create meanings

happiness

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What is the meaning of life?

Most of us have asked this tricky question, especially in adversity or when burning out. Do you have the answer now? Some people are lucky that they are always clear about their life purpose. Some people discover their meaning of life while suffering. Some people are not sure about it yet and some may have changed their meaning of life. What is the meaning of my life? My answer, at this moment, is to inspire you to live a more meaningful life.

Many philosophers, psychiatrists, and writers have their unique views on the meaning of life. Among these different views, I can see a shared value regarding the meaning of life. In general, that is to do something loving for others. That’s it? That’s the truth about the meaning of life? Sounds too simple to be true. No matter what the truth is, we have the freedom to decide our own meaning of life.

live to inspire

Emily Esfahani Smith, the author of The Power Of Meaning, thinks our lives become meaningful when we have strong relationships with others, cooperate with others for the good of society, reframe our stories in a more positive way, and connect to nature or god. Her four pillars of meaning: belongings, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence, is psychology-driven and pragmatical for real life. We are doing these activities in daily life, aren’t we? Do we simply take a meaningful life for granted?

achieve, love, suffer, hope

According to psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel, we can discover the meaning in life in three different ways: by achievement; by loving someone; and by suffering. When Viktor was suffering in the concentration camp, he found the meaning of life by treating patients and writing his classic book Man’s Search For Meaning. In his view, what human needs is the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task, to prevent existential vacuum (inability to find or create meaning in life). In other words, just do something of your choice that makes you feel fulfilled. What goal do you choose to live a meaningful life?

Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.

The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself

work play love

Paul Thagard, a philosopher who specializes in cognitive science, summarises the meaning of life as work, play, and love in his book The Brain And The Meaning Of Life. Balancing these three areas can satisfy our psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Cool, keep working, playing, and loving. And most importantly keep balancing.

serve others

Many of my Christian friends’ meaning of life is to serve God by serving others. They choose to believe the meaning of life lies in religion. Philosopher John Cottingham also thinks so and he points out the spiritual benefits in his book On The Meaning Of Life: the care of the soul, the tranquility of mind, release from the false pursuits of egoism and material gain, a closer awareness of the mystery of life, an affirmation of its profundity and its blessings.

contribute & cooperate

Psychotherapist Alfred Adler’s finding of the meaning of life is to contribute to the whole and cooperate with others. I feel that his book  What Life Should Mean To You is more like preparing readers to be good parents. Because he stresses the importance of parents’ sufficient love for children (especially for children with imperfect organ, pampered children, and neglected children) can help raise a good person instead of a criminal.

final thought

After all, we are not alone in this world so our meaningful lives must involve other people. When it comes to your meaning of life, only you can live it for yourself.

Happy reading

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60 thoughts on “create meanings

  1. I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.” —Buckminster Fuller.
    I also think a lot more meaning comes from our physiology. Muscarinic/nicotinic receptors and hormones. Not very romantic, but it can be duplicated in a lab. We’re pretty complex because of it. Hormones can also give us the pleasures and confirmations of our own ideas. Humans have great imaginations. Loved your article. Nice work. You seem very open with your ideas. I like that.

  2. Nice post. You might want to check out Simon Sinek’s Start with Why TED Talk if you haven’t already. He’s also written a book based on this that I think you might like if you enjoy the TED Talk. Cheers

    1. Yes I love the Start with Why TED Talk! It’s inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing! Definitely would love to read the book. Cheers

      1. Hi, Helen—

        Delighted to welcome you to annieasksyou.com. I am hopeful for mutually rewarding and enriching dialogues with you in the near future!

        Cheers!

        Annie

  3. You have inspired me to return to writing Billbo’s Blog. Our motivations for writing are very much the same. I have been away from it while dealing with life and all of the issues is brings and in the process losing my way. Thank you for your reminder of soul and searching.

  4. Serving others brings meaning to our lives and it forms without our knowing. The others whom we serve certainly find our lives meaningful and therefore we leave meaningful legacies as well.

  5. Thought provoking article. This question of purpose and meaning has plagued many a person for as long as people have existed. I am a woman of faith and do believe that my identity begins with Christ. But I also believe we were each given a unique value, skill set and authentic identity that only we can be. That’s why trying to be like, look like or act like someone else leads to emptiness and depression.

    Making someone else’s existence on this Earth will fill any heart with joy and love. Think of a bad day you had. Did someone show you a gesture (of any kind) that made your day just a bit brighter? Or perhaps you wished someone would have? We have the power to change lives with love. We should use it and find much more happiness as a result. 🙂

    Sending you lots of love this day!

  6. My apologies! I had a typo. I meant, “Making someone else’s existence on this Earth *better* will fill any heart with joy and love. Sorry about that! ♥

  7. I agree and can only add that for me the search for meaning should incorporate a search for truth. We are all programmed in one way or another – almost from birth – to believe in the the myth of Christianity – and are assailed by a biased mainstream media that has no interest in broadcasting the truth. – so we get a distorted view of life which is harmful to our development as sentient human beings.

  8. I have served others by choice all my life, and I wrote about that recently in my blog, http://www.allinadaysbreath.wordpress.com, which I hope some of you will find your way to visit. There are many interesting people who sign on here and I would love to meet you all. I also have been a nonfiction and poetry writer in my life and I enjoy that very much. Some folks believe that there is no creativity in nonfiction writing. I used to teach a creative writing class using nonfiction as well as fictional writing, and I can tell you that there is no truth in that.

  9. Thank you for a thought-provoking post. Now i’m retired and OLDER (NOT OLD…) i have more time to think deeper. Combine thoughtfulness with gratefulness and appreciate the NOW; accept differences and live in others shoes for a while and you’ll notice a positive change. I’m not religious but a Humanist and believe in treating others as I like to be treated. Love and Light. xx

  10. This makes me reflect on one of my favorite quotes by T.D. Jakes “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose”

    1. I love your interesting thought 🙂 You just asked a great question – “Maybe the meaning is simply to create meaning?” . I believe so. 🙂

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