I’m sure you know this by now – we humans are the only species on the planet that have the capacity to seek, find, and create meaning.
The other animals are happy just to wake up, scrounge or hunt for food, and that’s it.
But us? We’ve got a long list of requirements to be happy and fulfilled in life. And a sense of meaning is right at the top of the list.
When we don’t have it, we feel uncertain, lost, or worse – apathetic. Running on autopilot. We do things just because they need to be done, but we don’t really see, or maybe even care, why.
Do you feel like that? Like you’re just going through the motions and like something important is missing? If so, you might be lacking a sense of meaning or purpose.
Here are 10 behaviors people who lack meaning in their lives often display without even realizing it. Hopefully, they don’t resonate with you.
But if they do, then that’s still good news – it means you’ve arrived at the starting point for a fresh chapter in your life.
Let’s dive in!
1) They are perpetually bored
First up, people who lack meaning in life have a case of chronic boredom. They don’t feel any passion or excitement for anything.
Now don’t get me wrong – I think that boredom can benefit us in many ways. In fact, neuroscientists say that letting yourself be bored from time to time is good for your brain.
As a writer, I actually strive to have a bit of boredom in my life because it’s useful in many ways:
- I use it as a time to process my thoughts and emotions
- Boredom helps cleanse my mind and leave it open for creative thinking
- It gives us a chance to be curious – when I’ve got nothing to do, I’m free to indulge in exploring whatever tickles my fancy
- It improves self-control – being bored isn’t a pleasant feeling; I learn how to regulate myself emotionally to be able to deal with it
But – there’s a distinction between plain old boredom (keyword: from time to time) and chronic boredom. Chronic boredom is a more persistent state, where you’re just disinterested in everything. In all aspects of life.
That’s a clear sign that you’re not finding any meaning in your life.
2) They are constantly restless
Even while they’re constantly moving, people who lack a sense of meaning could feel a sense of restlessness.
Some might have a desire to jump from one job to another. Or move from one state to another. Flit from relationship to relationship.
Anything, really, to shake things up.
Just like boredom, I find restlessness to be useful. Unpleasant, yes, but useful just the same.
Because it’s a wakeup call. Whenever I get a sense of restlessness, especially if it’s been going on for a while, I take it as a cue that what I’m doing no longer feels meaningful.
That I need something new or something more.
If you view it that way, then restlessness can be a behavior that moves you towards self-reflection. Ask yourself, “What am I truly seeking in life? What am I missing?”
You just might be surprised at what it can reveal. It could lead you to an examination of how your life currently aligns with your core values.
Once you see where the disconnect is, you can then redirect to get yourself on a path that suits the current version of yourself better.
3) They overindulge in escapism
We all enjoy an occasional escape from reality. Some of us enjoy getting lost in a book or in a few episodes of a gripping TV show. Some go out for a night of drinking or clubbing.
Others are happy to just dive into the rabbit hole of social media for half an hour or so.
But people who lack a sense of meaning take it to the next level. These folks literally disappear – into the bottom of a glass, into a TV or phone screen, into the hallucinating embrace of drugs.
Think about it – if your real life holds a lot of meaning, why would you want to escape it day after day?
4) They neglect self-care
Similarly, when life feels meaningless, taking care of our health often takes a back seat.
Someone who lacks meaning in life might not necessarily engage in extreme escapist moves like the ones I mentioned above.
But if they do things like skip meals, neglect exercise, or let stress overwhelm them, that points to how they see life as just something to wade through mindlessly.
In contrast, people who lead meaningful lives know just how important it is to take care of themselves. They know they’ve got a lot to do, and without a healthy mind and body, it would be hard to achieve those goals.
When we feel good physically and mentally, we’re in a better position to find and pursue what gives our life meaning. It’s that simple.
5) They lack long-term goals
For people who lack meaning in life, it’s hard enough to get their head out of their current state, much less think about the future.
After all, what’s the point in it – it’s all meaningless, right? That’s how the thought pattern goes.
The thing is, without goals, there’s no chance for life to hold any sort of meaning. Without goals, we’re merely existing.
As an example, I’d like to share psychologist Viktor Frankl’s take in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
The setting: a concentration camp during World War II. If there ever was a place where life would feel devoid of meaning, it would be that.
But Frankl was able to endure it because he set a goal for himself – to observe his fellow prisoners and tell the world what happened. To investigate what exactly makes a person endure hardship.
I found it so meta, actually. Here was a man trying to prove his point that a search for meaning is what fuels us to endure, and this very act was what made him endure as well.
All that to say that Frankl was right – setting goals, or even just one goal, is proof that one wants a meaningful life.
In short, no goals = no meaning.
6) They have superficial relationships
Obviously, a lack of meaning in life can lead a person to feel lost. There’s a lot of emotions involved there – shame, stress, fear of judgment, and more.
With such emotional turmoil inside, it’s easy to understand why one would want to keep other people at arm’s length.
For example, when I was going through such a time in my life, I withdrew from my relationships.
I didn’t want people to keep asking me what was going on. I didn’t want to admit that my life felt meaningless. I didn’t want to open up and risk being judged or dismissed.
Truth to tell, I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with all of that. So I tried to keep everything light and fluffy.
On the surface, I might’ve appeared okay, but inside, I felt incredibly lonely. And it was nobody’s fault but my own, as I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable.
Real talk – cultivating deeper relationships requires effort and vulnerability. For someone who’s struggling with a sense of meaning, these two requirements can be hard to give.
As a result…
7) They feel disconnected from the world
Like I mentioned earlier, lacking a sense of meaning in life can lead to a sense of loneliness. You feel disconnected from everyone.
For me, it was a feeling like, how come the world goes on spinning and everyone’s walking about, moving around, knowing where they’re going? Yet here I am, stuck and feeling like it’s all pointless?
Basically, it felt like I was in a snow globe watching the world pass me by.
And I have to admit, when you’re in such a state, you can’t help but feel envious or resentful of those people who’ve got their act together.
Which brings me to my next point…
8) They have persistent feelings of envy or resentment
It’s natural to feel envious or resentful occasionally. But it becomes a sign that one is lacking meaning in life when the emotions cross over from occasional to constant.
Sometimes, they could even become angry at the world.
That’s because, as I described earlier, it feels a lot like being on the outside. You’re looking at others’ lives through a lens of what you think is missing. The focus is on the negative.
Fortunately, I found my way back by volunteering. As lost and resentful as I was, I at least knew that one of the best ways to find meaning is in service to others. That knowledge really helped me because it gave me a single reason to get out of bed.
Sometimes, that’s enough, you know. Even just one connection with something bigger than us is enough to remind us that we have something valuable to contribute.
9) They avoid self-reflection
Lastly, people who lack a sense of meaning in life are forgetting (or maybe ignoring?) one crucial step in finding meaning – self-reflection.
Look, as the name implies, any self-improvement journey begins with the self.
Until you know what you truly want out of life, what your values are, what makes your heart sing and makes you feel useful, then it’s just treading water.
A lot of movement with zero distance covered. Just enough effort to keep your head afloat.
So, again, ask yourself the tough questions. Cut through the noise and negative self-talk. Assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly.
The answers you get can make your path clearer. At the very least, it can give you some clarity on what to keep and what to cut out of your life so that every move you make feels meaningful.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
It’s true, isn’t it? There’s no one formula that works, but as long as you’ve got goals that speak to your heart, you’ll eventually hit your stride.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.