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.
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.
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.