How to make a meaningless life meaningful

In a reply to a recent post I published on death and the meaning of life, a reader identified as Anonymous wrote, among other things, “I think life is meaningless in a vacuum. One imposes value upon it. But I don’t believe there is innate value in life.”

Somewhat similar claims have been made in a reply to an earlier post I published about the myth of Sisyphus. That reply, too, stated, “There is no intrinsic value in anything. Usefulness or worth only comes from the values placed on it. All life is absurd.”

Such claims, arguing that life in itself, inherently or intrinsically, is meaningless, and that we just insert meaningfulness into it, are quite prevalent. People with whom I talked about the meaning of life often voiced these and similar views. I would like to relate to some aspects of these claims here.

One avenue of discussion is to consider whether it is indeed true that there is no innate, intrinsic value in life, so that all value in life is placed or imposed on it by us. Those who disagree with this claim would argue that some things in life have inherent value in them, and if we do not perceive this value we simply miss it. According to such views, some ways in which people behave are just moral and valuable, while others are not, even if some people fail to perceive them as such. Likewise, according to such views, some natural vistas are beautiful even if there are people fail to perceive them as such. There are interesting philosophical discussions on this issue, but in this post, I prefer not to enter into the debate. At least for the sake of this discussion, then, let us grant that it is we and only we who impose value on life, or place value in life.

But if we follow this route, need it lead us to concluding that life is meaningless or absurd? I would like to suggest that the reply to this question is negative. This is because life can be meaningful even if we create rather than find meaning in life.

Note that there is much in our lives that we create rather than find. For example, we may create artworks. If they are beautiful, we created beauty. We can also “create” moral behavior, thus making our lives more moral, by deciding to behave morally (and, of course, following this decision). Likewise, we may create human warmth in friendships or in love with another person who also wants it. Like beauty and morality, so the human warmth was not there in life before we created it. But now that we created it, it is there.

It might be objected that we create rather than find not only, say, beautiful artworks but also our evaluations of them. Beauty, it might be suggested, is “in the eye of the beholder.” Again, there is a debate on this issue, as some philosophers hold that beauty also has objective aspects. But again, for the sake of this discussion, let us grant that beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. Yet even if we accept this, it is the case that some people, concerning some pictures, can perceive great beauty, and this can give them very deep and meaningful aesthetic experiences. People who never enjoy beauty in anything may be leading somewhat impoverished, and less meaningful, lives in this respect.

Likewise, let us assume, at least for the sake of discussion, that not only creating personal warmth with someone, but also enjoying, appreciating, or valuing this personal warmth is not “there in the world” but, rather, is something that we choose to create and experience. It may still be worthwhile and meaningful. As far as I am concerned, even if everything that is valuable and meaningful in my life is created by me, and imposed on life by my choice, it can still be valuable and meaningful. It may be subjectively meaningful, or meaningful for me, but meaningful and valuable it still is, and it enriches my life. Thanks to it, my life can be meaningful.

Perhaps it is part of our nature as humans to have this capability to project, place, or create meaningfulness and value (or valuing) in life. Maybe some people are more inclined to do so than others, or do it better than others, but I think that this proficiency could be learned and practiced. Some groups of people have capabilities of creating value and valuing in certain areas. For example, people who are sensitive musically may create and sense value in musical works. Others may have an inclination to visual art, and yet others may be more morally sensitive. So it may be in our nature to create and perceive value, or different types of value.

I tend to think that we both find and create meaning in life. But even if I am wrong, and in fact we create, project, or impose all meaningfulness onto our lives, it need not be that our lives or the world are meaningless. I can be a creator of meaning, as I am of many other things. Humans may be seen as, among other things, meaning-creating animals. We humans are powerful enough, important enough, and able enough to do that.

Perhaps the problem is that you’re focusing excessively on yourself.

When we become consumed by our own self-narrative and lost in endless self-reflection, we cut ourselves off.

We become trapped on a tiny ego-island and all of our perceived “problems” become magnified and catastrophized.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

In such a situation, a person needs to find a way to zoom out and reconnect with the world—to realize they are one node in an interconnected network of earthly beings, inseparable from everything else.

In other words, they need to realize that their sense of isolation and nihilism is an ego-driven delusion.

One way to realize this is to deliberately start doing things to benefit others.

It might sound trite or oversimplified, but for me this is a timeless gemstone of truth:

Life will begin to flow and feel immensely meaningful when you fall in love with sharing your gifts to help other sentient beings.

