There are thousands of articles out there that guide you to success, wealth, and ultimate gratification. But when it comes to figuring out the meaning of life, it’s harder to find any material. Why?
We imagine the meaning of life as this mysterious and secret concept that takes a lifetime to discover.
Scholars and monks spend decades studying ancient texts and meditating, trying to understand what all of this actually means; why the universe gave us life and what we’re supposed to do with it.
With all of this gravity attached to the idea of the meaning of life, it’s nearly impossible to write an article about it without feeling like you haven’t given it the justice it needs.
But what issue worries us the most when it comes to the meaning of life? The possibility that our tiny lives are insignificant to the greater truths of meaning and purpose.
That everything we are doing is for naught; nothing we do matters, and therefore we do not matter at all.
We need to figure out this meaning. It gives us an anchor that keeps us grounded; it tethers us to a point that we can look back on and say, “Everything I do has a purpose.”
Without this meaning, it can be easy to get lost in the struggle of it all—we need this meaning more than anything else.
Those who say that they find their life to be meaningful are generally happier, friendlier, and healthier people, both mentally and physically. But that’s the million-dollar question: how do you turn your life into one that you find to be meaningful?
Researchers from University of Missouri believe that they have found the answer. You don’t need to take a year-long sabbatical and join the Buddhist monks in the mountains of China.
It’s not about discovering ancient secrets and hidden truths unavailable to the greater public, nor is it about giving up all the material desires and needs in your life.
It’s about waking up to yourself, and realizing that the meaning you are searching for is probably already inside of you, just waiting for recognition.
The Key Towards Finding Meaning: Don’t Look, Just Enjoy
Lead researcher from the study, Laura King, recently delivered a talk about the science of meaning, correcting all the popular myths about meaning and happiness.
From her study, King found that the only thing you have to do to turn your life into one that you find meaningful is to pause.
No giant life changes need to happen, such as throwing away all your possessions or quitting your job; these things just aren’t sustainable in the modern world. Instead, you simply need to take a moment—however long it might be—to recognize your life and all you have experienced.
What does this mean? It means we must appreciate the everyday things that we go through, and pull out meaning from these experiences.
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Things like chatting with your friends, bonding with neighbors, helping out in your community—these things increase your social connections, and the higher your social connections, the more likely you are to feel lost and that your life has meaning.
You also have to think about patterns: daily habits and rituals keep your life feeling centered and balanced. You give yourself something to wake up to everyday, and you put markers on your day that you can count on yourself to follow.
We find a simple kind of comfort in these little rituals that we do for ourselves, because it gives us a sense of normalcy in our lives.
And the most important point: stop thinking. According to King, “There’s no literature showing that thinking super hard about meaning in life leads to more meaning. Searching for meaning is negatively related to the experience of meaning.”
And that makes sense; it’s the same as love. You never have to convince yourself that you love your partner, your family, and your friends. One day you just wake up and you realize that you love them, no questions asked.
The meaning of life isn’t something that you need to think about—it’s something that you create for yourself organically.
Like a Chinese finger trap, if you continue to struggle to figure it out, it will continue to elude you. Just relax and let it happen. According to King, “People don’t need to know how to make their lives meaningful. They need to know that they already are.”
If you are the type of person who constantly asks, “What am I doing with my life? Where is my meaning?”, then it might be time to give it a break. Just sit down, breathe, and live your life.
Build social connections that you want to build and respect yourself enough to stick to a couple of daily habits. Over time, you’ll see that your life is much more meaningful once you settle down and just live.
Check out Hack Spirit's eBook on How to Use Buddhist Teachings for a Mindful, Peaceful and Happy Life.
Here's what you'll learn:
• How and why to be mindful: There are many simple exercises you can do to bring a mindful attitude to quotidian activities such as eating breakfast, walking the dog, or sitting on the floor to stretch.
• How to meditate: Many beginning meditators have a lot of questions: How should I sit? How long should I meditate? What if it feels awkward or uncomfortable or my foot falls asleep? Am I doing it wrong? In this book, you’ll find simple steps and explanations to answer these questions and demystify meditation. (And no, you’re not doing it wrong).
• How to approach relationships: This section offers tips for interacting with friends and enemies alike and walks you through a loving kindness meditation.
• How to minimize harm: There is a lot of suffering in the world; it’s best for everyone if we try not to add to it. Here you’ll read about the idea of ahimsa (non-harming) and how you might apply it to your actions.
• How to let things go: As Buddhism teaches, excessive attachment (whether we’re clinging to something or actively resisting it) all too often leads to suffering. Practitioners of mindfulness meditation find peace in letting go and accepting things as they are in the moment.
Check it out here.