In our culture today, many people are finding themselves looking around and saying, “Is this it? There has to be more purpose to my life than this!”
We are currently facing a crisis of purpose. So many of us are struggling to feel good about our lives. We desire a life of meaning and purpose and joy but we just keep feeling empty and discouraged.
We’ve been sold the lie in America that the pursuit of happiness is everything. But after pursuing happiness for years many of us are looking around and wondering when we’ll ever find it or why we can’t ever get happiness to stick around.
You see happy is an emotion. And it is an emotion that comes and goes. It’s based on circumstances. And no matter who we are or what we do in life, there will always be times when our circumstances are less than ideal. When our circumstances are not causing us to feel happiness. Happiness is never guaranteed and it doesn’t last for long.
Some choose to seek pleasure and avoid pain in order to live a life of happiness. But pleasure never lasts, even it’s effects will fade.
So if pursuing happiness and seeking pleasure isn’t the answer to living a great life, what is?
The Pursuit of Meaning
Pursuing a life of meaning isn’t simply about feeling good and experiencing pleasure. A life of meaning involves being and doing good. When you seek to use and develop the best of yourself to the benefit of others you create for yourself a life of meaning.
You see, a meaningful life is created when you pursue “a means to an end that is not yourself” (Andy Stanley). When you focus on how you can seek pleasure and avoid pain and pursue your own happiness in life you are guaranteed to feel empty, hollow, and to question what it’s all for.
But when you instead, look outside of yourself and find ways in which you can pursue a life of doing good and benefiting others, then you will find the joy you have been looking for all along. It won’t be easy. It will be filled with pain and discomfort and difficulty. You won’t be happy all the time. And your experiences won’t always be pleasurable. But the reward is far greater. And the reward will stick with you.
Living a life of meaning and purpose for the benefit and the good of others and the world allows you to experience lasting joy and satisfaction in life. You won’t look around and wonder what it’s all for. You won’t question if this is it. You’ll be too busy looking for ways that can create more and make a bigger difference.
It’s not about happiness and pleasure. The good life is found in being and doing good for others and by devoting yourself to worthwhile tasks.
Questions to Help You Live a More Meaningful Life
In the book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness, author Emily Esfahani Smith suggests that there are four pillars of meaning to life. These pillars are belonging (our connection with others), purpose (doing worthwhile things with our time), storytelling (the stories we tell ourselves about our life), and transcendence (the ability to find “flow” or to “lose yourself” in an activity, or to connect with a higher power).
I’ve created this list of questions that you can work through to help you create a life of meaning. Pull out a journal and take some time to honestly discover the answers to these questions. They will help you identify the meaningful work and activities you already do and discover new opportunities to create more meaning in your life.
The questions are loosely based around the four pillars of meaning to help you determine which area or areas might need the most attention. You may not have an answer for all of these questions, but take some time to consider each of them.
1. With what people or people groups do you feel you belong the best?
2. Who are the people or people groups you love and care for the most?
3. Do you regularly spend time with the people and groups that mean the most to you? If not, why not? How can you make some changes to your life and schedule to better connect with these people?
4. If you had no fears or worries, how would this change the way you interact with others?
5. How can you build deeper relationships in your current life season?
6. What acts of kindness have you shown to others lately?
7. In what ways are you or can you be more generous and giving (of your time, money, resources, energy, etc) to others?
8. What are the values that are most important to you?
9. In what ways do your daily work and activities allow you to live out the values that are most important to you? Do you need to make any changes to your daily activities that would allow you to be more aligned with your values?
10. How do you want to be remembered at your funeral?
11. What things do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
12. What one thing would you like to change in the world?
13. What are you most proud of?
14. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
15. What job/cause/activity would happily get you out of bed every morning?
16. What is the most difficult or painful experience you have been through?
17. How did going through this experience help you grow as a person?
18. What redemptive lessons did you or can you learn from this experiences?
19. What piece of encouragement would you give to someone going through a similar situation? (feel free to repeat questions 16-19 for multiple experiences if you feel led)
20. What is your greatest strength? What recent actions have you done that have demonstrated this strength?
21. What activities have you done in the past in which you have been so fully engaged and focused that you lost track of time?
22. What activities do you do or can you start doing to allow you to connect with God?
23. What are you grateful for?
24. What do you want that you already have?
25. When in your life have you felt most passionate and alive?