I discovered the meaning of life yesterday. Well I didn’t, I discovered it some time ago – its just taking me a long time to accept it as the truth. I mean the real truth. Deep down truth. A truth that defines my actions and behaviour. Its still a truth like knowing the moon waxes and wanes. Its there but I don’t do anything with the knowledge.
I guess its also a little difficult telling people something like this. They all think you’re a bit crazy. Well, why wouldn’t they.
The meaning of life is – LIFE. Just in case you might have missed it I put it in bold. That’s right. Its that experience we have, for differing lengths, between birth and death. Now stop and read that again. It becomes obvious but not profound, right. Let’s deal with that profound bit then.
Life only has the meaning that we give it.
OK it also has all those meanings that we have been taught to believe in. Our religion (and its beliefs), our nation (and its values) our parents (and what they believed was/is true about this world we inhabit), the books we read and the TV we watch, the newspapers we read, our teachers, our friends and….. well actually quite a loft of influences all vying to shape our truth. If you are reading this in the Western world you are very likely to believe that life is about possessions, money, power or fame, or all.
You may well be living a roller coaster of a life experiencing the ups of achievement and the downs of developing new needs and desires to be satisfied. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction all flowing in an endless cycle. Your meaning in life has become to satisfy those needs and desires whilst retaining your own values and beliefs. For example you may want to be rich beyond your dreams, however, if you also believe that we should not exploit other people then your path is going to be different to somebody who believes in being ‘no. 1’ at all costs.
Your life only has the meaning that you give it.
Here’s the rub – the meaning life has, for you, today is the one which you continue to hold on to. The one created by a combination of the above factors. Most of it created unwittingly (society / advertising / parents) and most of it created during your childhood years (trust me on this one until you’ve read my blog about that). The meaning you have for your life – which until now, you may not have realised – you actually have a choice about.
If that now seems perfectly obvious – try this. “You can choose the meaning of your life for yourself”. I’m not suggesting to be delusional e.g. ‘my purpose is to be God’ or ‘run a mile in under 1 minute’. But that still leaves a lot of scope to shape your life to be meaningful to you. In fact lets go a step further. For you to have a life that has purpose/s that are chosen by you for you.
If you could do anything with your life – what would you do? Play with that for a while.
When you’re finished consider another truth. Whatever has happened up until now is already history. It cannot be changed, we can change our meaning for it. But it has gone never to return. The future has not yet arrived. Our experiences will have taught us, if we have listened to them, that whatever we fear about the future, it rarely turns out so badly. So with both of those things in mind the only thing we can truly do something about is the here and now.
Here’s a third and final piece. How we experience life’s events (the responses we are choosing) have until now been pretty much automatic. We had not realised that we can choose our responses to the events in our life – the emotions, the time spent on those emotions and our subsequent actions. These things seem to happen on autopilot. And that’s because they are – its all part of the influences that shaped us.
What we may not have realised is that it is those responses to events in our lives that shape our life.
The successful people in life learned along their journey that to make progress you have to take risks, and therefore, failure is part of the growing process, its part of learning about what works and what doesn’t. Talk to any successful person and they will be able to tell you about the obstacles they had to overcome, the times their ideas were rejected or failed (watch the video in the sidebar for some great examples).
They will also say that there were times they doubted themselves when they were worried that it may all be a bad idea. But they kept on, why?
What they learned in life was how to ‘bounce back’ how to be resilient, how to accept that in life bad things will happen and things will go wrong.
What drove them on was not the idea of money and success but their idea, their dream. The dream that became their purpose, that gave meaning to their life. They had learned the skills of resilience, of focus and self belief from some very influential people, particularly during childhood.
The rest of us will have not had those influential people around and so didn’t get to learn those skills – very learnable skills. Learnable at any age.
Have you found the meaning to your life?