It has been suggested that a meaningful life has three separate but interconnected features: Comprehension, Purpose and Significance.
Comprehension is the degree to which we feel our life experiences make sense and have coherence. Our lives have coherence when we can identify understandable patterns which enable us to make sense of the bigger picture.
Purpose can be defined as the extent to which you feel your life is motivated by goals which are valuable to you. When we have purpose in our lives, we have a clear sense of what we are striving for and a strong commitment to achieving it.
Significance refers to how much we feel our existence matters and has value within the world.
When working towards a more meaningful life it’s essential that we reflect on what we have already accomplished. This means taking stock of our achievements and the good things that have happened in our lives. However, we also need to acknowledge those things we don’t wish to repeat in 2022, so we should be willing to learn from our mistakes too. Being clear on what we already have and where we are at, is the foundation upon which we will start building.
If you’ve ever gone round in circles trying to work out where you’re at and what you want in life, you’re not alone. However, clear thinking is an essential prerequisite to creating a more meaningful life, so if you’re struggling to order your thoughts, consider the following:
Living and working in a cluttered environment has been shown to have a negative effect on concentration levels and calmness, while social media acts as a distraction to your thoughts. Diet can also affect your ability to think clearly, so try to switch refined carbohydrates and sugary snacks, which can cause ‘brain fog’, for healthier foods. Once your day is over, it’s important that you get sufficient sleep as lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly. Finally, think about practising mindfulness and meditation to help focus your thoughts.
Being honest with yourself
Thinking clearly will help you to be honest with yourself. The problem is that when you want something to be true it’s all too easy to practise self-deception. And, as the saying goes, ‘There are none so blind as those who won’t see’. Being honest with yourself means recognising and owning your mistakes. Reassigning blame when things go wrong means you are oblivious to your own shortcomings, and so cannot learn from them. Conversely, reflecting on your innermost values, embracing your true self and acknowledging your faults will enable you to live a more meaningful life.
Living a more meaningful life
To help you get started, try thinking about those things in your life which add value and fulfilment, and then consider those things which add nothing or make you feel negative about yourself. Once you’re clear on this, make the decision to ditch people or activities that aren’t making a meaningful contribution to your life. Next, consider the following suggestions:
Find your purpose
Your purpose will be the thing that matters most to you and to which you repeatedly return when contemplating what is important in your life. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, you can try to discover it by identifying your strengths and then looking for ways to use them that will benefit others. You might feel that your purpose is to be a good parent, to work in a particular career, a voluntary role or something else entirely – only you will know what matters to you. Once you know what it is, set your goals and work towards them.
See your job from a new perspective
Most of us need to work, but we don’t always feel our occupation is meaningful. If your role doesn’t align with your values and goals in life, then make it your purpose to work towards changing it, and it may be that you simply need to see your contribution differently. For example, a hospital cleaner might see themselves as someone who helps to heal the sick because they contribute to the wellbeing of patients. Take a moment to consider your current role, and then ask yourself how you can imbue it with more meaning.
Develop social relationships
Research proves that having and maintaining positive relationships with others has a positive impact on our lives. Conversely, people who have fewer social connections, feel left out, or experience feelings of loneliness also report having less meaningful lives. Sharing your passion or purpose with other like-minded individuals can help generate a sense of meaningfulness. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a stand about something or enjoying a hobby, getting together with others will add meaning to your life.
Develop relationships that enhance your sense of belonging
While social connections bond us together, they are not all created equal. Focusing on those relationships which give you a sense of belonging will increase your sense of meaningfulness. If you feel strongly that you identify with the values of a group or community, this will give you a sense of belonging.
Be generous with what you have
As humans, we are surrounded by others, all of whom are at different stages in their life’s journey. Try to remember a time when someone helped you and then do the same for others. Generosity doesn’t necessarily mean giving money either. You can give your time, a word of encouragement, or practical assistance. Helping others gives you a sense of purpose which in turn makes you feel that your life matters.
With all things, there is a happy medium; take time out to enjoy the moment, but don’t lose sight of your purpose if you want your life to be more meaningful.