Where do you find meaning in life
What's the meaning of life? Why I'm here? What is this all about? In this article you will learn what the meaning of life is, why it changes over the course of life, and what you can do to lead a meaningful life.
It is probably the biggest and most important question a person can ask:
What's the meaning of life?
Without meaning, our life seems empty and meaningless to us. It doesn't matter how much we achieve or how successful we are in the eyes of others.
So no matter how rich, sexy and confident you are, you will probably not be happy without a deeper goal in life. It is not for nothing that there are always world-famous or super-rich people who kill themselves.
Happiness and meaning belong together like Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. Or like movies and popcorn. Or like Sunday and crime scene. Choose something new.
The thing is: moments of happiness, good feelings and fun are important components of a fulfilled existence. But they are nowhere near enough. You also need a purpose.
Unlike most animals, we humans have the ability to think about ourselves.
So while a dog is completely happy when you give him a large can Chappi stand up and scratch him behind the ear, you sit on your couch and think about your purpose in life.
In general, being happy is less about feeling good all the time than about leading a meaningful life. We need to feel that we are doing things for a reason and that we are strong Why to have.
And that brings us to the next point ...
You will also find out the most important points from this article in this video:
What's the meaning of life? Love, happiness, life itself?
If you ask people about the meaning of life, you often get the following answers:
- The meaning of life is to live.
- Pursuing your dreams is the most important thing.
- Life has no meaning.
- Love is the meaning of life!
- The purpose of life is to be happy.
- The sense of life? Oh! It's all pointless anyway. Now bring me another beer.
But what is the correct answer? And is there even a right or wrong answer?
Great thinkers, religious teachers, philosophers and drunks have been discussing the meaning of life for thousands of years.
Some great thinkers claim that our existence has no deeper meaning. In Buddhism, the goal of our existence is to avoid unnecessary suffering. The Greek philosopher Aristotle saw the purpose of life in being human itself. Religious followers often see it in faith. And in the novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the answer of a supercomputer to the question about the meaning of life after seven and a half million years of computing time is simply the number 42.
The answer to the question about the meaning of life is as different as the people you ask the question. And that is the most important finding.
Because you ultimately decide what your goal in life is.
Just as you choose to wear red instead of black underwear in the morning, you can choose what the meaning of your life should be.
The meaning of life? Choose something new!
What's the meaning of life? Wrong question buddy!
People who crave more meaning, depth, and meaning shouldn't wonder what the meaning of life is. That will probably not get you anywhere.
Instead, the question should be rephrased a bit and ask yourself the following:
What gives meaning to my life?
Instead of so after Meaning of lifeto searchas if it were a lost sock it's about giving life a deeper meaning.
This is a small but very important distinction.
Interesting, Anchu. But how do I do that?
Nice that you ask.
The short answer: focus on your values.
What purpose and purpose in life has to do with your values
While there are several reasons why people commit suicide, one of the main reasons is that everything seems pointless to them.
In order to be generally happy and satisfied, it is less about feeling good all the time than about having the feeling of leading a meaningful existence.
Above all, that means following your own values.
If you lead a life that is based on your values, it seems fulfilling and beautiful to you, even if negative things happen to you or it is not always easy.
And that is exactly where our modern society has a huge problem.
For thousands of years people lived according to the values and ideals of their respective tribe or religion. And following these values and ideals gave people direction.
They believed in something greater than themselves.
But most people these days don't have strong stats. Values and ideals have been replaced by status symbols, consumption, recognition and the desire to always feel good.
When people lack purpose in life, it is often because they lack strong values.
They spend their time following the latest fashion trends, going on vacation to Mallorca and posting selfies on Instagram and Facebook.
Do not get me wrong.
It's not about saving the dolphins from extinction or giving up your previous existence to stand up for people in need.
But think carefully about who you want to be and what your life time should look like.
In a society that offers more freedom and opportunity than ever before, it is up to each individual to decide which values are important to them and what they want to believe in.
Because it is our values and beliefs that give our existence a deep meaning.
Friedrich Nietzsche already wrote:
"Anyone who has a why to live can endure almost every how."
And hardly anyone does this better than I do Viktor E. Frankl.
A story from the life of Viktor E. Frankl
Hardly anyone can say more about the meaning of life than Viktor E. Frankl.
Frankl was a Jewish psychologist who was in a concentration camp from 1942 until the end of the war in 1945.
The living conditions were inhuman. Each prisoner received two pieces of bread a week. One thousand five hundred people were housed in a barrack designed for two hundred. Then there was the brutal cold in winter and work to the point of total exhaustion.
