life not only increases the quality of our lives, but may also help us to live longer — regardless of our age. 
What’s more, the longevity benefits remained, even after other factors, such as relationships and positive emotions were factored in.
The take-away message is clear: having a sense of purpose is an important component in a long and meaningfully lived life.
Prioritize Connection With Others
Joint research conducted by psychologists from Stanford University, Florida State University, and the University of Minnesota shows that connection to others is necessary in order to bring meaning to our life. 
Being close to others, family or friends, results in a greater feeling of purpose, enhancing life’s meaning.
This doesn’t mean that we have to live in an ideal, perfectly harmonious family or social environment. The researchers clarify that connection to others should not be mistaken for “perfect” relationships. Quite the contrary, the process of conflict with relevant others, and the time invested in overcoming challenges and disagreements, can serve to deepen those relationships, so increasing life’s meaning.
Simply having those connections — even though stress may accompany them — is enough to give our lives a deeper sense of meaning.
Do For Others
It’s no great secret that giving to others improves our own feelings of purpose and meaning. Giving can take many forms, of course: donating our time, or our talents — or simply lending a friendly ear.
Helping others seems to be strongly correlated with increased life satisfaction. Lending a helping hand can provide a sense of purpose for us, young and old.
One fascinating aspect of working for the benefit of others is that helping others improves both physical and mental health. In fact, studies show that involvement in community service activities is linked to living longer. 
But volunteering once every now and then appears to be of little real use. If it is to have any meaningful impact, there is a threshold a person must meet when it comes to being of service to others.
Giving our time in order to help others on a more regular basis, will bring the greatest rewards in terms of enhancing life’s meaning, while maximizing our positive impact on the people with whom we come into contact.
In short, helping and doing good for others is an important component of any meaningfully lived life — it pays real dividends.
Living a meaningful life is closely related to authenticity, to being who we truly are.
Many people struggle to be themselves for fear of criticism or rejection; as a result, they find themselves living a life that is far from satisfying or meaningful. When we are not allowed — for whatever reason — to be who we truly are, we greatly diminish the meaning we can derive from the life we live.
An excellent example of this is the recent transition, or gender affirmation, of Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner. Ms. Jenner lived her life for 65 years as someone whom she felt was not aligned with her true nature. Now that her gender affirmation is complete, she is at last able to express her authentic self, and in so doing, she is more able to live a life of greater meaning.
Here, then, is another important factor in our ability to live a meaningful life: We must be willing to live in an authentic way, one that allows us to express who we truly are — even if this takes courage.
Courage is Key
The simple fact is that sometimes it takes courage to live. And it can take even more courage to live a meaningful life. It can be all too easy to fall into the rut of habit, seldom reaching out, trying fresh, new things.
People who lead meaningful lives put themselves out there, they try new things, challenge the way they think, and doggedly seek out that which they want from life.
A good way to look at courage is to view it as a kind of tenacious willingness. An attitude of being willing to try something a little different — perhaps even something scary — in order to develop and maximize the meaning we derive from life.
Courage means being willing to make connections with others. Being willing to help our fellow travelers on life’s road. Being willing to care. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it: “From caring comes courage.”
When we have this kind of willingness then a deeper, more meaningful life will surely follow.
Meaning and Happiness Aren’t Always Interlinked
While we can be happy and find meaning in life, the two don’t always go hand in hand.  Living meaningfully means that we need to accept the fact that there will be bumps, bruises, and perhaps even unhappiness along the way.
Above all else, experiencing a meaningful life means living in the moment, while connecting the past, the present, and the future. Doing so gives us a clearer idea of where we need to go in light of where we have been.
Life itself is a process, and viewing things in their proper context — particularly our struggles and our sadnesses — is associated with greater meaning and a sense of purpose. 
Perhaps psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl said it best:
“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
A Final Word
Finding meaning in life is an ongoing journey, a process that takes time, patience, and resilience. It is not something that occurs magically and without effort. It is not necessarily something that happens at a given point in our lives and is then “done and dusted.”
