The way the lunatic in the white sports car overtook both my car as well as the one in front of me on a blind bend along a busy stretch of road sent a shiver up my spine. How could someone be in such a hurry that they would risk their own and others lives?
Was life not important to him? Was he just some sort of speed psycho? Maybe his life had no meaning, but mine certainly did – and does.
What about you? Does your life have meaning?
Without a sense of meaning in life, it’s less easy to be happy
Research strongly suggests that finding meaning in life has a profound impact on psychological health and happiness. But meaningfulness is very personal. What I find meaningful might be a waste of time for you – and vice versa.
What is important is that as individuals we’re engaged in life and perceive our lives as purposeful. Some common factors help people experience meaning and feelings of happiness.
So what are these factors?
1. Following your passion
Yes, I know, it sounds a bit new-agey and trite, but it’s true.
What is that thing you love to do?
Drawing, writing, DIY, cooking, playing a sport? No matter what it is, make sure you make time for it every day – or at least several times a week. Perhaps you’re already fortunate enough to earn your living from your passion. Wonderful! But if making money from your passion means you need more skill than you currently have, find the time and energy each day to devote to developing and refining your skill set.
But what if I dont have the time?
Lack of time is a common excuse. Not a very valid one – but an excuse none-the-less. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day. How you allocate those hours will depend on what’s important to you. If you’re truly passionate about something – you’ll find the time. Just as an aside – and as far as I know – no-one ever said, at the end of their lives, ’I wish I’d watched more TV’. So turn the brain-washing machine off and do what you love to do!
My cousin, Geoffrey Philp is an inspirational example of how to allocate time to pursue a passion. (Can you see the family likeness?) He is a full-time Department head and teacher at Miami Dade College in Florida, USA. A devoted husband and father of three children he has, for many, many years been getting up at 4.00 a.m to pursue his passion, writing. His poetry, short stories, children’s books and novels are being read all around the world. Have a look at Geoffrey’s Amazon page.
2. Continuous active learning
Conscious, active learning and growing is a natural part of being human and when you’re actively engaged in learning something that’s of interest to you you’re often most content, or excited, or joyous – you may even experience all of these emotions. They all contribute to happiness. Active learning usually means you are involved in the gaining of knowledge in some way; for example in hands-on workshops, discussions, teaching others and practice. Active learning is much better than passive learning.
Passive learning is like having your brain programmed
Passive learning involves taking in information, typically in an effortless, passive kind of way, almost as if through osmosis. This is the type of learning you get from watching television or listening to the radio. (Thats why you find yourself humming the advertisement jingles, even though you never made an effort to learn them.)
3. Make your work meaningful
A job should not be just a job. Finding meaning in your work is important. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what the work is, as long as you can find something in that job that is meaningful for you.
If you can’t find meaningful work or some aspect of your employment that’s meaningful, it might be time to look for something else. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to up-skill yourself in one of your passions so that you can get work in an area in which you’d love to be employed. The work of finding meaningful work can be meaningful work in itself! Remember to enjoy the process and the journey.
4. Live by your values
Values are your judgements of whats important in the way you live your life, do your work, relate to others, raise a family, etc. When all your values are present in any of the contexts of your life, you’ll feel satisfied and highly motivated in this regard. And when they’re not – you’ll feel demotivated.
If you contravene your own values, you’ll feel regret and dissatisfaction. And if you violate someone else’s values, you’ll experience shame. Consciously knowing what’s important to you may be an important step in your bid for greater happiness. Read more about values.
5. Help others
Many studies show how helping and giving to others improves the helper’s happiness. You might even be surprised since it would seem that many people focus more on getting what they want as cause to be happy.
When we do something for others, we often feel compassion, benevolence and kindness – all emotions that contribute to happiness. When you feel good, you’re more likely to do good, and when you do good you’ll feel good. What a fantastic feedback loop!
You could help by getting involved in a local group or charity if that appeals. But simply being kind and compassionate to those around you; your family, partner, colleagues, friends may well be enough to cause a ripple effect of good feelings.
6. Put off Procrastinating
Procrastinating just gives you something else to regret not having done! When you achieve your goals, you often get a sense of attainment, fulfilment and a renewed sense of purpose. The completion spurs you on to bigger and better things. Read about and listen to an audio relating to how to put off procrastinating. Suffice to say that getting things done makes you feel good.
7. Be grateful
You can always find aspects of life to be improved. Improvement is part of our life’s journey. But when you focus your attention on what’s lacking or not quite right, you’re more likely to feel discontented and unhappy. You’ll also tend to notice more aspects of your life you want to change. Of course, a certain amount of seeing what you want to improve is healthy and helps you set goals and to make improvements. A sense of gratitude for all you have helps you to notice and appreciate other facets of your life where things are going well. When you are aware of what you appreciate and enjoy in life, you’re likely to notice more to value and enjoy!
- Do what you’re passionate about
- Be a continuous active learner
- Make your work meaningful
- Live by your values
- Help others
- Put off procrastinating
- Be grateful
When you put these simple – yet admittedly not always easy – suggestions into practice you’ll find yourself living a meaningful life. You’ll increase your happiness quotient and hopefully won’t need to take unnecessary risks on the highway of life.
Next step: Take just one of these suggestions and put it into practice for the next 3 weeks. Notice what a difference it makes…