Frankl reported how a young boy was taken to the doctor one day because his feet were frozen to death. There were no shoes his size, so he had to work barefoot all day in the snow. The doctor used forceps to pull the entire big toe off his foot until only the bone remained. The meat was completely dead.
Many of the prisoners could not endure the daily agony and committed suicide by walking into the barbed wire fences charged with high voltage.
In his bestseller "... still say yes to life" he describes the inhumane conditions in the concentration camp and gives a deep insight into the psyche of the prisoners.
He explained that it was neither physical nor psychological strength that determined whether the prisoners were to stay alive. The all-important factor - aside from chance - was whether the prisoners found access to something that made sense to them.
The prisoners who survived were those who held onto something greater than themselves:
- Responsibility to a loved one who might be waiting for you.
- Incomplete work that they really wanted to do.
- To help other people or to pass on some of their knowledge to them.
It was the prisoners who could connect with me to their deepest values and something really important who survived.
Despite all the inhumanity and all the horror, Frankl decided time and again to hold on to something meaningful.
So he helped other prisoners in the concentration camp. The thought of holding his beloved wife in his arms again at some point also spurred him on.
Frankl lived in inhumane conditions, experienced extreme injustice and looked death in the eye every day.
But in all this inhumanity, in all this agony and in all this pain, he still found meaning. And this gave him the strength, the courage and the endurance that he needed to survive.
Frankl first lost his father, then his mother and finally his wife in the concentration camp. But he himself survived the agony. In 1947 he married for the second time. The marriage lasted until his death in 1997. Frankl was 92 years old, wrote 32 books and received 29 honorary doctorates.
Fortunately, most of us will never have such traumatic experiences. But our values still play an extremely important role in our lives.
Values are the key to a meaningful life
If you lead a life that is based on your values, it seems meaningful, fulfilling and beautiful to you - even if negative things happen to you or it is not always easy.
And that is also one of the great problems of our modern society.
For thousands of years people lived according to the values and ideals of their respective tribe or religion. And living by these values and ideals gave people meaning. They believed in something greater than themselves.
But most people these days don't have strong stats. Values and ideals have been replaced by status symbols, consumption, recognition and the desire to always feel good.
Why are so many people in the western world dissatisfied, even though they can have their purchases delivered to their homes, have car seats to massage, and their biggest problem is finding the right outfit for the vegan brunch on Saturday morning?
Because they don't have strong values. They lack the why.
Yeah, it's that simple.
Most of the time, when people don't feel like they are living meaningfully, it's because they don't have strong values.
Her life is chasing the latest fashion trends, going on vacation to Mallorca, building a career, posting selfies on social media and having sex 3.7 times a week.
The moment you decide to live by your own values, your life will automatically make more sense to you.
For example, if I'm just thinking about making more money while I'm writing, I find it damn hard. The writing then seems monotonous, meaningless and I lack motivation.
However, when I realize while writing that I can inspire and help other people through my words, it fulfills me.
Writing then makes sense to me because I connect with my values and thus have the feeling of doing something important and meaningful.
The meaning and purpose of life are changing
Often times, people believe that the question of meaning in life is a one-time affair - like a wild one-night stand with a stranger.
But the question comes up again and again. Because what gives our life meaning changes mostly over time.
Because we are changing.
Influenced by our environment and our experiences, our views, our attitudes and our values change.
That is why we value different things in different phases of life. And with that, our meaning in life often changes.
As a teenager, the main purpose of your life is to be cool, get your driver's license, and have sex for the first time.
If you are in your early twenties and have finished your apprenticeship or college degree, getting a good job and a career is probably particularly important to you.
If, on the other hand, you have just had your first child, a hell of a lot revolves around your offspring and you will try to be the best possible mother or father. For example, many parents claim that their children are a large part of their purpose in life.
If you are a little older and have invested the last 30 years in a great career or in bringing up your children, your priorities, views and also your purpose in life will change again.
And by the time you're 85, your purpose in life is likely to be dressing alone in the morning and going to bingo.
Big changes, strokes of fate or crises of meaning will repeatedly influence or even change your meaning in life. And that's OK.
As you change, so does what gives meaning to your life.
(Also Read: 8 Signs It's Time For Change)
Why happiness is not a good purpose in life
Many people believe that the meaning of life is to be happy.
And while you can choose for yourself what the meaning of your life is, happiness is not a good choice. Let me explain
You have probably also noticed that happiness is difficult to grasp.
Because how do you define happiness?