Neither does our sense of meaning need to remain fixed: What we find meaningful today may be replaced by a different meaning tomorrow. As life itself changes, so may the meaning we give to it.
While there is no secret formula that will help every single person find meaning, taking the steps outlined above will at least set us on the right path; one that can fulfill our goals, develop a deeper sense of understanding, and live the meaningful, more satisfying life we were meant to live.
“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it.” — Joseph Campbell
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What a person needs is not a relaxed state, but rather to strive and struggle for a worthy goal.
Most of us want to lead a happy life. That’s natural, because pleasure is more attractive than pain. But should happiness be the ultimate goal in life – as the Positive Psychology movement proposes?
There is an easy way to find out. All you need to do is to answer a simple question:
What were the three most significant moments of your life?
The three most significant moments in my life were the birth of my son, the death of my mother, and my promotion to 1. Dan Blackbelt in karate. Non of these three moments could be described as pleasurable. Giving birth is incredibly painful – until you look into your baby’s eyes. The death of my mother was a time of both grief and joy, and the promotion to Blackbelt was the toughest three hours I’ve ever spent in my life.
Although these three key experiences weren’t pleasurable at the time, they gave my life meaning. Now, when I look back, I experience satisfaction and a sense of joy. It’s the joy that comes from living a meaningful life.
Is your life meaningful?
Seven Ways To Make Your Life Meaningful:
1. Follow your aspirations. Sometimes we confuse aspirations with personal goals, but they are completely different. Aspirations are the answer to the question: “What do I want to give the world?” Whereas personal goals are the answer to the question, “What do I want the world to give me?”
2. Be passionate. Whenever you do something that you are passionate about, it gives meaning to life. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance work, relationships, and passion. But a life without being passionate about something can feel empty.
3. Live by your code of ethics. Every person needs a personal ethical code to have a meaningful life. An ethical code is a set of values that you uphold, even if the consequences might be painful for yourself.
4. Cultivate compassionate. Compassion happens when we stop being the center of our concern, and open to the suffering of others. If we focus on ourselves as the center of the universe and our thoughts revolve around how we were, how we will be, or how others see us – our life will ultimately feel meaningless. Compassion is a way of looking beyond our own needs, to those of others.
5. Be kind. Kindness is not just a feeling, it’s an emotion that leads to action. Kindness gives warmth to a life. Each kind interaction triggers a feeling of connection and pleasure. Actually, kind action is something that gives meaning to your life AND makes you feel happy!
6. Be in service to a greater cause. A great way to give depth and meaning to your life is to do volunteer work. Whether you coach a basketball team for streetkids, or help out with the elderly, or raise money to alleviate world poverty, whenever you step in to serve a greater cause, you give your life meaning.
7. Strive for a better future. Striving for a better future can take many forms, but it always entails developing as a human being. If you strive for a better future, you subscribe to life-long learning. New skills make us more effective in the world, both for our own life, as well as for the cause we serve.
So what about happiness? How do meaning and happiness intersect? My take is that happiness is the by-product of a meaningful life. On its own – as a life goal – happiness can feel shallow. But once you focus on leading a meaningful life, you will feel fulfilled and experience not only fleeting sensations of happiness, but a lasting sense of joy.
What’s your take on this?
Is happiness a worthy life goal? What are your tips for a meaningful life?
Some Amazing Comments
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by Jordan Bates
Does your life feel meaningless?
Perhaps the problem is that you’re focusing excessively on yourself.
When we become consumed by our own self-narrative and lost in endless self-reflection, we cut ourselves off.
We become trapped on a tiny ego-island and all of our perceived “problems” become magnified and catastrophized.
In such a situation, a person needs to find a way to zoom out and reconnect with the world—to realize they are one node in an interconnected network of earthly beings, inseparable from everything else.
In other words, they need to realize that their sense of isolation and nihilism is an ego-driven delusion.
One way to realize this is to deliberately start doing things to benefit others.