Reorient yourself away from endless self-introspection and instead start directing a lot of your time and energy into useful and/or beautiful projects that benefit others.

When you do this, you will begin to experience a shift in the quality of your conscious experience.

You will begin to feel enmeshed in a worldwide web of significance, rather than experiencing yourself as a puny schooner adrift on a black sea of hopelessness.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

“We’re all just walking each other home,” as Ram Dass put it.

We are here to share our gifts, plain and simple.

We are here to share our gifts in service of the community of sentient life in the Cosmos.

We are here to contribute to the realization of the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

When we’re not doing this—when we’re lost in introspection and passive consumption of life—it’s no wonder that we start to feel like shit.

What could be more depressing than thinking only of your tiny individual self and directing no energy or effort toward creating beautiful/useful things or helping others?

Millennia ago, such a message would have been intuitively understood by everyone. It wouldn’t need to be stated.

In those days, boundaries between self and other, self and tribe, self and Nature, self and Earth, were understood to be porous and illusory. No one felt themselves to be an amputated island of individuality.

But then humanity went on a several-thousand year ego trip and got super invested in the idea of a separate self stumbling about in a foreign Cosmos. Our egos became supernormally bloated.

We are now beginning to awaken from this nightmare.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

Millions of people are re-awakening to the realization that separation is an illusion.

You didn’t come into this world; you came out of it, like a leaf from a tree.

You are fundamentally connected to this Earth and this Cosmos.

You belong here, just as much as a tangerine or tree kangaroo.

Maybe you understand this intellectually, but you don’t really feel it in your bones.

If that’s the case, there are a variety of things you might do: Spend time in nature. Spend more time with loved ones. Make some art. Listen to Alan Watts. Meditate. Use entheogens consciously. Attend one of our psychedelic retreats. Take our spiritual obstacle course.

But I think one of the most tried-and-true methods of reconnection you can employ is this: Just start helping, however you can.

Share your gifts. Create useful/beautiful things from a place of love. Be there for the people around you; truly listen to understand and respond. Empathize. Care. Show love. Contribute to beautiful projects.

In some ways it is, in some ways it isn’t. Once you start doing these things you’ll likely realize how good it feels and fall in love with contributing to a more beautiful world.

This is what’s happened for me. I truly love sharing my gifts to help others.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult sometimes; sometimes life is damn difficult, though if you look closely enough there always seem to be gems and gifts hidden within the ostensible mud. Through the tough times you get stronger, deeper, more profound, more compassionate; you level up.

As the Founder of HighExistence Jordan Lejuwaan recently put it: “That difficult thing you’re dealing with now is just training for that massive/incredible thing coming to you next.”

This sort of attitude is a kind of magic spell capable of transmuting even the most difficult times into fertile soil from which power-ups and invaluable life lessons can emerge.

It’s also useful to remember: Unpleasant emotional states are an irrevocable part of being human.

If you aspire to eliminate these states entirely, you will not succeed.

Better to focus on accepting them deeply, observing and allowing them with gentleness, self-compassion, and curiosity.

That’s when they start to teach you the crucial shit you can’t learn anywhere else.

And while you’re in the midst of those difficult times—perhaps especially when you’re in the midst of those difficult times—don’t forget:

Help others.

Be kind.

Be there for people.

Create and build from a place of love.

This is the path to a soul-nourishing reunion with the world and a life overflowing with meaning.

And the cool thing is you can start right this moment.

Random acts of kindness are always available.

Now is always the perfect time to start creating from the heart.

In every moment we can begin sculpting our lives into works of art, infused with love.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

One of the key pathways to flourishing in life is living a life of meaning. But, what does this mean?

New science has broken "the meaning of meaning" into three main types. This is the result of bringing together the key elements of meaning as discussed by philosophers, theologians, researchers, and other experts over the centuries (Martela & Steger, 2016).

The three types of meaning that emerged are: Coherence, Significance, and Purpose. I explain each of these and offer some practical steps you can take to build more meaning in your life using your VIA strengths.

1. Coherence

This is the thinking-oriented level of meaning. It is about making sense of things. Coherence is about looking for patterns to make life more predictable. For example, as you look at the life you have lived so far, how do you make sense of the good things? Why have they occurred?