- Am I happy when I've just been shopping and found the perfect pair of pants?
- Is happiness in being generally satisfied, although not everything is always perfect?
- Isn't pure happiness all those moments when I just enjoy my life and don't think about whether I'm happy right now?
Happiness can hardly be defined because the boundaries between fun, enjoyment, serenity or satisfaction are fluid. (More on this here: What is happiness?)
But apart from the fact that it is difficult for us to define happiness, there is also no clearly defined path to happiness. There is no such thing as a simple 5-step guide.
For example, in order to lose weight, it is clear what to do (the hard part lies in the implementation):
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat less and healthier.
- Avoid chips, sweets, all-you-can-eat buffets and 2 × 1 cocktails.
But what about happiness?
The happiness paradox
The paradox of happiness is that the more importance you give to happiness, the more unhappy you are likely to be.
So the more you try to be happy, the less you are.1 That is why people whose goal is to be happy are usually more unhappy.2
The thing is, happiness is not an end goal that you achieve when you have achieved your three most important life goals or solved your biggest problem.
A six-pack, more success with the opposite sex or endless money are by no means a guarantee of more happiness. A trip around the world, your own house or more self-confidence either.
I explain why this is so in this video:
There are people who achieve all of their goals, are successful, look good and are still unhappy. On the other hand, there are people who have lost everything and are still happy.
Happiness is a by-product that comes primarily from living a meaningful and meaningful life. And that's exactly why happiness shouldn't be the central part of your life.
What is the meaning of life if I do die someday anyway?
Some people believe that life has no meaning because sooner or later it will end anyway. It is exactly the other way around!
It may sound like a paradox, but it is death that gives meaning to your life.
Imagine you are immortal. You would no longer have any incentive to do anything at all. After all, there would be no consequence in doing or not doing something. You would probably always postpone things until tomorrow, knowing that you have forever.
If you were immortal, your life would lose meaning and intensity.
The beautiful things are beautiful because they are finite. Why do you enjoy sex, a delicious dinner or an interesting movie?
Because you know that they only have a certain duration. It's the foreseeable end that makes things interesting, meaningful, and intense.
We mostly associate death with fear, grief and pain. But ultimately it is death that gives our existence a deep meaning.
Therefore, you should remember your own mortality more often.
How death can help give your life a deeper meaning
It turns out that people who are more concerned about death see their lives as making more sense.3
Because death is the ultimate deadline that reminds you what your life should be about. The thought of one's own mortality leads people to pursue meaningful goals.
And that's exactly why it's so powerful when you keep reminding yourself that you will die sooner or later.
For example, what more would you want to do if you only had one year left to live?
- What else would you want to experience?
- What would you want to leave behind for posterity?
- Who would you spend your time with?
- Who would you apologize to?
- Tell who you love
Regularly reminding yourself that sooner or later you will die is the best way to have a meaningful existence.
Imagine when you were born you knew when you were going to die. You would have a fixed time of death, just like vanilla yogurt has an expiration date.
Your life would be more meaningful!
You would think more carefully about what you want to do in your time in the here and now, what you want to see of the world, how people should remember you and what you will leave behind for posterity.
But neither of us knows when it will end. And that makes us live as if we were immortal.
We rub ourselves up on little things, postpone our dreams into the future and fail to see the beautiful in everyday life. Instead, we get upset that we're stuck in traffic, don't own an expensive car, and it's time to remove our pubic hair again.
Just imagine how intensely you would perceive everything if you knew you were going to die next week.
You wouldn't be upset anymore that you were stuck in a traffic jam or that the train was 10 minutes late. You wouldn't take it as everyday that there are people who love you. You would savor every single second to the full and enjoy life in all its facets.
And that's exactly why you should think about death more often.
How do you see the whole issue? Did the article help you? Let me know in the comments!
This article is based on concepts from my book Fuck It !. If you liked the article, you will love the book. You can order the book here.
You might also be interested in:
- Gruber J, Mauss IB, Tamir M. (2011). A dark side of happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2011 May; 6 (3): 222-33. doi: 10.1177 / 1745691611406927.
- Schooler, Jonathan & Ariely, Dan. (2018). The pursuit and assessment of happiness may be self-defeating.
- King LA, Hicks JA, Abdelkhalik J. (2009). Death, life, scarcity, and value: an alternative perspective on the meaning of death. Psychol Sci. 2009 Dec; 20 (12): 1459-62. doi: 10.1111 / j.1467-9280.2009.02466.x. Epub 2009 Oct 30.
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