⌄ Scroll down to continue ⌄

Last Updated on May 12, 2022

What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning

⌄ Scroll down to continue ⌄
What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning

Since the dawn of time, the question, “what is the meaning of life” has captivated humanity’s finest minds. The ultimate goal appears to be to live a meaningful life with purpose.

As diverse as the questions are, the origins of our existence, the reasons humans were “made,” the drive for personal growth, and, of course, religion, are all explored.

There is no shortage of ideas on what the “good life” is all about, what makes us happy and content, and what we can do to achieve it.

The Big Bang, the beginnings of the cosmos, and the evolution of the species to where we are today will likely be discussed by a researcher if you inquire about the purpose of our existence.

We don’t really need evolution to motivate us and keep us going in the face of adversity, do we? Much more is going on than this. It is our intellect, our self-awareness, and our aspirations, objectives, and aspirations that define who we are as people.

So, if you want to know what life is all about, study Viktor Frankl and Albert Camus, and consider your ideals, progress, community, family, and yes, reproduction, when attempting to answer this question.

What Is the Meaning of Life — Historical Perspectives

Let’s take a step back and observe what great men throughout history thought a life of purpose to be before we dissect these parts of significance.

The Greeks

Eudaimonia, which means “happiness,” “good life,” or “welfare,” was a belief held by the ancient Greeks. A life lived in eudaimonia was considered the ideal by all of the great Greek philosophers, including Socrates, Thales, Plato, and Aristotle.

“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.” – Thales

Self-discovery is the most difficult task in life. In other words, Thales

The meaning of this sentence has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some people used to believe that gaining virtues was the only way to find meaning in life (such as self-control, courage, wisdom) [1]

According to Aristotle, eudaimonia requires more than a good character; it requires action and excellence. Epicurus, a well-known Greek philosopher, believed that human life should be a time of pleasure and freedom from pain and sorrow.

The Bhagwad Geeta

Ancient India’s texts were written with extraordinary intellectual acumen. The Bhagavad Gita is the most researched, analyzed, and interpreted of all the scriptures. [2]

Our separated material energies are comprised of eight elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect, and ego.

An ancient Indian text known as the Bhagavad Gita, it is regarded as one of the most important works of Hindu philosophy in both literature and philosophy. Lord or ‘manifested one’: Bhagavad Gita is known as “the song of the Lord or the Lord Himself.”

Mahabharata (the longest Indian epic) incorporated the Bhagavad Gita as a subplot, but it is usually edited separately. The Bhagavad Gita is a section of the Mahabharata that spans 18 short chapters and approximately 700 verses.

Questions like “what is the meaning of life” are at the heart of the Bhagavad Gita. It focuses on how can one lead a spiritually meaningful life without renouncing society. What can a person do to live a moral life if they don’t want to give up their ties to friends and family?

According to popular belief, only ascetics and monks can achieve a perfect spiritual life through renunciation. The Gita, on the other hand, argues that anyone can achieve a perfect spiritual life through active devotion.

Cynicism

Cynicism was founded by Diogenes of Sinope around 380 BC as a way of life and thinking that emphasized virtue and harmony with nature, much like Stoicism later on.

Human reason, according to both schools, is capable of discerning nature’s will; however, their conclusions about what constitutes natural law differed.

The Cynics had a much more primitive view of nature, and so they lived a more solitary life as a result.

While Cynicism sees human institutions like laws and customs as artificial, Stoicism considers them to be part of the fabric of life itself and urges its adherents to uphold them. [3]

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

When it comes to morality, a Cynic is the antithesis of the idealist.

Diogenes, the founder of Cynicism, is one of the most intriguing characters in all of philosophy. Diogenes lived in a tub and had very little.

To him, human life should be as simple as possible, and he detested much of what “civilization” purports to provide us. A typical quote from him: “Mankind has complicated every simple gift from the gods.”

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” -Epictetus

Rather, people should undergo rigorous training and live in way that is most natural to them. [4]

Stoicism

The Stoic school of thought, founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C., considered the good life to be “living in agreement with nature.”[5]

At that time, people’s principal priority was to avoid a bad life. As a result, they were more likely to structure their thoughts, choices, and actions in a way that enhanced their sense of well-being.

