The Circle of (a Meaningful) Life

From the moment we grow conscious of our own mortality, we naturally learn we live once. 

How to maximize it, however, is another matter; and it isn’t learned quite so easily. No one tells us how to do it, nor is it self-evident.

In this article, I’ll propose how to maximize your life with meaning.

A Meaningful Life

Happiness is not a sustainable life goal. It’s demolished the second something bad happens to us, and then leaves us broken.

Meaning, on the other hand, is a better goal. Meaning can permeate our being and fill us with a deep sense of fulfillment — even in times of suffering.

Happiness fluctuates, meaning endures.

So how exactly do we lead a meaningful life?

Well, we might look at what a meaningful life consists of.

From the psychological literature [1], we know that three things are needed in order to experience meaning:

  • Purpose
  • Worth
  • Clarity

To have a purpose is to have a goal and a direction to your life.

To have worth is to have a sense of life’s inherent value and a life worth living.

To have clarity is to have a comprehension of your situation and have a life that makes sense.

Together, these components produce an intense experience of meaning. This is how to live by them:

The Circle of Meaning

To begin with, set a purpose. This is your initial goal and direction. While it might feel uncomfortable to pick a purpose, you should know that it doesn’t really matter what it is to begin with. The idea is to jump-start the process.

The idea of having a purpose hidden inside is a flawed one. To find your purpose, you have to interact with the world and go out and find it. If you have no idea where to look, just pick something that’s mildly interesting. That’s enough.

Take action on your purpose. If you commit to your purpose and start to take action upon it, you start to get closer to its achievement. This is good, regardless of what your initial goal is because you’ll learn something either way.

When you take action, you interact with the world; you’ll learn new things and discover more of what you value.

Determine things of worth. Through your interaction with the world, you’ll discover what you like and what you value — the things of worth. Make a note of what it is, because these things give you a better sense of what you want out of life.

Based on what you note, you might either find that there’s worth to the initial purpose you set, or that it’s not something for you.

Clarify and evaluate your journey. Based on what you judged worthy, you might have gained a new perspective of the world. This enables you to comprehend your situation more clearly and make sense of your life so far.

Repeat the process. If the initial purpose was a meaningful one, continue to pursue it. If not, repeat the process until you find something truly meaningful.

Finding what you truly want is a journey. Even if you find something meaningful, it might change as you continue to live and interact with the world.

There’s beauty in that: life unfolds as you live it. That’s meaningful.

Conclusion

I’m learning to follow this process as well. A few years ago, I found myself in a meaningless state of being.

Part of the reason I got there, was because I couldn’t find a purpose in my life, and I was frustrated by my own inability to find it. I believed my purpose was buried deep inside me, but that belief got me nowhere.

When I started to act on a goal, however, I started to get an increased sense of what was worth something to me. This in turn, made me comprehend and gain clarity of my situation. This again, made me pursue new and better purposes.

I know your life can be a good and meaningful one. I had lost hope on my own, but luckily, I found a way to make it better. Following the process — with purpose, worth, and clarity — life can transform from meaninglessness to meaningfulness.

Try it for yourself. The circle of meaning enables you to become the best version of yourself and allows you to maximize your life.


References

  • [1] Martela, F., & Steger, M. F. (2016). The three meanings of meaning in life: Distinguishing coherence, purpose, and significance. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(5), 531–545. doi:10.1080/17439760.2015.1137623

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