Use your Strengths to Build Coherence

  • Use character strengths such as your strength of perspective to help you step back and take in the wider view of your life so you don’t get lost in the downpour of the details and stressors.
  • Use your judgment/critical thinking to analyze your beliefs about the world and the people in it and your curiosity to question and explore your life meaning and your sense-making.
  • Your strength of spirituality can help you make sense of your life by connecting you with what is most sacred and special to you.

Build Coherence for your Character Strengths

  • This means to make sense of your strengths. This is important because research shows most people are not aware of their best qualities. If I ask you to pause right now and name your top 7 strengths of character, could you do it? Could you then make sense of these top 7 strengths by explaining in detail how they help you and are important to you? This is the descriptive work required of coherence. It involves describing what is best in you. As you deepen you coherence for your character strengths you are developing a sense of who you are (your core identity).

2. Significance

This is the feeling-oriented level of meaning. It is about feeling that you matter and that life matters. It means to not only sense and know the value of your life but to feel that appreciation for yourself, others, and the world in a deep way. For example, who and what makes your life worth living?

Use your Strengths to Build Significance

  • Turn to your heart-based character strengths. Consider situations in which you have deeply expressed your strengths of love, gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness. Reflect on how you’ve used these strengths strongly in a positive way in one or two of your closest relationships. This is likely part of your life meaning.

Build Significance for your Character Strengths

  • Of your strengths, which character strengths matter most in your life? I think of myself as having 7 or 8 signature strengths (core strengths) but that there are two or three of these that really drive everything I do. For example, my hope and love underlie the majority of my actions at home and work; they are the cause of my actions. These two matter most to me.
  • Which can you feel in your body as most powerful and important for you? Is it the warming of gratitude in your heart, the tingling sensations of appreciation of beauty, or the energy of zest?
  • Think about your life as a whole—past, present, future. Consider the importance of your character strengths within this bigger picture view.

3. Purpose

This is the behavior-oriented level of meaning. It is about having important life goals and working to achieve them. For example, what gives you a sense of mission in life?

Use your Strengths to Build Purpose

  • Consider one of your most meaningful life goals. Name the goal clearly. Then, consider the character strengths pathways that will help you reach that goal. You have 24 strengths to choose from—perhaps kindness is your pathway to your goal of being more charitable or perseverance is your key pathway to that certification in becoming a helping professional or perhaps kindness is your central pathway as you fulfill your purpose of caring for an aging parent.

Build Purpose for your Character Strengths

  • Explore how you can use your character strengths for the highest good. If you are high in social intelligence, make sure you are around people bringing this strength into action. This might be to express empathy and to share your sense of “seeing” them and relating to “how they tick.” This type of support for others gives your strength of social intelligencea role—a purposeful role that benefits others and the world.

Conclusion

Breaking meaning down in these 3 parts can help you better understand your own level of it and discover where you are strong and where you could use a lift. Taken together, these three types of meaning represent a full psychology—your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that underlie what matters most to you. Your character strengths work hand-in-hand with each of these levels of meaning. Strengths and meaning are a mutual support system for our personal growth.

Every day we deal with the challenges of modern life. Have you noticed how much our lives revolve around things we don’t enjoy doing? Ever thought about how much online information you consume per day?

Modern living keeps you so busy that you lose your sense of self in the process. It is because of this that you feel as if life has no meaning to it. To make things better for all of us, I discuss different ways of finding meaning.

While dealing with the pressures of the modern world, it is important to go easy on oneself and keep doing things that add meaning to your life.

Here, I will walk through interesting points that will help you lead a meaningful life. So, let us begin.

1) Practice gratitude

As Eckhart Tolle rightly said, “acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance”. Due to busy lives, we forget the value of what we already have. There are many reasons why you should practice gratitude. For one, gratitude can make you happy, and you enjoy experiences in life. To practice gratitude, write about things you feel thankful for in a journal—practice self-reflection. Ask yourself questions like, ‘what made you smile today?’, ‘what act of kindness did you see today? This sort of question will keep reminding you of things that you have.

2) Keep reading

After a point, work-life starts to feel boring. Monotony sets in, and you lose the sense of purpose. To prevent all this from happening, you need some excitement and change in life. It would help if you had new meanings to perceive life in a different manner. So, where do you find new meanings? In books. Yes, it is time to head to the library. As you read, you feel for the characters in the books. In the process, you embrace new perspectives and find new meanings.

