So many of us are struggling with understanding the meaning of life, especially when things seem to be so hard: for us, those around us and the world in general (the devastating pollution levels, for example).
There is the broader question of “what is the meaning of life” (you ain’t going to find those answers here sadly), and then the more specific “what is the meaning of my life.”
Often, people confuse the meaning of their life with the purpose of their life. To me, these things are different and it is really important to understand each of them, and the role they play in your happiness. A critical aspect of personal development is to be very clear about exactly what it is you are developing!
I like to think of purpose as that aspect of my life that is linked to external factors or roles that I play.
For example, a parent, a doctor, an academic, helping others or being involved in animal rescue.
To me, meaning is the internal motivator that informs my purpose: it’s my why.
For example, why do I want to give my time to my family or help others? Why do I want to study and learn? Why do I care about animal rescue?
Meaning is something that is unique to you, and created by you. Meaning can change over time as you mature and develop but it will always be there – even when your purpose is unclear.
You may feel your purpose is to be a doctor – you love helping people and contributing to your field. But if something happened that made being a doctor impossible for some reason, would you cease to exist? No, your purpose may be gone, but you would live on. This is because your roles and labels do not define you.
Meaning, however, is your personal truth, it can never cease to exist. It is always there, whether you are aware of it or not.
That is why it’s important to first start with understanding the meaning, or the why, in your life before you start looking at external purposes or applications for that why.
How can this help YOU?
Firstly, by understanding your why you can give context to your life in general outside of simply the roles you fill. It’s freeing.
Secondly, you may find new ways or purpose to express yourself when your why is clarified. Exciting!
So how do you find your why?
You find your meaning by knowing your true self. Your true self is that inner voice that sometimes gets drowned out in the drama and busyness in life. Things such as journalling, meditation and mindfulness can help you to connect. I also share some incredible books that have really helped me on my journey, and you can find that list here.
But one quick & easy way to start to understand your why is to uncover your unique world view. This is something I learnt from one of my favourite authors, Jeff Goins, but with a twist.
In finding your world view, complete this sentence (with the idea that is most important to you at this time):
“Every ______________ can/should ___________________.”
e.g. every person can and should recycle.
Now for the twist:
Jot down several versions of your world view and challenge yourself to be more honest, vulnerable and specific with each version.
So “Every person should recycle” could become “Every person should take care of nature”, which could become “Every person should and can be connected to all life.”
This last statement could mean that you want to focus on helping to bridge the divide between human and animal life by posting interesting content on Facebook, or it could lead you something completely different such as developing nature-immersion holiday packages for weary city dwellers.
Your world view will bring up some interesting results – especially when you dig deep.
Remember that this is just a starting point, a clue as to your truest why in life.
For me my world view is that every person can and should be able to connect with their truest self. It is the idea that I am most passionate about above all others. When we can connect with our truest self, we can connect with others and all of life, and we can express our true gifts to the world, regardless of expectation.
In my journey this has played out in wanting to help people who may be feeling unfulfilled or stuck in their careers, and wanting to understand what their unique contribution or purpose is. So often we believe that the answer lies in starting our own business or even focussing on early-retirement, but really when you focus on those external goals without knowing your core motivating “why” you are likely to be lead to a dead-end.
It’s possible to heal your existing relationships with yourself, others and work and share your unique gift to the world by finding their truth.
If you would like to download a free 3 step practice that you can do in your own time, and even at your desk, sign up here.
And please share your world view with us in the comments!