It’s critical to remember that people didn’t always think that acquiring wealth, fame, or other aesthetically pleasing items would bring them happiness. Many people were eager to learn how to cultivate a fine soul.

The Stoics, one of the most well-known schools of thought at the time, presented persuasive answers to problematic concerns like “What do I want out of life?” through their Stoic philosophy. The Stoics proposed a way of life that dealt with the difficulties of being human.

Finally, they said: “I desire enduring enjoyment and peace of mind, which come from being a good person.” This was their ultimate response to all of these difficulties.

As an example, a person can cultivate virtues of character by prioritizing their acts over their words. In other words, if you’re doing things right, you’ll have a better life. And, yes, as you would have suspected, unpleasant behavior led to a more difficult situation.

In essence, Stoicism advocates separating good and evil and doing good while staying calm, focusing on what’s important and under our control, not wasting thoughts on what we can’t change.

Theism

Theists believed in the presence of a deity, or God, who was responsible for the creation of the cosmos. Our lives’ purpose is therefore connected with God’s goal in creating the cosmos, and it is God who gives meaning, purpose, and values to our existence.

This relates to modern-day religious studies and how and why we search for meaning beyond what is readily seen or understood. If you still want to find out answer to the query, what is the true meaning of life? then a deeper understanding of Theism would help.

According to Britannica, Theism is the belief that God is beyond human comprehension, perfect and self-sustaining, but also unusually concerned in the world and its events.

Theists use reasonable reasoning and personal experience to support their belief in God.

Theists often use one of four main kinds of evidence to support their belief in the existence of God: cosmological, ontological, teleological, or moral. The existence of evil must be reconciled with God’s omnipotence and perfection, which are core concepts of theism.

Existentialism

Philosophers like Sren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Jean-Paul Sartre advocated for this idea of free will in the twentieth century.

“The intuition of free will gives us the truth.” – Corliss Lamont

Rather than relying on society or religion, it is believed that each person creates their own meaning in their own life. Everyone’s reason for being is based on their own circumstances and knowledge.[6]

To put it another way, the meaning of your life is entirely up to you. Simply put, your life’s meaning is what you decide it to be.

What Creates Meaning of Your Life?

Based on the foregoing brief historical tour, it appears that the interpretation of what gives our existence value and purpose changes depending on the historical period and school of thought.

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

However, there are some unmistakable similarities and repeating themes. Our motivation for assuming a role larger than ourselves, such as serving God’s will or making a contribution to society. At the same time, it’s all nuanced because it’s filtered through our particular prisms, hampered by our historians’ or intellectuals’ beliefs.

Still, there are a few basic types of items that could be ideal candidates for meaning-creators in our lives:

Social

We have an innate urge to connect with others, to be a part of a group, to feel like we belong, and that someone cares about us since we are social creatures.

According to the longest study on happiness and life satisfaction[7], the good life is defined by the quality of our connections, which spanned 75 years. “Time with people shelters us against the bruises of life’s ups and downs,” says Prof. Waldinger, who led the study.

So, what’s the meaning of life?

Our friendships aren’t the only thing that makes life worthwhile. It’s our parents, siblings, and children. It’s all the people for whom we have feelings of love and affection and who, in turn, have feelings for us.

Achievement

Although pinning our worth only on the results of our efforts can lead to a shaky feeling of self-worth, we nevertheless want our triumphs to outnumber our failures. We want to feel like we’re making progress and achieving our objectives.

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Studies have found that achievements bring greater meaning to our everyday lives. [8]

The pull of the limelight or the desire for accolades will not be enough to justify our existence. What counts is that our efforts be acknowledged, appreciated, and acknowledged. To put it another way, we want our efforts to be meaningful and impactful.

In this podcast from The Lifehack Show, you’ll get a straightforward solution to the question of what personal success looks like:

Competence, Knowledge, and Expertise

The concept of achievement is directly tied to these purpose drivers.

Konrad Lorenz [9], the Austrian Nobel Prize winner, best known for his principle of attachment, once said:

“Life itself is a process of acquiring knowledge.”

Today’s self-improvement movement emphasizes becoming the best at what we do. The Japanese concepts of kaizen and shokunin are among the most well-known examples.

Kaizen is a continuous improvement process that involves learning and building experience in order to improve oneself as a way of life.