3) Accept appreciation

It is good to know how much people value you because we often forget to appreciate ourselves. For example, take my case; sometimes, I don’t know what I am doing here at my office and why I am working like this. No, I love my job, but boredom sets in at times. By talking to other friends, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. So, how do we pull ourselves out of this meaninglessness? One thing we can do is listen to what others have got to say about us. For instance, recall your boss’s words of appreciation for your fantastic work. Remember that one time when your best friend told you she was thankful to have you in her life. When you keep recollecting moments such as these, you regain a sense of meaning.

4) Understand your community

To find the meaning of life, it is essential to observe the people around you. Think about questions like, do I share a common purpose with my family? Do I agree with their idea of purpose? If I am different from them, then what is my purpose? When you ask such questions, you get clarity about what you seek.

5) Do what you love

Step back from your daily routine and think about things that you enjoy doing. Do you like painting? Do you enjoy going to the gym? Are you passionate about adventure sports? Keep believing, and you will find important answers as to what keeps you motivated in life; if you cannot figure out what stuff interests you, I suggest that you use a journal and make day-to-day observations about your everyday activities. As you keep writing, you will find out what you are passionate about.

Conclusion

It is a busy world out there, and it is natural to lose ourselves. Therefore, it is vital to keep looking for meaning in life. For instance, you can practice gratitude daily, read many books, find your favorite hobbies, etc. These practices will make your life a lot more meaningful than you can ever imagine.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

Although we might think happiness – or the pursuit of it – will make us feel better about ourselves and our lives, research indicates that it’s actually finding greater meaning in our lives that, at the end of the day – or our lives – is more fulfilling. In Emily Esfahani Smith’s fascinating article, “There is More to Happiness than Being Happy” (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-th. she reports, “While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning. Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future.” We wholeheartedly agree, and have devoted our professional careers to helping to make that a reality shared by as many people as possible.

The Pursuit of Happiness

In the days of yore, our nation’s Founding Fathers included in the Constitution a concept that had been unthinkableb in all easrlier generations of all nations: “the pursuit of happiness.” But by today’s standards, in those days it didn’t take much to make someone happy: Freedom to worship however they wanted – or not, the right to bear arms in order to protect themselves from the French and the British – especially since there was no real militia, a roof over their head, food to eat, wood for a fire, maybe a little money from selling crafts made on the side. These things that we take for granted today were huge for the people who founded our country. Today, like yesterday, we are happy when our needs, wants and desires mesh. But the pursuit of happiness has become connected to what might be termed “selfish” behavior. In our consumer-driven society, it takes ever more goodies to make us happy. And happiness is, as mentioned above, fleeting. It is present-centered, present hedonism. The pursuit of happiness is, in effect, being a “taker,” in this new tech-centered existence.

Our Search for Meaning

Paradoxically, while negative events may decrease happiness, they may increase the meaning in life. Traumatic or emotional experiences can build character and teach us hard lessons that make us more compassionate and give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. When people who had a purpose, in other words meaningful goals which have to do with helping others, their life satisfaction is higher – even when they feel personally down and out – than those who did not have any life purpose. “People who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their life, though they were less happy.” Having meaning in our lives, in effect, is being a “giver.” Working through past grief, abuse, and failures should not just lead to regret and resignation, but rather resilience, resolve and even post traumatic growth. Especially when helping desperate others handle their suffering, we become hardier, and in doing so build up our grit potential. A survivor of the horrors of being interned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Viktor Frankl, focused each day on finding meaning in his existence and in the future he would find when the nightmare was over. It is worth reading his classis, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Happiness versus Meaning

According to researchers, “Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future…” We add that it’s about living in the present and doing things that bring us temporary pleasure. In Time Perspective Therapy, these folks are present hedonists; living moment to moment, day to day, seeking pleasures and novel sensations. In their best scenario, they “make time” for friends, fun and fantasies. Back to the researchers: “Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life.” We beg to differ a bit. In our clinical work, we’ve found that in general, those with past negative orientations are unhappy because they are stuck in the negative experiences or traumas of their past; we call this past negative. Folks who focus mainly on the good old days are past positive. Future-oriented folks are the go-to people who get things done, who are achievement oriented; however, in the extreme, they may become workaholics. While we agree they feel their lives are meaningful, their future-mindedness can cause them to miss out on present hedonistic fun. How can we find balance – happiness and meaning – in our lives?

