Your Route to Meaning

Five grounded, practical steps
to meaning and purpose

Sometimes life stalls.
You find yourself living without meaning or purpose.
Recover without unorthodox and alternative solutions.

You can find yourself living without meaning or purpose at turning points in your life, such as:

* When the children leave the nest

* When you face redundancy or retirement

* After a failed relationship

* During an unresolved personal crisis

* On the death of a parent or partner

In addition, local or global events can leave you in an ‘existential vacuum’. At such times, questions such as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” and “Where is the meaning?” don’t have ready answers. It’s not a good place to be.

You realise you need to do something to get some meaning back in your life. One of the best ways is to do something that benefits someone else.

However, this requires change – change to yourself and change to others. Grounded in practical experience and current models of change, the five steps outlined below have the potential to lift you out of your existential vacuum.

They will set you on the path to becoming a change maker who finds meaning in your life by making a difference to others.

Stage 1 – Cheerfully contemplate change
Pain, anxiety, boredom and demoralisation are common traits in a meaningless life. However, this also tells you something is not right, although you probably can’t put your finger on it. You feel you need to do something, to change, but you are not quite sure what or how.

You can begin by gently giving your situation some thought. Research and evaluate your options with books, courses and the stories of others.

Be aware, though, that you are substituting thinking for action. This is not necessarily wrong at this stage. After all, ideas take time. However, you must take the next step, so avoid wishful thinking, waiting for that ‘magic moment’ or falling into procrastination where you find any excuse not to begin to change.

It is important to cultivate a positive mindset at this stage, so:

  • Adopt habits that will bring a little happiness into your life and the lives of others, such as regular exercise, scheduling time out, keeping a gratitude journal and random acts of kindness.
  • Adopt a positive approach to your thoughts, speech and writing. For instance, avoiding words such as ‘but, ‘if’ and ‘try’, substituting words such as ‘and’, ‘when’ and ‘will’.

At this stage, you know you want to change, but are not quite ready to change. Building a cheerful and positive mindset will help you successfully take the next step.

Stage 2 – Prepare and plan wisely
Poor preparation often results in failure, so it is important that you prepare your next steps by setting goals and priorities and developing a written action plan – fairly standard stuff.

Some of the activities you began in Stage 1, such as random acts of kindness and communicating positively, will already be making a difference and giving meaning to your life. You can maintain these activities and might use them in your plan.

Whilst planning is essential, building self-awareness (“the meta skill of the 21st Century” as researcher Tasha Eurich describes it) is even more important. Take steps to become aware of who you are, of your strengths and weaknesses, character, limiting beliefs etc.

Get clarity on your values, passions, aspirations, the environment where you can be at your happiest and most engaged, the patterns (internal and external) that mould your life, and the impact you have on others. Try developing a manifesto of your values, aspirations and goals (starting with the end in sight).The wisdom of self-awareness is a powerful tool in your armoury of change.

Stage 3 – Take action to become resilient
To find meaning in your life you will first start to make changes to your own behaviours and work to overcome your own challenges, many of which you will have identified in the preparation stage.

It makes sense to take action to increase your resilience. In time, other people will come to rely on you as you begin to make a difference. You will be taking on a leadership role and you will need to ensure that you can keep going when others falter

Take action to address immediate problems and become resilient in mindset, life, relationships, money, home, health, work and income so you mitigate the curveballs and problems that life and its aspirations might throw at you.

Attaining psychological, emotional, practical, financial and health resilience will provide you with a firm foundation from which to build the wealth you can use to make a difference to others.

You will become a problem solver of both hard and soft problems. The lessons you learn in developing your own self-resilience will be invaluable in helping you make a difference to others, enabling you to demonstrate the leadership that is important in making a difference in the world

Stage 4 – Maintain resilience, grow wealth

There are two aspects to this stage. First, you maintain your resilience in all its forms, giving you security and confidence, so it is important that you prevent a relapse into the old ways. You will want to monitor such things as your health, money, relationships and networks.

Second, maintaining your resilience is dynamic and should lead naturally to increasing your wealth. Your wealth (from the old English ‘well health’) provides you with the resources you need to make a difference in the world.

Therefore focus on growing and developing specific areas of your wealth that you need for your chosen route to meaning and making a difference, whether it be financial, health, relationships or skills.

Resilience solves the short term problems whilst wealth achieves the longer-term goals. You will define wealth on your terms. You may opt for a minimalist, simplistic life unencumbered by money and possessions or, alternatively, a significant portfolio, home and family life might be your goal.

Either way, you acquire wealth to maintain and build on the behavioural changes that you have experienced in the earlier stages; and to use your wealth to make a difference to others.

Patient courage
Stage 5 – Time to make a difference
Get less done

By now, your life is looking very different. You are in a position to deal with setbacks. You have aspirations and a plan. You have a deeper understanding of yourself and you have begun to experience the contentment of being a change maker who makes a difference to others.

Now, in this final stage, you are able to dedicate yourself entirely to making the world a better place for others. You become a true change maker, contributing to society through business, institutions or philanthropy. In so doing you will become a leader who leads the changes that make a difference. You continue to grow your wealth and happiness through working with others.

However, you will continue to seek help in moving into a more contributory mode. You will ask for advice on building a business or philanthropic venture. Undoubtedly, you will have defined what enough means to you and may be able to ease off financially rewarding activities and use your existing resources to fund your time spent in a voluntary capacity.

The end of the beginning

You must define success on your own terms. However, your definition is likely to include recognition that you are a change maker equipped with the aspirations, mindset, wealth and abilities to contribute fully and make a sustainable difference in the world. You will begin to see the legacy that you are creating.

You will probably never stop, although you may change direction and reinvent yourself any number of times in a way that is meaningful and purposeful to you.

For you, this is not the end, just the end of the beginning.

Patient courage

Continue the Journey

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