What Does my Life Mean?
This is something I have been asking myself for a few months now, and I believe there is value in us all taking some time to reflect on what our life actually MEANS. I am not talking about trying to find the meaning of life. That is a whole different concept! Similarly, I am not talking about trying to find out who you really are.
What I mean is, what does your life mean to you, to others around you, to society and to future generations?
I believe that identifying what you want your life to mean, and then realising that on a daily basis, is a key component to happiness.
I am not a religious person (although I believe there is a God) and I have no idea what we are all doing on this planet. And to be honest, far more clever people than me have failed to find answers, so I’m not even going to try! Some people give meaning to their lives by leaving a legacy for future generations. People like artists, composers, inventors, scientists and engineers leave a physical legacy, that we benefit from and enjoy, but they are few and far between. However, what we can all aspire to is living a meaningful life i.e. a life full of meaning!
I have to credit Paul McKenna with asking the question in one of his books ‘What would it say on your gravestone’. When I first encountered this question, many years ago, I was shocked to realise that mine would probably say ‘She was well-organised, always on time and never missed a deadline’. And I wish I was joking, but I’m not. It was the wake-up call I needed to realise that my single-minded pursuit of business goals, and running my personal life on similar lines, meant I probably wasn’t a very nice person to be around! And not that happy!
Try asking yourself the same question, but with the knowledge that you are doing this for your own self-awareness and so you can learn and grow. The simple fact that you are reading this blog this far probably means that your answer won’t reflect the way in which you really wanted your life to have meaning.
Then ask yourself what you would like it to say. This is where you have to think about what you want your life to mean. I’d like to think that mine might eventually say something like ‘she brought happiness and inspiration to others’. Now, I still have a very long way to go, (and hopefully many more years!) but the realisation that I want my life to mean that I bring happiness and inspiration to others now impacts most things I do. I never comment on a tweet unless I think it will make the other person feel happy or inspired. When I do simple things like a supermarket shop, I smile at people and help short people get things off the tall shelves that I can reach! All very simple acts, but they give meaning to my life, and I go home feeling happy! And these are acts that we are all capable of.
Professionally, I sit on the board of a Sports Governing Body, for which I invest a significant amount of time, and don’t get paid, but I do it because I want to inspire people to be active outdoors.
I only give these examples to encourage others into thinking that you can make your life mean something in simple and varied ways.
The Modern Context of Meaning
I am not alone in getting very annoyed at Extinction Rebellion protesters parking boats in various places and causing disruption to those trying to go about our business. However, at the same time I have the utmost respect and admiration for the protesters. They know what they want their lives to mean. They are playing a part in creating a better world for future generations.
At the other extreme, we have Love Island contestants! What do their lives mean? I suspect it has nothing to do with finding love, but is about showing off an almost naked body to secure lucrative contracts when the show is over! Nothing wrong with that if you are a single 20-something! But not sustainable long-term.
It is useful to have long-term goals in life, and within the context of those to decide what you want your life to mean on a day to day basis. The goals without the meaning, won’t necessarily lead to happiness. So have the goal of becoming a nurse, politician, actor, singer, engineer, teacher, charity worker etc, but don’t forget what you want your life to mean every day! It is the meaning that you give to your life that will bring you contentment.
Spend some time identifying what you want your life to mean, not just in the long term, but today and in this very moment. Because if you can make your life MEAN something every single moment, you will be well on the way to true happiness.
This blog article has been written by Pamela Carvell, a master Practitioner of NLP, and may be reproduced in part or in full so long as full credit is given to Pamela and this blog happyhypno.wordpress.com
For those with a special interest in mental health, a few extra thoughts:
What does my life mean in the context of Mental Health?
It is impossible to ignore the outpourings on Social Media, like Twitter, from people who are suffering from some sort of mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic attacks or some sort of eating disorder. It is heart-breaking to read how some people are not just suffering, but feel so helpless. But what occurs to me when I put on my ‘NLP Professional’ head on, is how totally self-absorbing or ego-centric these conditions are. Mental illness lives in your own head and as such it is your thoughts that it totally consumes. So what if someone suffering from mental illness could start to reframe their thinking so that they gradually move from being self-absorbed to thinking about what they want their life to mean? It is a fact that mental illness has a huge impact on all the people close to the sufferer, and they too feel helpless. So, if the sufferer could reflect on what they want their life to mean to those around them, this might start the road to recovery. I am not suggesting this is easy, but it is doable. Do you want your life to mean that everyone around you suffers too? Do you want every family gathering to revolve around your eating disorder? Do you want your friends to be avoiding you because they are so scared of saying or doing something that will trigger your anxiety? Of course you don’t. Yet you probably spend most of your thoughts thinking about you, not them. So refocussing that self-absorption to what you want your life to mean to others might just be the change that starts to makes the difference