Living a Meaningful Life

In Annie M. Gordon’s article. “Take a Picture Today, Feel Happy Tomorrow for Greater Good”, she lists several suggestions to capture everyday events today that you’ll be happy you did in the future; here are a few of her ideas:

  • Take a Photo a Day – or once a week – no matter what you are doing. At the end of the year, you’ll have a ready-made yearbook. This helps us find greater meaning in our lives that we may have lost track of due to the many activities and stress of day-to-day life.
  • Capture the Context in Your Photos – don’t crop out the environment. In the future, the environment will be as interesting as the subject.
  • Start a Day in the Life album – chose a day and take a picture of what you are doing each hour. A typical day may not seem fascinating now, but it will in coming years.
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal – write down three good things that happened each day for a week or longer. You likely enjoy reviewing the all the positive things that occur each day.

The Time Cure

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

Finding balance in our lives – seeking happiness as well as meaningful experiences – is what our book, The Time Cure, is about. If you are stuck in the rut of thinking about all the bad things that happened to you, you’ll discover how to replace those past negatives with past positive experiences and start making plans for a brighter future. If you are present fatalistic and think your life now isn’t worth much and can’t be fixed up better, find out how to have some fun and happiness by practicing selected present hedonism while working towards a future positive. And if you are so future- oriented that you don’t have time to be happy in the moment, learn how to stop your pursuit of endless goals, take time to smell the flowers, to be more self-compassionate, to make someone else feel special, and to share your aloha with others.

References

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, originally published in 1946

Could pursuing meaning be the path to true happiness?

We at Greater Good have written often about the differences between a happy life and a meaningful life and found that the two are closely related. When we aim for a life of meaningful pursuits, we are likely to feel more sustained happiness and life satisfaction—even if there is some discomfort, sadness, or stress along the way—than if we aim for a life of pleasure alone. In fact, seeking happiness directly may actually backfire, while pursuing meaning may increase our health and well-being.

Now a new book takes a stab at figuring out just what pursuing a meaningful life entails. In The Power of Meaning, journalist Emily Esfahani Smith draws from the texts of great writers and philosophers—Emerson, Aristotle, Buddha, and Victor Frankl, for example—as well as interviews with everyday people seeking to increase meaning in their lives, to try to distill what’s central in this pursuit. The book, though only loosely tied to research, is mostly an engaging read about how people find meaning in life through “four pillars” of meaning.

How to make a meaningless life meaningfulCrown, 2017, 304 pages

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

1. Belonging. When we are understood, recognized, and affirmed by friends, family members, partners, colleagues, and even strangers, we feel we belong to a community. Results from some studies—as well as end-of-life conversations—indicate that many people count their relationships as the most meaningful part of their lives, even when those relationships are difficult or strained.

2. Purpose. When we have long-term goals in life that reflect our values and serve the greater good, we tend to imbue our activities with more meaning. Researcher Adam Grant has found that professions focused on helping others—teachers, surgeons, clergy, and therapists—all tend to rate their jobs as more meaningful, and that people who imbue their work with purpose are more dedicated to their jobs. Having purpose has also been tied to many positive outcomes, including increased learning for students in school and better health.

3. Storytelling. When it comes to finding meaning, it helps to try to pull particularly relevant experiences in our lives into a coherent narrative that defines our identity. People who describe their lives as meaningful tend to have redemptive stories where they overcame something negative, and to emphasize growth, communion with others, and personal agency. Laura Kray and colleagues found that asking people to consider paths not taken in life and the consequences of those choices imbued experiences with more meaning.

4. Transcendence. Experiences that fill us with awe or wonder—ones in which “we feel we have risen above the everyday world to experience a higher reality,” according to Smith—can decrease our self-focus and lead us to engage in more generous, helpful behavior. It may seem counterintuitive in some ways; but the diminishment of our own self-importance can induce a sense of meaning, she says.

Smith’s book aims to be somewhat prescriptive, offering practices that could encourage meaning in your own life. For example, at work you may want to practice acknowledging coworkers, engaging in personal interactions, and offering support to others when they need it, using these “high-quality connections” to increase your sense of belonging. You may also want to redefine the tasks of your job to fit your motives, strengths, and passions—a strategy recommended by organizational scholar Jane Dutton and colleagues.

Or, if you feel stuck, you may want to spend time creating a life narrative—an understanding of what experiences shaped you into the person you are now—with a redemptive storyline, perhaps through expressive writing practice or through working with a therapist. Or, you may want to find ways to experience more awe in your life, spending time in nature, staring at the stars, experiencing profound works of art, or pondering heroic figures.

