How can we make our lives more meaningful?
In the paper, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness, authors Smith and Aaker say a meaningful life contains 3 crucial ingredients. These are purpose, comprehension and mattering (significance). In summary:
PURPOSE is choosing, and then working to attain, the kinds of life goals which are significant to you.
COMPREHENSION is making sense of what’s happened to you. It is weaving together all the good and the bad to form a coherent narrative.
MATTERING (SIGNIFICANCE) is knowing that you matter, that others value you, and believing that your life has significance.
But how do we go about achieving these? What kinds of things should we focus on? Below are some suggestions that might help with this.
1. It’s important to find some kind of purpose in your life. And our purpose can alter across the lifespan. For example, perhaps you feel your purpose is enhancing others’ lives – through what you do at work, or by volunteering, or by being a great partner, or great parent to your kids.
2. Be careful and selective in your choice of friends. The people we spend time with can have a huge effect on the way we come to see, and feel about, ourselves.
Some questions for you to think through here include: How would you say your friends and family treat you? Do you tend to feel better or worse about yourself after spending time with them? Do they build you up, and enhance your self-esteem or do they tend to criticize and pull you down?
Aim to cultivate friends who affirm and value you, who love you for yourself, and who are there for you.
3. Aim for balance in life. Yes, working hard matters … but so does having fun. Being kind and understanding are crucial qualities … but you also need to rest, and to invest in yourself.
4. When in doubt, choose integrity. In the end, it is better to live with peace of mind than to regret the things we’ve said, or the things that we have done. So seek to live a life that is consistent with your values.
5. Be willing to edit and rewrite your life’s story. Life very rarely goes according to plan. Really awful things will happen that our outside our control. But we can still reframe experiences to highlight personal strengths, our courage, our persistence, and our resiliency. You can tell a better story of how you have survived.
6. Be YOU. Resist the constant pressure to alter and to change to meet the expectations of others in your life. For at the end of the day, you will feel much more fulfilled if you can simply be yourself – in a way that’s true to you.
Don’t ever lose yourself. You are a gift to the world.
7. Don’t overlook the value of small things. The smallest act of kindness can make a massive difference. We don’t need to do great things to change another’s world. A text, a smile, a ‘high 5’ can inspire hope again.
“I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.” – Elsie de Wolfe