It might sound trite or oversimplified, but for me this is a timeless gemstone of truth:
Life will begin to flow and feel immensely meaningful when you fall in love with sharing your gifts to help other sentient beings.
Reorient yourself away from endless self-introspection and instead start directing a lot of your time and energy into useful and/or beautiful projects that benefit others.
When you do this, you will begin to experience a shift in the quality of your conscious experience.
You will begin to feel enmeshed in a worldwide web of significance, rather than experiencing yourself as a puny schooner adrift on a black sea of hopelessness.
“We’re all just walking each other home,” as Ram Dass put it.
We are here to share our gifts, plain and simple.
We are here to share our gifts in service of the community of sentient life in the Cosmos.
We are here to contribute to the realization of the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
When we’re not doing this—when we’re lost in introspection and passive consumption of life—it’s no wonder that we start to feel like shit.
What could be more depressing than thinking only of your tiny individual self and directing no energy or effort toward creating beautiful/useful things or helping others?
Millennia ago, such a message would have been intuitively understood by everyone. It wouldn’t need to be stated.
In those days, boundaries between self and other, self and tribe, self and Nature, self and Earth, were understood to be porous and illusory. No one felt themselves to be an amputated island of individuality.
But then humanity went on a several-thousand year ego trip and got super invested in the idea of a separate self stumbling about in a foreign Cosmos. Our egos became supernormally bloated.
We are now beginning to awaken from this nightmare.
Millions of people are re-awakening to the realization that separation is an illusion.
You didn’t come into this world; you came out of it, like a leaf from a tree.
You are fundamentally connected to this Earth and this Cosmos.
You belong here, just as much as a tangerine or tree kangaroo.
Maybe you understand this intellectually, but you don’t really feel it in your bones.
If that’s the case, there are a variety of things you might do: Spend time in nature. Spend more time with loved ones. Make some art. Listen to Alan Watts. Meditate. Use entheogens consciously. Attend one of our psychedelic retreats. Take our spiritual obstacle course.
But I think one of the most tried-and-true methods of reconnection you can employ is this: Just start helping, however you can.
Share your gifts. Create useful/beautiful things from a place of love. Be there for the people around you; truly listen to understand and respond. Empathize. Care. Show love. Contribute to beautiful projects.
In some ways it is, in some ways it isn’t. Once you start doing these things you’ll likely realize how good it feels and fall in love with contributing to a more beautiful world.
This is what’s happened for me. I truly love sharing my gifts to help others.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult sometimes; sometimes life is damn difficult, though if you look closely enough there always seem to be gems and gifts hidden within the ostensible mud. Through the tough times you get stronger, deeper, more profound, more compassionate; you level up.
As the Founder of HighExistence Jordan Lejuwaan recently put it: “That difficult thing you’re dealing with now is just training for that massive/incredible thing coming to you next.”
This sort of attitude is a kind of magic spell capable of transmuting even the most difficult times into fertile soil from which power-ups and invaluable life lessons can emerge.
It’s also useful to remember: Unpleasant emotional states are an irrevocable part of being human.
If you aspire to eliminate these states entirely, you will not succeed.
Better to focus on accepting them deeply, observing and allowing them with gentleness, self-compassion, and curiosity.
That’s when they start to teach you the crucial shit you can’t learn anywhere else.
And while you’re in the midst of those difficult times—perhaps especially when you’re in the midst of those difficult times—don’t forget:
Be there for people.
Create and build from a place of love.
This is the path to a soul-nourishing reunion with the world and a life overflowing with meaning.
And the cool thing is you can start right this moment.
Random acts of kindness are always available.
Now is always the perfect time to start creating from the heart.
In every moment we can begin sculpting our lives into works of art, infused with love.
So what are you waiting for?
Jump on this wavelength.
It feels good up here.
Kindness and love are cool again.
The answers are within you.
Stop thinking so much and feel them.
Cheers to making this Earth a radder and more radiant space-diamond.