Though her book is more focused on stories and philosophy than research, Smith does at least offer new ideas in an area that was once primarily the purview of spiritual traditions. She argues that pursuing meaning can be healing, not only for those of us with mild existential malaise, but for those who’ve suffered trauma or are facing their own mortality.

Her book is a call to recognize our place in the world—perhaps most importantly by nurturing our relationships and serving others—so that we bring more meaning to our lives.

“Each of us has a circle of people—in our families, in our communities, and at work—whose lives we can improve,” she writes. “That’s a legacy everyone can leave behind.”

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

There may be nothing more quintessentially human than the search for meaning. From the dawn of history, human beings have been creatures that seek meaning, make meaning, and yearn for meaning. We all want to know that our lives amount to more than the sum of our experiences — that they have worth and count.

The question is how — how can we craft lives that matter?

Over​​ the​ ​last few years, I’ve interviewed dozens of people in my quest to understand what makes life meaningful. I spoke to a former drug dealer, a woman with terminal cancer, and a zookeeper who cares for giraffes and kangaroos at the Detroit Zoo. I interviewed psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists­. And I turned to the great thinkers of the past, from Buddha to George Eliot to Aristotle.

Along the way, I met lots of different kinds of people. And when I asked them about what makes their lives meaningful, they each told me something unique. One person, for example, told me that what make her life meaningful was serving others, while another person told me that raising his children gave his life purpose. But despite the different answers, I found that there were some themes that came up again and again both in my interviews and in the research on meaning in life.

When people explain what makes their lives meaningful, they tend to describe four things: having rich relationships and bonds to others; having something worthwhile to do with their time; crafting narratives that help them understand themselves and the world they live in; and having experiences of awe and wonder. These are what I call the four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence.

Some people will lean on some pillars more than others to find meaning in life. To find out which pillar you lean on most to find meaning in life, you can this quiz I created.

Belonging: A sense of belonging is comes from having relationships and bonds defined by mutual care. When people are rejected or ignored by others, they rate their lives as less meaningful. But when people feel valued by others, they rate their lives as more meaningful — which makes sense. When other people treat you like you matter, you feel like you matter, too.

Purpose: Purpose sounds big, like curing cancer big — but purpose comes in all shapes in sizes. The definition of purpose is a top-level goal that somehow involves contributing to others. One person’s purpose might be to eradicate poverty, while another person’s purpose might be more local: to be a good parent or colleague.

Storytelling: Storytelling is the act of taking our experiences and weaving them into a larger narrative that defines who we are and where we come from. It is how we make sense of our experiences and the world around us. When we’re trying to get to know someone, we ask them what their story is — and when we want someone to know us, we share our story. Storytelling helps us understand others and ourselves.

Transcendence: Moments of awe, self-loss, and wonder are very powerful builders of meaning. These are experiences when we feel connected to something much bigger. This can happen during meditation and prayer — or when you’re taking a walk through the woods or looking up in awe at the starry night sky. People who have had transcendent experiences rate them as among the most powerful sources of meaning in their lives.

The pillar I rely on most to find meaning in life is belonging. I love bonding and connecting with others, whether my family or friends or someone I just met on the street. To find out what your pillar, check out this quiz I created on my website — and then try to think of ways you can build that pillar up in your life!

Making The Best Out Of Life and How To Make Your Life Meaningful?

How to live a meaningful life?

What makes life meaningful?

Are there any standards? Is there a checklist that tells you you live a meaningful life?

The question of meaningful living and how to make your life meaningful has been bothering me for a while.

Probably, once you enter your 30s, you start seriously thinking about the direction your life has.

In a week time (the time I write this post, July 2020) I turn 33, and just as every other self-respected Cancer I start dramatizing what I’ve done with my life so far (maybe other astrological signs do it too, but I know Cancers are very good at that).

Am I living a meaningful life, and what gives life value?

I dug a little bit here and there, and I read the same answers – find purpose, give to others, get a hobby…

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these tips. In fact, they are must-do things…

But they didn’t give me the satisfaction I was looking for. I didn’t get the Aha!-moment.

So I had to think about it and decide…

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you sign up or make a purchase I might get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business. See full disclosure.

What Would Make Me Feel Like My Life Has a Meaning?

