What is the meaning of life – and could you sum it up in 25 words? What if someone offered you $10,000 for your best description?
The website www.themeaningoflife.com is running such a contest, and while it may be a marketing ploy, it’s an astute one. Who isn’t intrigued by this question? Who hasn’t struggled to figure out his or her true purpose?
Like Arthur Dent in A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we wish the meaning of life could be reduced to one simple solution: in his case, “42.”
What if there are no meanings to life, except those we choose? As new-age gurus assert, “It’s all made up, anyway!” Or, as religious doctrines proclaim, “Follow God’s will for you. This is the true meaning of life.”
Between “any which way you want” and “His way or the highway (to hell),” many decisions must be made along the way.
Even if we turn over some parts of our lives to leaders, religious or otherwise, other parts and decisions remain. What do you eat? What kind of work do you do? What about play and having fun? Marriage and relationships? How do you manage spending and saving?
So many decisions, so little time!
What are some of the guidelines for exploring and giving meaning to your life? How can you decide who and what you should be, and which principles will keep you on track?
If you clearly understand where you want to be, you can make sure your actions each day bring you closer.
Here are three key steps to exploring meaning in your life:
1. Examine your identity. Who are you? Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, contributing more to your success in life than any other social competency.
If you know yourself well, you can choose a path aligned with your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll avoid distractions by people, places and things that are incongruent with your true self.
2. Define your values. What are your most fundamental beliefs? Identify three important moral values. The more clearly you define them, the more energy and focus you’ll have to meet your goals.
While the pursuit of power, wealth or fame motivates many people, these goals are external, filling deficiencies instead of addressing one’s needs for growth and development.
Seven groupings of values have been universally admired across cultures, religions and history:
3. Answer these questions to define your true values:
1. What do you do at work that gives you great satisfaction? What would you continue to do if you weren’t paid for it?
2. What three personal qualities others recognize in you?
3. Who are you when you’re at your best?
4. What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
5. What would you like to see on your tombstone that best captures who you really were in your life?
6. Cite three small incidents that gave you great pleasure today. What about these events ignited your passion?
Once you identify what truly matters to you, look at how you express these strengths and virtues in your daily life. Prioritize your values, distinguishing the top three to five that are most important to you today.
Now, go write that 25-word statement about the meaning of life – and good luck in winning the $10,000 prize!