How to find meaning in life
When I was 17, I almost took my life. I felt that because I wasn’t doing something amazing with my life (i.e. finding a cure for AIDS, building an orphanage in Africa, writing a New York Times Bestseller, etc), then what good was I to the world alive? It’s not like I was making a difference. I thought I might as well be dead.
So with a lethal dose of prescription medication gathered in my cupped palm, I was ready to leave behind my meaningless life.
I was literally saved by the bell. The bell of an incoming instant message, that is. As fate would have it, I’d left myself signed onto my instant messenger and just as I was about to take the pills into my mouth, a then close friend of mine named Trey sent me a message.
I never came that close to taking my life since then but for years, I felt as if I was walking through an endless wilderness with no map, no compass, and no clue as to where I was supposed to be going or doing or achieving. A few years into the journey, I came to understand what I was going through: a quarter life crisis.
Yes, it is similar to a midlife crisis in all its existential glory. It just takes place sooner, at some point during your transition from adolescence into adulthood. And one of the biggest frustrations Generation Y struggles with during the quarter life crisis is a question we all mull over at some point: what’s my life’s purpose?
Why is it so important for us to find meaning in life? Simply put:
When we give life meaning, then we give ourselves value. As a result:
1. We realize that we aren’t just here by accident and therefore we give ourselves permission to accept that there is something we have been called to do, that there is a contribution to the world that we are meant to make.
2. We begin to see the events in our past and present as an orchestration of experiences that have happened not to us but for us, adding to a treasury we will draw from to help others.
3. We focus more clearly on the legacy that we wish to live and leave behind for future generations.
It is essential to attribute meaning to life because we will derive our value from that meaning, and look through the lens of and live by the principles of that meaning.
So how do we find the meaning to begin with?
At the risk of sounding cliché, the answer is actually closer than your heartbeat. It’s already inside of you. It’s just a matter of digging it up.
To help you with the excavation, ask yourself these questions:
-What activity makes me come to life? I can’t imagine life without it. This activity energizes me and excites me. (It can be more than one; think about hobbies or your favorite leisure activities).
-What am I naturally good at? People ask me for help in this area. It comes easy to me, like second nature, and people compliment me on how well I do it. (Example: are you an exceptional writer, do you have a green thumb, are you a world-class cook, etc).
-What experiences have I gone through that I can help other people through? (I started this article off relating my struggles with depression—helping others through depression has become one of my passions).
The answers to these questions are like clues in flashing lights, alerting you to the unique purpose for your life and the meaning it was meant to have.
Grab a piece of paper, and for the next 20-30 minutes, reflect on these questions. Then take a good look at your answers. What passions, talents, and experiences did you discover during your reflection? Now ask yourself this question: are these things currently a part of your life? If you found that arts & crafts is what brings you to life, do you regularly do it? If you have a knack for public speaking and debate, are you engaged with an outlet that allows you to practice those skills?
If not, don’t sweat it. Now that you’re empowered with the knowledge of what makes you ‘YOU’, you can take some action steps toward a life filled with meaning because engaging these parts of yourself are KEY to a life well lived. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to therefore find ways to integrate your passions, talents, and experiences into your everyday life. Then, in the comments below, share your plan! If you’re not clear yet on what a plan might look like, share with me what your insights were and I’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction! And remember, share this article with your friends – they’ll love you for it!