Can we live a life of purpose? Do we need meaning in our lives’? We do not need to set up a charity, nor do we need to discover a cure for a rare disease; finding meaning is about finding our own meaning within any given situation in our daily life. The actions that we choose in the present moment and the meaning that we gather from such choices is unique to us.
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by a lack of meaning and purpose.
Frankl’s beautiful concept was that each of us live a life of meaning at the intersection of our own life choices and own life circumstances.
Purposeful living helps us become healthier and happier individuals
There is strong evidence that individuals who live a life of purpose actually live longer. If we wake up with drive and inspiration it will naturally lead to more positive emotions and can reduce stress from day-to-day trivial matters. Living a meaningful life can help us to increase community engagement, positive relationships and our resilience as well.
Dr. Robert Butler and his collaborators led an NIH-funded study that looked at the correlation between having a sense of purpose and longevity. His 11 year study followed healthy people between the ages of 65 and 92, and showed that those who expressed having clear goals or purpose lived longer and lived better than those who did not.
If we pause and reflect on someone going through a depressive state, they will likely feel lost and lack hope and optimism. This can result in individuals not looking after their health and indulging in behavior that is not healthy for them. In contrast, when living a life of meaning there is hope, inspiration and a desire to thrive. This can naturally lead to individuals eating well, exercising, creating strong social bonds and much more.
Tips for exploring meaning
How can we begin to explore meaning within our lives? Here are some tips to start exploring:
- values: exploring our values is the foundation of finding more meaning within our lives. If we value deep conversations then the more we partake in such actions, the more we will organically find meaning within that given situation. If we have strong values towards nature, then we can find more meaning within nature and create more passion in areas relating to nature;
- ikigai: the Japanese concept of ikigai can help us to live a more meaningful life in varying life domains. There are four key areas: passion, mission, vocation and profession. Ask yourself questions around these domains on where your values and concepts of meaning can be found:
- nature: if we find time to pause and watch the beauty of nature in its natural progression: a bee going about it’s business exploring a flower and flying off to spread pollen, autumnal leaves falling from a series of trees or birds flying in unison in the sky; we can begin to look at life in a more philosophical manner, which in turn can help us to find values and meaning;
- volunteering: when we do something kind for another human being who needs our help and have no expectation in return, it is inherently meaningful. This type of pleasure is very different to a promotion, a pay rise, or retail therapy. It is deep and meaningful in its very form.
A conclusion of thoughts
Volunteer to help others, explore nature as often as you can, create a fun mood board or write in your journal about the concepts of your life and ikigai, and take the time to pause and reflect on your values as a human being. Create daily habits around these areas; try new hobbies, sports, community engagement projects and more to find areas of passion. Ask yourself more deeply why you are passionate about these areas and how they make you feel.
Wishing you health and well being.