Do You Want a More Meaningful Life?

Though “to exist” and “to live” are often used as synonyms, on a human level there is a big difference between truly living and just existing. That difference seems to revolve around the question of meaning or purpose in life. Many people ask the question, “Why am I here?” or “What is this all about?” Others just feel that somehow there is something missing – something more to be had. The “more” we search for is meaning in life.

Psychologists have broken “meaning” into three main parts: coherence, significance, and purpose. Put simply, they are the thoughts, feelings, and actions that define and guide our search for and attainment of meaning. All three work together and all three aspects should be considered and nurtured in order to develop a deeply meaningful life.

Below are some broad suggestions that can help guide you in forming and transforming your thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to create a meaningful life. 

Consider the sacred: There are many religious expressions in the world, but there is one consistency in humanity, and that is that most of us yearn for a benevolent higher power who gives our life meaning. Sacredness creates a feeling of transcendence above this sometimes mundane and painful world. Nurture a sense of the sacred and the knowledge that you are not an accident. 

Determine your strengths: This takes some real soul searching, but it is enlightening and enjoyable. While we can easily recognize the best traits of others, we usually focus on the negative when it comes to ourselves. It’s time to define what character traits you have that make you special and that will be your vehicles to fulfilling a meaningful life. 

Define your aspirations: Aspirations are bigger than goals. Goals are about you. Aspirations are about how you see the world and how you want to impact it. Think about what really matters to you and evaluate how you, in ways large or small, can make an impact. 

Reframe your narrative: Having a “growth mindset” means seeing everything as an opportunity to grow. I’ve had many clients who have experienced serious suffering in their lives. Those who learn to reframe their self-identity from victim to victor are the ones who overcome. Everything in your life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – can be reframed as a source of personal growth and an opportunity to help make the world a better place. 

Make a contribution: Stepping out of yourself and focusing on others is a critical part of finding meaning in life. Especially if you’ve experienced suffering or trauma in your life, you can use your experiences to help others overcome their own challenges. 

Develop deep connections: Nurture close personal relationships with friends, family, and those involved in the same causes you’re involved in. Make the time to communicate and connect. And studies show that hugs on a regular basis improve mood and lower stress. So as long as both parties welcome a hug, embrace! 

Chase fulfillment, not happiness: We all need and want to feel happy. But it is an emotion, which means it’s fleeting. It comes and goes and cannot be maintained constantly. What can be maintained is a feeling of fulfillment. Even if you’re exhausted and drained after a long day of caring for the baby, or alleviating hunger, or working on the ICU floor, you’re fulfilled, because you know you’ve done something really important that day. Find those causes that are important to you, work diligently for them, and you will feel fulfilled.

Life is meaningful when you sense it has purpose. When you direct your energies towards that purpose, you will experience fulfillment. And when you share that fulfillment with others around you, you spread that fulfillment and purpose to others, as well, making the world a better place – which makes your life even more meaningful. It’s a wonderful, ongoing circle of meaning and fulfillment and sharing.

If you need help getting started down this path, I encourage you to reach out to me or to another experienced counselor. It can be very helpful to have a guide as you walk the path toward deeper meaning in your life.

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