A shiver went up my spine
The lunatic in the white sports car overtook both me and the car in front.
On a blind bend.
On a busy stretch of road.
How could someone be in such a hurry that they would risk their own and others lives?
Did his life have no meaning?
Maybe his life had no meaning, but mine certainly had.
What about you? Does your life have meaning?
Without a sense of meaning, it can be challenging to remain in high spirits on the journey that is life. You may wonder, “What am I here for?” or “There must be more to life than just working and looking forward to weekends and holidays.”
Meaningfulness is personal
Research suggests that finding meaning in your life has a profound impact on your psychological health and happiness. But what I find meaningful might be a waste of time for you — and vice versa. Thank goodness we aren’t all the same. What’s important is that, as individuals, we’re engaged in life and perceive our lives as purposeful.
Common strategies and actions that will help you experience meaning and feelings of happiness
1. Follow your passion
Yes, I know, it sounds new-agey and trite, but it’s true.
What is that thing you love to do?
Drawing, writing, DIY, cooking, playing a sport? No matter what it is, make sure you make time for it every day — or at least several times a week. Perhaps you’re already fortunate enough to earn your living from your passion. If so, that’s wonderful! But if making money from your passion means you need more skill than you have right now, find the time and energy each day to devote to developing and refining your skill set.
But what if I don’t have the time?
Lack of time is a common excuse. Not a very valid one — but an excuse none-the-less. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day. How you allocate those hours will depend on what’s important to you. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll find the time somehow. As far as I’m aware no-one ever said, at the end of their lives, ’I wish I’d watched more TV.’ So turn the brain-washing machine off and do what you love to do!
My cousin, Geoffrey Philp is an inspirational example of how to allocate time to pursue a passion. (Can you see the family likeness?) He was a full-time department head and teacher at Miami Dade College in Florida, USA. A devoted husband and father of three children for many, many years, he got up at 4.00 a.m to pursue his passion, writing. His poetry, short stories, children’s books and novels are being read all around the world. Have a look at Geoffrey’s Amazon page.
2. Be a continuous, active learner
Conscious, active learning and growing are a natural part of being human. When you’re engaged in learning something of interest to you, you’ll experience contentment, excitement, or joy — you may even experience all of these emotions. They all contribute to happiness. Active learning means you are involved in the gaining of knowledge; for example, in hands-on workshops, facilitated training, discussions, teaching others and practice. Active learning is much better than passive learning.
Passive learning is like having your brain gently washed!
Passive learning involves taking in information, in an effortless, passive kind of way, almost as if through osmosis. This is the type of learning you get from watching television or listening to the radio. (That’s why you hum the ad jingles, even though you never attempted to learn them.)
3. Make your work meaningful
Your work should not be ’just a job’. Finding meaning in your work is important. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what the work is, as long as you can find something in it that is meaningful for you.
“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” – Viktor E. Frankl
If you can’t find meaningful work, or some aspect of your employment that’s meaningful, it might be time to look for something else. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to up-skill yourself in one of your passions so that you can get work in an area in which you’d love to be employed. The work of finding meaningful work can be meaningful work in itself! Remember to enjoy the process and the journey, and get in touch if you’d like some help.
4. Help others
Many studies show that helping and giving to others improves the helper’s happiness. It might even surprise you, since it would seem that many people focus more on getting what they want as a reason to feel happy.
When we do something for others, we often feel compassion, benevolence and kindness — all emotions that contribute to happiness. When you feel good, you’re more likely to do good, and when you do good, you’ll feel good. What a fantastic feedback loop!
You could help by getting involved in a local group or charity if that appeals. But being friendly, kind and compassionate to those around you; your family, partner, colleagues, friends may well be enough to cause a ripple effect of good feelings.
5. Live by your values
Values are your judgements of what’s important in the way you live your life, do your work, relate to others, raise a family, etc. When all your values are present in any of the contexts of your life, you’ll feel satisfied and highly motivated. And when they’re not — you’ll feel demotivated.
If you contravene your own values, you’ll feel regret and dissatisfaction. And if you violate someone else’s values, you’ll experience shame. Consciously understanding what’s important to you may be an important step in your bid for greater happiness. Read more about values.
6. Put off Procrastinating
Procrastinating just gives you something else to regret not having done! When you set and achieve your goals, you often get a sense of attainment, fulfilment and a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. The completion spurs you on to bigger and better things. Suffice to say that getting things done makes you feel good.
7. Be grateful
You can always find aspects of life to improve. Improvement is part of our life’s journey. But when you focus your attention on what’s lacking or not quite right, you’re more likely to feel discontented and unhappy. You’ll also notice more aspects of your life you want to change. Of course, a certain amount of seeing what you want to improve is healthy, and stimulates you to set goals and to make improvements. A sense of gratitude for all you have helps you to notice and appreciate other facets of your life where things are going well.
When you are aware of what you value and enjoy in life, you’re likely to notice more to value and enjoy!
A few years ago I did a 365-day gratitude journal on Facebook
The aim was to find more things in life to be grateful for. So every day for a whole year, I took a photo of something I was grateful for and posted it on Facebook. It’s still there if you’d like to have a look. On particular days, it was tough, because I couldn’t take a photo of what I was grateful for. For example, warmth on a winter’s day. So I had to innovate! And, because I was looking for things to appreciate, I found more things to appreciate. Try it yourself.
Which one of these would you like to practice first?
- Follow your passion.
- Be a continuous, active learner.
- Make your work meaningful.
- Live by your values.
- Help others.
- Put off procrastinating.
- Be grateful.
Pick just one of these suggestions and put it into practice for the next 3 weeks. Notice what a difference it makes…
When you put these simple — yet admittedly not always easy — suggestions into practice, you’ll live a meaningful life. You’ll increase your happiness quotient and hopefully won’t need to take unnecessary risks on the highway of life.
Got your own strategy for creating meaning?
Please share in the comments, below. And if you’d like some help with any of these, get in touch, and let’s get cracking.Tags: Goals, Health and wellbeing, Self-confidence and self-esteem, work and career