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

If I was in my 80s and my life was steadily going towards its end, what would I want to leave behind?

What would make me say “Yeah, dying isn’t fun, but my life had a meaning to me, and that’s what makes it less painful.”

Here are a few rules I came up with:

  • Making life meaningful shouldn’t cost anything. It’s not just a cliche to repeat that the best things in life are for free (air, a kiss, a hug, a tear of joy)
  • What is life all about? It’s about having some moments of joy, peace, happiness, and adding quality to other people’s life. So everything that adds meaning to life must be simple, accessible, and a matter of choice.

With that said, I came up with 50 simple ways to give life meaning, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Maybe none of them will surprise you, and I believe that’s the reason they are so important.

I hope they mean something to you too.

50 Ways to Make Your Life Meaningful

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

1. Have someone to love.

2. Allow them to love you back.

3. Find gratitude in your heart.

I am amazed by the way gratitude has transformed my life. I use gratitude journaling as a way to appreciate the life I have, but also to manifest the life I want to have. If you struggle to start, I’ve got 10 gratitude journals to help you, and another 100 gratitude journaling prompts here.

4. Speak up your mind, but do it kindly.

5. Hold close to you the people that matter the most.

We often ignore the people who matter the most to us but living a meaningful life also asks for taking a step back and nurturing the relationships we have.

9. Make people’s days better.

Just because I had a bad day, it doesn’t mean I should ignore others. I want people to feel good after they’ve met me.

10. Work on making your dreams come true.

Develop good daily habits and make sure they lead you to where you want to go.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

How can you live a meaningful life? What are the essential qualities you need to feel fulfilled in life?

Must you get married? Have a certain type of career? Make a certain amount of money? Or perhaps you need a certain level of popularity?

According to Scripture, none of these types of things are essential for a meaningful life. Marriage, careers, money, and even influence can all be added blessings in life from God. But none of these are needed if you desire to live a joyful life.

So here are 4 keys to a meaningful life.

  1. To Live a Meaningful Life, You Need a Personal Relationship With God

The primary and most important element to a meaningful life is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We need an ongoing and growing relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without connecting with God in a personal and intimate way every day of your life, you will be missing out on the joy available to you.

According to Scripture, you can be rich or you can be poor, you can hungry or you can be well fed – but without Christ you will not have a meaningful life. For as Paul said in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

So the first key to a meaningful life is God. There’s no way around it. Everything starts and ends with him.

  1. To Live a Meaningful Life, You Need to Love and Be Loved By People

Now, if I was to stop there it would be unbiblical. Although God is our primary source of joy, God himself teaches us a scandalous truth – that we as humans also need other humans to live a meaningful life. Even when our relationship with God was untainted by sin, God himself still said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

This statement by God was not just about the relationship between a husband and wife. No, it was a bigger proclamation about the need for human community in general. God has lived within a community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for eternity, thus as we bear his image we also have a need for a community of others as well.

In short, you will not have a meaningful life if you do not receive love from others and if you do not give love to others. Yes, the first and greatest commandment is to love God, but the second is like it, “To love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Whenever God speaks of loving him he almost always reminds us that we must also love his people.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27 explains how God has made Christians individual beings who are connected to the whole, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

So to live a meaningful life, you don’t need to be married, but you do need a community of people that you can love and who love you too. The church needs God, but the church also needs each other.

  1. To Live a Meaningful Life, You Need to Know Your Purpose

Meaning and purpose are very similar words. But to me “meaning” has more to do with our personal feelings and “purpose” has more to do with the designer’s intent. In other words, you will not feel like you are living a meaningful life unless you live your life with the specific purpose that God designed you to have.

How to make a meaningless life meaningful

So what is our purpose as humans? Why did God create us? Well in one sense you could answer this question countless ways. For some people they might feel like their purpose in life is to watch TV, to have sex, to make a lot of money, or to get as many social media followers as possible. For others their they might feel like their purpose is more positive. They might think they were put on earth to love people, serve people, invent cures to diseases, or even spread the gospel.

But what does the Bible say? Why did God really create us? What is our ultimate purpose? According to Scripture, we really do have one ultimate purpose, and our purpose is to glorify God. God created us to glorify him. For as Isaiah 43:7, “. . . everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” This is why in 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

So if you do not link your ultimate purpose with everything you do, you will not feel like you are living a meaningful life. You could invent a cure for cancer, but if you do it for the money you won’t be happy. Or you could be a stay at home mom folding laundry and wiping sticky faces all day, and if you do it for the glory of God you will feel like you are living an immensely meaningful life.