If you loved this, you’ll likely appreciate this post: ‘5 Unexpected Reasons Modern Life Depresses Many People.’
If you’re ready to awaken from the illusion of separation, consider taking our spiritual obstacle course.
by Jordan Bates
Wizard. // Co-Creator of HighExistence. // Subscribe to New Earth Wizardry, my Dead Honest Newsletter on How to Live in Heaven on Earth. 👑⚔️
ABOUT THE SITE
The aim of this Blog is to explore the arts as a way of making a better go of our lives. The exploration has no limits. Further, we have no answers or solutions. However, we are serious about giving the Blog and life our best shot. We do not know how to add meaning to our lives anymore than you or anyone else does. However, we do expect to get the odd insight, which we are happy to share. Someone might find it useful. Never know your luck. If you feel like joining in, let us know. All insights are welcome, although no time wasters please. The water is warm.
She is Amster Hamfert (aka AH) and he is Bradi Cardi (aka BC) – a couple of long-time social friends. We are the Blog’s creators, who are looking to make some changes to our individual lives. Each needs a bit more meaning. AH is about halfway through her life. BC has about a tenth or less left to go. AH is female, married with a teen-age daughter and working. BC is a widower with grown-up children, now with a partner. Although retired, he is trying to finish off his life’s work in research. The differences between the pair should provide some useful insights. We support each other in this joint project/escapade. We hope our insights will be of interest to others – no guarantee, however. Uncharted territory.
At a workplace reunion, BC was going on (and on) about his end-of-life crisis – having only 10% or less of his life left to live and being unsure, what best to do with it or how to have a good death. Not a popular subject for a jolly night out at the pub. However, AH warmed to the notion of crisis and confided about her own mid-life crisis, concerning her marriage, her job and her life more generally. The joint project/escapade was born. The Blog is an attempt to reflect on how we are doing. It may even be of some interest to others.
The Blog describes AH and BCs’ attempts to explore art as a way of making a better go of their lives in the face of their respective life crises. The idea is to give their lives a better meaning. The Blog consists of a date-ordered record of these attempts and any related matters. Links lead to a more extended discussion of these attempts. Give it a go!
I believe there are few things more valuable than building a meaningful philosophy on life. Although this may sound like a question best reserved for theologians and great thinkers, at the heart it is a practical question: What is your strategy for living?
Your criteria may differ, but I believe all good life philosophies have four basic parameters:
- Survival. Except in rare circumstances, most good philosophies will fulfill your basic needs. This usually isn’t a big concern since most of us are living well beyond the minimum threshold required to simply survive.
- Happiness. Good life philosophies should make you feel good. Great philosophies will keep you happy even in troubling circumstances. Victor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, demonstrated how even in incredible suffering of the concentration camps he could still endure because of a powerful strategy for living.
- Meaning. Happiness can rarely exist without meaning. Good philosophies should make you feel useful and valuable, otherwise when pleasurable moments fade you are left with nothing.
- Independence of Circumstance. Your life philosophy needs to apply in all situations and circumstances. Your strategy for deriving meaning and happiness should last even after a breakup, death of a relative or unemployment.
Everyone has a philosophy on life, whether they realize it or not. The process of refining this philosophy is like building a ship. It will carry you in rough times and allow you to float easily during the pleasant moments. Here are some tips for refining your strategy on life:
- Introspection. A life philosophy cannot be outsourced. Although many major religions package premade philosophies, the work of building a strategy for life is yours alone. Thinking about your beliefs and strategies is the only real way to do that. I recommend journaling or meditation to guide your thinking to come to real solutions.
- Study other philosophies. Gather philosophies from other people and books. I try to be as broad as possible when exposing myself to other ways of thinking. I don’t believe you can be corrupted by a new way of thinking, so don’t limit yourself to exploring philosophies that only fit within your current expectations.
- Focus on the answerable. Philosophy should be practical. This means focusing less on the unanswerable questions that just lead you in circles. I’m an atheist, but my opinion is that the question of whether there is a man in the clouds is besides the point. There is no grand truth, just now and experience. Answerable questions are like:
- “What should I do to have a meaningful life?”
