What You’ll Need to Have a Meaningful Life

Discover the essential elements for a meaningful life and unlock your true purpose in the insightful article, 'What You’ll Need to Have a Meaningful Life.

Living a meaningful life is, itself, the point of being. Sharma, Robin

I recall the loneliness, longing, bewilderment, need, and despair as if it were yesterday. They blended into one another, and they always seemed to show up at the most inopportune moments.

Even getting out of bed in the morning was a chore because of how heavy everything felt. Even life’s greatest pleasures, like spending time with loved ones and making new friends, were unfulfilling. Things were difficult to the point of becoming intolerable.

I had no idea what was causing these emotions or how to alleviate them.

It’s cliche to claim that my life was revolutionized by a single event, but the day I resolved to give my existence meaning was the day everything changed.

When you know what drives you, life takes on a whole new meaning.

Let me change the subject by asking, “Why did you come here today?”

If I were to consult Sigmund Freud about the origins of human conduct, he would tell me that sex and violence drive our actions. On some deep, primitive level, I think he’s correct.

The Triune Brain Model was developed by neurologist Paul MacLean in the 1960s, and it proposes that there are three distinct regions in the human brain.

  • The reptile brain’s instinctive side
  • The emotional (mammal) component
  • The logical ape component

Your reptile and mammalian brains are primitive at best. Aggression and territorial disputes are handled by the reptile brain. Things like eating and making love are mammals domains. So far, Freud’s idea has proven to be correct.

The third primate lobe of your brain is responsible for higher-level thought processes. Perception, planning, and the ability to work with abstract ideas all fall under this category. This is the portion of your mind that understands, without a shadow of a doubt, that your life needs significance.

Seeking Meaning in Life

Austrian existential psychologist Viktor Frankl established the logotherapy school of thinking. Frankl argued that the search for meaning in life is more important than sex and aggressiveness, contrary to Freud’s theory.

Frankl, on the other hand, had an experience that Freud did not. Frankl spent time as a prisoner in Nazi detention camps in the 1940s. Picture this: you, your loved ones, and your neighbors are surrounded, arrested, and sent off to dehumanizing and, most likely, lethal mass murder sites.

Frankl experienced it firsthand. He felt the dread of losing everything and then being subjected to pain and fear. Frankl endured unimaginable pain and abuse, but he never stopped fighting for his life.

There was a plan! He was able to persevere despite unfathomable suffering because he found purpose in his ordeal.

Frankl wrote a book on his time in the camps called Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he provides an outline of logotherapy. Nietzsche’s thought on how people were able to make it through the camps without losing their desire for life is encapsulated in the following quote:

It’s been said that “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

That’s the force of intent at work. Purpose may justify any means, including torture, violence, and unfathomable inhumanity. In the face of adversity, whether physical or emotional, the power to persevere comes from having a reason to keep going.

As Frankl put it,

Once pain is given a higher purpose, like a sacrifice, it is no longer considered suffering.

But don’t mistake an inability to cope with adversity for a lack of courage. Additionally, Frankl opined that “Suffering unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.”

Do you feel like it’s time to make some major changes in your life in order to alleviate your pain and start living a more fulfilling existence?

Purposes and Their Varieties

We are not in the same boat as Frankl was when it comes to discovering meaning in life, thank goodness. As we pursue a life of meaning and purpose, we get a “micro” and “macro” perspective on the world around us.

Your primary goal at the microlevel is to reflect your values in your actions. No matter how bad things become, your confidence and sense of self-worth will soar when you stand for something and act on it.

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That’s only one aspect of a life well lived, however.

Your overarching goal is clear. It’s a matter of perspective. Meaning-seeking is what you’re doing. That’s the end game, man. It’s getting out of bed every morning, certain that you’re making the correct choices, despite what other people may think.

I once saw an article that said your values, abilities, and interests needed to all be in harmony before you could find your life’s work. However, there is still something lacking in the picture of the reason for being.

The Final Piece of the Meaningful Puzzle

Your true calling is one of service, not selfish gain.

Purpose, like success and pleasure, seems contradictory to our desires to improve ourselves and our lives. What Viktor Frankl had to say about helping others:

Don’t shoot for the stars. Making it a target will just increase your chances of missing it. Success, like pleasure, cannot be sought; it must follow as an unanticipated consequence of one’s selfless devotion to a cause bigger than oneself or as the natural outcome of one’s selfless surrender to another.

You want people to adore you, right? Adore humanity! You’d want to increase your financial resources, right? Facilitate the acquisition of wealth! You want a happier existence, right? Spread happiness! This is a no-brainer, right?

The more we are able to contribute while still finding fulfillment in doing so, I would argue, the more we will appreciate our lives.

Identifying Oneself

The pieces begin to fit together now.

That post noted that “Wherever your core beliefs and unique abilities meet, supported by unwavering dedication, is where you will see the greatest results.”

Well, I think you’ll discover the answers to the two great questions and know your purpose when you locate where those things connect and then apply them in service to others.

The formula is as follows:

Your Reason for Being is a Product of Your Values, Abilities, Interests, and Commitment to Service.

Don’t let all the unknowns put you off. Spending time thinking about and analyzing these factors can help you quickly begin to see the way forward.

Make three separate lists, starting with:

  • How you value
  • What you excel at
  • What drives you

The trick is to find a way to utilize your unique set of skills and interests to benefit someone or something other than yourself. If you do that, you’ll find that your morals naturally align.

The Real, Useful Aspects of Living With Intention

Psychologist and author Sonja Lyubomirsky found that just 10% of happiness can be attributed to things like money, celebrity, and position in her seminal work, The How of Happiness.

Would you, therefore, be prepared to forego part of your current financial security in order to pursue a job that really lights you up?

If that’s the case, then you need to know this secret financial formula:

It’s essential that your earnings outweigh your costs.

The whole secret has been revealed. Cutting down on non-essentials (such as a vehicle, cable TV, dining out, and unnecessary shopping) is a great way to free up cash and open up a plethora of new possibilities.

I realize that getting rid of these items is a drastic lifestyle shift, but a drastic shift may be exactly what you need to discover and pursue your true calling.

There is only one life for each of us to live, and ultimately, we shall all die.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re heroic by “toughing it out” and continuing to do things that make you unhappy. Suffering for no reason is masochistic, not heroic, as Frankl put it.

Life is an adventure, and before you know it, it will be over. Why waste another second on a life that doesn’t have any significance for you?

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