Meaning matters

Seven reasons why
meaning matters

How often do you
ask yourself whether your life
has meaning or not?

Meaning matters a lot, but in truth, you probably only rarely ask the direct question. It is more likely that you experience a range of emotions underpinned by the meaning in your life. When life is good and you are making a difference you might instinctively feel that your life has meaning. Alternatively, when you are bored and dispirited you might recognise these as symptoms of a meaningless life.

And whether life is good or bad at the moment, you probably wouldn’t describe it as “meaningful” or “meaningless.” Instead, you might use words such as “happy” or “downhearted” to describe your life. 

However, if you take a few minutes to consider your feelings you will probably find they boil down to the degree to which your life is meaningful.

Meaning is central to our lives, even if you don’t recognise it. Meaning is derived from and has an impact on your work, relationships, happiness, health and more. 

So, read on to discover seven reasons why meaning matters and why you should focus on your search for meaning in your life.

1. You thrive and flourish
search for meaning
Your life will flourish when your search for meaning develops into a clear sense of purpose and inspires you to make a difference in the long term.

Instead of leading a life of ‘quiet desperation’, you awaken your ‘secret sorrows’ which fear or peer pressure have forced you to keep hidden.

This does not mean you stay in the same role all your life. These days such a thing is a rarity. You will work on a project basis or live a portfolio life. However, your sense of purpose and meaning will drive those projects and portfolio elements. There will be no anxiety about moving on from a role. Your sense of purpose and drive for meaning will empower you to find or create your next role

2. Your tolerance increases
Pain is inevitable but suffering is not. Suffering comes about when you link your emotional pain to the story behind your pain, creating a drama with you at its centre. However, if you live a meaningful life, you don’t need drama. It becomes easier to let go of the link and your tolerance to pain increases.

In earlier times, religion and myth provided the meaning that helped people deal with suffering. However, replacing religion with rational science has left a void that can be filled with our sense of meaning and purpose where religion no longer does this for us. Service, compassion and the relief of pain were central to many religions. Today, many people find meaning in their lives through the same activities.

3. You become reslient
You have no way of knowing when Shakespeare’s ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ will turn in your direction, hitting you where it hurts and throwing you off course. Unfortunately, the first years of the 2020s are an unhappy example.

Ask yourself who fares best in such a situation. Will it be the person whose life has meaning and purpose, who knows why they are here and thus possesses physical and psychological resilience? Or will it be the person whose meaningless life lacks direction and energy, leaving them susceptible to crumbling under life’s curveballs?

We need both physical and mental resilience. A sense of purpose and meaning will strengthen your psyche, stimulating your resilience.

4. You live with integrity

A sense of integrity comes from living a life of meaning and purpose. You understand yourself. You have a defined set of values to live by, and you know your strengths and weaknesses.

As a result, you become an integrated and complete individual, at peace with yourself. You will have worked out what is enough for you, and, importantly, you will understand that you are enough.

And so, you will live a life of integrity, resistant to the social and economic pressures that can compromise you and leave you open to manipulation by others and fearful of making mistakes.

5. You replace confusion with direction
Patient courage

Your search for meaning is likely to precipitate a clear idea, in moral and ethical terms at least, of where you are going. You may take many turns in getting there, practically. However, the setbacks you may encounter as you turn your North Star vision into action will seem more like opportunities than obstacles.

You avoid the morale-sapping passivity and stagnation of a meaningless life by adopting explicit goals central to a life of meaning.Goals can become a rod for our own backs when we destroy ourselves to achieve them. However, goals derived from a sense of purpose are waymarkers on our journey, points to pass through rather than the finishing post.

6. You ditch sadness and build happiness

Chasing happiness is unlikely to achieve happiness. However, happiness, or at least contentment, can be a consequence of living a life of meaning and purpose.

Boredom is a common side effect of an ‘existential vacuum’, a life void of meaning. With boredom comes unhappiness or even despair, anti-social behaviour such as aggression and addictive but ultimately wasteful pursuits. The antidote is to live meaningfully.

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7. You learn about and embrace change
Patient courage

You are more likely to accept change when you lead a life of meaning and purpose. Change is inevitable. However, for many, change is a threat and discomfort. Change engenders fear and an urge to retrench.

Alternatively, a life of purpose and meaning is one where you accept, learn about, implement, and lead change. As a result, you become a change-maker, one who values change and uses change to make a difference.

Conclusion

Leading a meaningful and purposeful life builds an inner toughness that helps you survive and thrive in the world. The question is, should we search for meaning in our lives? Does meaning evolve and emerge over time, or can we take steps to bring meaning into our lives?

Here at Crazy for Change, we believe the latter is possible. In the same way, we can help our physical bodies grow, develop and stay healthy through exercise and diet, we can also develop our sense of purpose and meaning through practices including reflection, conversation, habituation, storytelling and cultivating constructive relationships.

search for meaning

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