- “How should I view painful moments so they don’t overwhelm me?”
- “How should I act in relationships with other people?”
- Don’t commit. Building a philosophy is an ongoing process of refinement, not an end result. I don’t ever expect to find a final answer, just increasingly better ones. My approach is to view any strategies I currently have as being the best available right now, but I am always open to new understandings.
- Seek references. Experience can sculpt your strategy on life. I aim to find as many broad experiences as possible so I can use them as points of reference when developing a life philosophy. This doesn’t mean you need to smoke a lot of drugs or live in the wilderness, naked, for a year. Just that you shouldn’t limit yourself to the routine of your daily life.
- Connect with others. Discuss your philosophy and find the philosophy of other people. I do my best to reserve judgment and simply observe. I’ve heard completely different philosophies on life from my own and each is a valuable source of new ideas. Don’t stop the flow by preaching or judging those with a different worldview.
- Experiment. Philosophies need to be practical. They should affect how you think and what you do. Experiment with different approaches and see which connects best with the four criteria I mentioned above.
- Collect new functions. Lenses and metaphors are an important component of a strategy for living. Read this article on building a library of thought functions to find more.
- Hold conflicting ideas. I believe it was Aristotle who said, “it is the mark of an educated mind to hold two conflicting ideas in his head without accepting either.”
- Be patient. I’m far from having a perfect strategy for living. I expect the process of refining a life philosophy will take decades, perhaps my entire life. There are no final answers, just slightly optimized ones.
Bonus: Don’t take it too seriously! A strategy for living is important, but it shouldn’t feel like a grave burden. Great philosophies make you feel excited by possibilities, adventure and opportunities. A good boat should be able to handle the rough seas, but it should also be comfortable when the water is calm and the sun is out.
Did you like this article? Here’s some more you might find interesting:
The meaning of life is to make other people’s lives more meaningful.
The meaning of life is to make other people’s lives more meaningful.
The meaning of life is to make other people’s lives more meaningful.
My friend Jonathan Shapiro has a morning routine. Every day on his way to work, he buys a newspaper from the same street vendor, whose newsstand is by a busy subway station in New York. Though both Jonathan and the vendor have every incentive to rush through the exchange of goods for money and get on with their days, they always take a moment to have a brief conversation.
Their little exchange, as humble as it may seem, reveals a great deal about how we can each lead more meaningful lives, as I write in my new book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters.
Many of us are so caught up in our own lives, so rushed and preoccupied, that we acknowledge the people we are interacting with only instrumentally. We fail to see them as individuals. But Jonathan and the vendor break outside of their cocoons and form a brief bond with one another. Each of them lets the other one know that he is heard, seen, and appreciated—that he matters.
If you ask people what their most significant sources of meaning in life are, they, perhaps unsurprisingly, list their close relationships. But, as I researched my book, I discovered something that did surprise me: our loose ties to others can be potent sources of meaning, too. That’s because one of the pillars of a meaningful life is a sense of belonging—which you can cultivate with your partner, children, and closest friends, of course—but also with your newspaper vendor, local barista, and even a stranger on the street. These micro-connections are sources of meaning we can all tap into to lead deeper and richer lives.
When people feel like they belong, according to psychologists Mark Leary and Roy Baumeister, it’s because two conditions have been satisfied. First, they are in relationships with others based on mutual care: each person feels valued by the other. When other people think you matter and treat you like you matter, you believe you matter, too—like Jonathan and the vendor.
Second, they have frequent pleasant interactions with other people. Those moments can be joyful and fun, like when a parent and child play, or more emotionally neutral, like when a content couple holds hands while watching television together. But the key is that they happen on a regular basis and are not negative—again, like Jonathan and the vendor.