  1. To Live a Meaningful Life, You Need Personal Passion Projects that Serve People and Glorify God

Here we culminate everything we discussed into personal expressions. The above three points are true of every human ever created. Without God, without people, and without purpose, you will not live a meaningful life.

While God has created all people the same in some senses, he has also created each of us uniquely different as well. In other words, the way we love God, the way we interact with people, and the way we accomplish our purpose to glorify God should be uniquely expressed through our individual, God-given personalities.

With that said, I believe all humans need individual passion projects that they use to serve people and glorify God. Some people can get paid for these passion projects, but you don’t need this to be your career. Every human needs a way to express their gifting in ways that they personally enjoy because that’s how God created them. For example, in Romans 12:4-6 Paul teaches:

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . . .”

Paul had the gift of teaching and preaching the gospel. This is why he said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Likewise, we will all say “woe is me” if we do not have individual passion projects that tap into our unique gifts.

These passion projects need three elements: They need to be enjoyable to you, they need to be helpful to other people, and they need to be done for the glory of God. So if you want to live a meaningful life, you must always have passion projects going on in your life.

When the time I was influenced by this kind of philosophy it is so hard to gain happiness. I know happiness is a choice. The point here is, I just want a simple life but it's hard to pretend that I didn't know something. That awareness to this life we're living makes me suffer. There are some times that I just sit and think about nothing because I know it is the least I can do to clear my mind from seekings answers to the question that has no definitive answer. Maybe I imprisoned myself from the information or knowledge that I gained from reading in a way I can't handle those things and let them to destroy me.

Knowledge is not a prison. There are some questions that cannot or that shouldn't be answered. Philosophy is a constant investigation for the meaning of life. What other philosophers stated doesn't have to be as well your prison. If you keep overthinking and suffering, try to go outdoors and fancy practising another activities, or even sharing your thoughts so that you don't feel that alone.

I wish you the best and if you want to message me by any cause, just do it.

Thanks Man! I will do my best to feel better than yesterday 😀

Look at all the animals around you. They seem to be living their lives quite fine without having to search for "meaning "to any of it. We are basically animals, too. Eat, survive, reproduce is the mantra that every living thing keeps repeating. In case of humans, we ask, "what's the point of it all". Just because we ask it does not mean we are entitled to an answer.

I think the thing that differentiates us is self awareness which poses the question or search for the meaning of life.

Are you suggesting you’re too smart/aware to be happy? There are many very smart and happy people. Perhaps you should consider what about their perspective is different from your own.

Yeah you're right! But i'm just an average person that is somehow has that kind of awareness to this stuff. I'll do some research about others perspective. Thanks!

Not to mention it seems to obviously matter to you that you make your “meaningless life into a meaningful one”. What about having things like this that really matter to you makes your life meaningless to begin with?

You need an ideology.

That word gets a lot of flak, but literally any motivating mental activity can be classified as an ideology.

Most ideologies which create meaning follow the form: you are in place A, you need to get to place B, you get there by following this path.

This is true of Buddhism, materialism, Marxism, and even Nihilism. Any religious, political, or cultural story of how to live meaningfully will fit this form. The only problem is finding one that works for you, and creating one if you have to.

Personally, I recommend any kind of body-centered path. A lot of emotions get trapped in our bodies, and without access to our emotions, literally any kind of life can become meaningless.

Thanks bro! Are there any books that you can recommend me? 😀

Meaning is derived from responsibility, do you carry it?

Easy there, JP. It's part of a balanced breakfast.

Yeah man! Thanks for informing me 😀

Why would you tho? Enjoy the meaninglessness of it all.

I find the realization of life having no objective meaning to be quite freeing. I hope OP finds joy.

It's about taking it one day at a time and not letting it become a prison. There will always be times when this feeling gets overwhelming, but then you should remember, that you are choosing to let yourself get into this frame of mind, one thing I have learnt from this is to take accountability. When you know you are the master of your own life, you start taking accountability and with that gets better, but you have to keep doing it everyday. As camus wrote "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.".

These are big things to sink in because of how we are pre-conditioned to think in a certain way, its like every fiber of your brain resists this because its too heavy. Embrace it, breathe and giving whatever meaning you want to give to your life.