#4 Discover meaning
As I stated earlier, I really have little idea how many ask the hard questions such as ’Why am I here?’, ‘What do I want to achieve with my whole life?’, ‘What are my greatest gifts/abilities and how could I best use them?’, and even perhaps, ‘How do I want others to remember me – would who and what I am right now be ok, or do I have work to do on myself and my life?’
But finding meaning is essential to a fulfilled life.
A life lived without meaning, without purpose is an empty life.
Many speak of the feeling of emptiness when they awake from some very hedonistic life experiences. Some though never ‘wake up’ but continue to pursue hedonistic pleasures in the hope, it seems, of finding this fulfillment, this lack of emptiness.
This may work for a while, but most anecdotal evidence from the older and hopefully wiser amongst us, would suggest such ‘fulfillment’ through hedonistic, self-gratifying activities, is not long-lasting.
It seems meaning is found when we reach out to help others.
We have all heard the saying ‘it is better to give than receive’, yet is this true?
On reflection, do we grow when we give, do we grow when we teach others; when we support others, when we praise and uplift others. I think we do, but we all need to reflect individually on this I think, and answer the question from our own life experiences.
Men and woman have the gift of free will. But in being free to make choices, we inevitably need to reflect on those choices. If over time our ‘big’ choices; our significant and life-defining choices don’t end up adding much meaning to our lives, then it seems almost inevitable as well that an emptiness will result, a void where meaning should be.
For example, raising children clearly adds great meaning to our lives.
Being a parent is among the most meaningful things any of us can ever do. Yes, having children is expensive, time-consuming, very stressful, very tiring and emotionally draining. If we were to rationally analyse the social, environmental and economic benefit I think it would be found wanting.
And yet, parenthood changes us – it changes our priorities, our perspective and our future goals and aspirations.
This is because it adds meaning. In fact, it almost forces meaning down our thoughts!
We are changed before we have changed our 1000th nappie! Parenthood generally makes us WANT to be better people.
Therefore children bring meaning, though in some ways they may actually reduce our happiness. This may seem counter-intuitive, but children tend to make our lives more of a roller-coaster. They give us greater highs, and also greater lows. Our babies first step is a joy to experience, and at the opposite end of the scale holding your screaming son just after he has slammed several of his fingers in the car door, and they have turned black, is not a moment of much happiness.
If the Almighty has not blessed you with children, or your children have long since ‘flown the nest’, you may need to seek other ways to find meaning and hence happiness. Helping others is always meaningful, whether it’s ‘Meals of Wheels’, being a volunteer fire-fighter or just teaching introductory phone skills to the newbies among the over 60’s. Any such activities both develop relationships and bring worth to your life. This gives your life purpose outside of yourself and this in turn brings a peace and contentment that you are making a difference.
If you feel you don’t have a lot of meaning in your life, do some deep introspection – seek out what activity would really stimulate you to get heavily involved and be passionately present. Then go for it and embrace it – ignore the hurdles and rejections you may face until you are doing something that you are confident has real meaning.
Now re-evaluate your happiness.
I would suggest though that the greatest meaning can be found in seeking and doing the will of our Father in Heaven. He promises us that if we delight ourselves in Him, and His will in this world, He will give us the desires of our hearts.
‘Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give your the desires of your heart’ Psalms 37:4