Belonging isn’t a fixed trait of relationships; we can each build belonging with another person by doing certain things. One excellent way is to make sure we’re responding to one another’s bids, as the psychologist John Gottman calls them. In relationships, people are constantly making bids for affection. For example, let’s say a couple is sitting at the breakfast table and the wife comments on an interesting headline in the newspaper. At this moment, she is making a bid for her husband’s attention and hoping that her husband responds by acknowledging her warmly.
Her husband now has a choice. He can either ignore her bid or barely acknowledge it. Or he could affirm her bid by saying something like “how interesting—tell me more”—and this would create a moment of belonging that both of them could share.
But if small moments can kindle belonging, they can also destroy it. For example, one day, when my friend Jonathan went to buy the paper, he realized he had only big bills. The vendor could not make change for Jonathan, so he smiled widely and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll pay tomorrow.” The vendor was making a bid to take their relationship to a higher level of trust and intimacy. But Jonathan tensed up and shook his head. He insisted on paying for the paper, so he went into a store and bought something he did not need so he could make change. He handed the vendor a dollar and said, “Here you go, to be sure I don’t forget.”
In that instant, the dynamic of their relationship changed. The vendor reluctantly took Jonathan’s money and drew back in sadness. “I did the wrong thing,” Jonathan later said. “I didn’t accept his kindness. He wanted to do something meaningful, but I treated it as a transaction.”
The vendor isn’t the only person, of course, who has felt cut down by rejection. Psychologists have found that social rejection can make both the rejected and the rejecter feel alienated and insignificant. As Jonathan learned on a crowded street corner, the smallest moment of rejection can knock the meaning out of a connection as easily as the smallest moment of belonging can build it up. After Jonathan dismissed the vendor’s bid for mutual trust, both of them left each other that morning feeling diminished.
Fortunately, the two men were able to restore their relationship. The next time Jonathan saw the vendor, he brought him a cup of tea. And the next time the vendor offered Jonathan a newspaper, Jonathan thanked him and humbly accepted his gesture of kindness. They continue to share a quick conversation each day.
We can’t control whether someone will respond to our bids, but we can all choose to reciprocate one. We can decide to respond kindly, rather than antagonistically, to one another. We can choose to value people rather than devalue them. We can invite people to belong. And when we do, not only will our own lives feel more meaningful—but our relationships will be better, too.
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Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, out this month with Crown. You can take the “What’s Your Pillar of Meaning” quiz on Emily’s website. Emily is also an editor at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where she manages the Ben Franklin Circles project, a collaboration with the 92nd Street Y and Citizen University to build purpose and community.
28 Quotes about Meaninglessness of Life
We all are given life with a purpose. In life there comes a lot of tough phases. Those who face life with courage and determination find it worth living, while some find life tough and thus living useless. However, we are given this life to live and find out its meaning in our own way. Here we have these life is meaningless quotes to help you know that you are not alone and it’s important to regain confidence in life.
28 Quotes about Meaninglessness of Life
Sometimes I am really afraid of this meaningless life.
It’s a meaningless but worth living life.
Do not waste your life in worthless things.
Sometimes a meaningless life is an easy life.
I find no reason of living a meaningless life.
Not interested in a meaningless and absurd life.
The only knowledge that man can attain is that this life has no meaning.
You have the power to give your life meaning and hope.
That’s true. Mundane life can kill you.
Play your role to bring meaning to your life.
Go find the answer!
It is not easy to spend a meaningless life.
Those who take life as something worthless, are disqualified for life.
A million dollar question, we all should ask ourselves.
Find love to find the meaning of life.
Create your own existence!
Meaning of life is hidden in living for others.
Maybe just your life is meaningless. Give it a thought!
Meaning of life; to survive, achieve and conquer.
Anyone can come close to that border where one feels desperate and finds no meaning in life.
Another literature quote.
A life without meaning is not for me.
Discover the secret to life.
Take the challenge to make your life meaningful.
Life has nothing of worth and value.
Those who believe life to be meaningless are seriously ill.
Live simply! That’s the true meaning of life.
Learn to define the meaning of life with these inspirational life is meaningless quotes.