Finding more meaning in life, has been my overarching quest my entire adult life! And boy have I tried a lot of things, like backpacking around the world in my 20s, becoming an Art Therapist in my 30s, and craziest of all, becoming a Film Producer in my 40s!
As all the great religions have been warning us for centuries, most of our daily lives are defined by suffering. Of course, these days we physically suffer less, but instead, we suffer psychologically more intensely with stress and anxiety being the key unwanted guests on our journey through life.
So, if life is mainly suffering, then why not just distract ourselves with all the pleasures that of our modern world has to offer?
Well, I am sure you have tried indulging in the fleeting pleasures of life, I know I have, and I am sure you discovered the same thing I did, that it just doesn’t work!
Finding more meaning
I have worked as a coach since 2012, and one of the most common questions I get asked by clients is,
How can I find more meaning in my life?
Often people come to coaching thinking that achieving greater happiness, finding higher self-esteem or indulging in greater pleasure in their lives, would magically make them feel their life had more meaning!
But the pursuit of these false gods often leads us towards narcism, i.e. the search of our glorification, which ironically can never provide the sense of meaning that our hearts crave.
Part of the cause of this lack of meaning in our lives has been the breakdown of religious faith over the last century or so. Which has left most of us with a pang of insatiable hunger for a deeper meaning to our daily lives, beyond just fulfilling our own needs.
Feelings of lack and resentment can lead us to extremes.
This sense that we are missing something more profound in our lives can make us look at people who are more successful in the world and feel like they have stolen that from us.
Hence the great neurosis of the 21st century is of dissatisfaction with all the wonders we have created, be it harnessing the power of electricity, to the miracle of the smartphone to the global peace and prosperity that free trade has brought to billions of people.
These wonders, even a century ago, would have felt unachievable, but yet we still feel dissatisfied and resentful inside that they have not brought more meaning to our lives.
These feelings of lack can often attract people to extreme ideologies, like the isolationism of nationalism; let’s keep everything to ourselves and exclude and persecute the other! Or the infantilism of socialism; let’s remove the rights of the individual and make everyone equal and allow our society to be controlled by those who know better than us.
These grand experiments in controlling the world, led us equally to the massive bloodshed of both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia & China, resulting in upwards of 100 million deaths and an appalling quality of existence for those that survived.
There must be a better way to find meaning in life other than returning to out-dated religious beliefs or large enterprises of state control or going through our lives resenting those that have more than us?
Lift a heavy load.
Try lifting a heavy load in your life!
From my own life, I have found that when I have too much ease and comfort with little challenge in my life, then I become depressed and anxious in my day-to-day dealings with the world.
I see this mirrored in my client’s experience too, those with excess resources of money and time without anything meaningful to apply it to, often enter a downward spiral of anxiety and despair as to what to do with themselves!
The solution to this problem has taken me many years to figure out and even though I was given many hints as to the right direction to take, it wasn’t until I heard the Canadian Psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson talk about this issue in one of his many YouTube videos on Personality that the penny finally dropped.
The secret to achieving more meaning in your life is to take on more responsibility, to symbolically lift a heavier load!
And if that heavier load involves doing something bigger than yourself, in other words, be engaged in a project for other peoples benefit and not just to fulfil your own needs, then the greatest satisfaction and meaning will be yours.
It is the bearing of a sacrificial burden, which acts to enrich and ennoble your life and helps make the more tragic elements of your life, tolerable and helps keep you from the feelings of resentment and bitterness at what has gone wrong in your life.
Finding more meaning in life, a few practical steps.
But before just taking on any old commitment, it is vital to discover what your core values are and how you live up to them in your life?
Below is one of a series of visualisations I use with clients to help them discover their values, usually this is done with your eyes closed. So to assist you in this, I have provided an audio recording below, of me reading out the visualisation.
Visualisation exercise to discover your values.
Imagine that you’re on stage in front of a large group of people milling about. There is a buzz in the room. Look out over the crowd. Feel the feelings you’re having as you are about to address the gathering. Just as you step up to the microphone, time freezes for an instant and you hear a voice in your ear that says your name and then says, “In the next thirty seconds you will have a chance to have any impact you want on this entire group. It will be only one chance, one impact, but all of these people will be changed in some way; they will have a different life because of the impact you have had on them. Thirty seconds. 15…10…5-4-3-2-1.
- What impact did you have? What happened to the people?
- How were you and the others transformed?
- Who were you being to have such an impact?
Once you have written down some of your core values, ask yourself this final question
- How well are you living up to your values in your life?
How to live up to your values.
If you are not living up to your values, then that is often the source of much of the stress in your life, as the moralising core of your mind cannot bear the fact that you are going against your values.
Now you know some of your core values take some time to reflect on how you can better live those values in your life by taking on greater responsibility and lifting that bigger load.
Start small, Rome was not built in a day and so work out a schedule of actions you can take each day towards this higher goal of living up to your values more in your daily life!
Top tip – Use an online calendar like Google calendar or the one built into on your phone that will fire off alerts at you each and every day to trigger you into taking action.
Extra resources for finding more meaning in life.
A great exponent of this approach is the Canadian Psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson, here is an excerpt from his lecture on his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Other helpful articles from my blog.
To gain clarity about your next step, check out this article:
Get in touch
Need help getting clear as to what your values are and how well you are living up to them in your life? Then book a free 20 minute session with me and we can talk about how we can help you create more meaning in your life.