Shokunin is a Japanese word that means “craftsman.” It’s also about being proud of what we do and who we are. It’s the desire to improve on a personal and professional level.

Researched Ways That Have Given Meaning to Life (Living Meaning)

However, there are many more colors and understandings of a life well-lived than the three categories that have been mentioned already.

To help you find your own sense of purpose and fulfillment, here are some more ideas.

1. Be Aware of What Makes You Happy and Gives Your Life Meaning

This encompasses your interests, as well as your drive to interact with others, read, write, travel, and keep in shape. Even if these activities do not provide you with any ‘One’ Meaning in Your Life, they have the ability to make you pleased and joyful.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyam

They are joyous spurs. You might think of them as mini-meanings that, over time, may help you achieve your larger goals and purposes.

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄
⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

However, they will continue to provide you with something to look forward to, a cause to live.

2. What Does Life Mean if Not Embraced By the Love and Existence of a Family?

In order to assure that human life will continue into the foreseeable future, evolutionary biology provides us with the fundamental cause for our existence. Isn’t it all about the survival and continuation of our families? With loved ones, life has a purpose.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” –Michael J. Fox

When it comes to what makes life worthwhile, having children and family and living it with them is frequently at or near the top of the list. When we feel like we belong, we feel like we can celebrate our triumphs with others.

3. Desire to Leave a Mark in the World

As we come to grips with the fact that our lives are finite, we naturally feel compelled to leave behind something worthwhile. The first step is to focus on one thing that is important to you and build from there.

For example, you could adopt an abandoned puppy and offer it a better existence. You can also help the environment by donating your time to a local food shelter or by beginning to sort your rubbish.

In the words of Mother Teresa:

“We can’t do anything spectacular, but we can do a lot of tiny things with a lot of heart.”

Caring is the key to a fulfilling existence.

4. Be Compassionate and Care About Yourself

According to the British National Health Service [10], there are five measures we may take to live more meaningful lives:

  • Connect with your neighbors and family members.
  • Physical exercise
  • Constant education
  • The act of donating something to someone else
  • Being conscious of the people and things around you.

What these suggestions imply is that finding methods to take care of ourselves and do things that make us happy is what brings sunshine into our lives.

You don’t need me to tell you that giving and meditation is good for your physical and mental wellbeing; they are widely documented.

Being kind, empathetic, and helpful to others is, in fact, the best way to live a long, healthy life while also reducing our levels of stress and despair.

5. Helping Others Is The Way to Add Meaning to Life

Altruistic acts, according to Van Tongeren, can help us find happiness because they enhance our interpersonal connections. [11].

Research participants were asked about their prosocial behavior, life purpose, and level of relationship satisfaction as a way to test this hypothesis.

Prosocial behavior and meaning in life were linked, and relationship satisfaction—in other words, the quality of people’s relationships—accounted for a portion of that link.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology [12] in 2010 sheds light on a possible contributing factor.

According to this article, when we engage in prosocial actions, we fulfill our basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness when we feel good and capable (feeling close to others).

In one study, participants were given the option of giving money to a study participant of their choice, or the researchers simply told them how much money to give.

As long as participants had the option of deciding how much money they wanted to donate, they were more likely to feel satisfied with their psychological needs.

Moreover, that feeling accounted for the link between giving and well-being, which suggests that giving may improve well-being because it helps us meet our psychological needs. ”

Altruism may be especially important for strengthening our relationships and connecting us with others, according to these two studies when taken together, because it meets basic human needs.

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄
⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

“It comes down to this—what are you DOING that’s making a difference?”

We must participate in acts of usefulness—to help and make people happy, to build something—rather than seeking satisfaction and purpose through worldly items.

What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning

    “The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.”

    6. Connect With the World

    Another influencer, Alain de Botton, the founder of the famous blog The School of Life, believes that the meaning of life comes down to three activities: [13]

    • Communication
    • Understanding
    • Service

    “Some of our most meaningful moments are to do with instances of connection,” he writes, be it to a person, song, or a book, for instance. It takes us out of our isolation. Understanding is our ability to make sense of the world, and service is to work on improving others’ lives.

    7. Use the PURE Model

    Finally, Peter Wong—a Canadian existential psychologist, has proposed a model known as PURE for individuals to discover meaning in their lives. [14]

    • P: Purpose and having worthy goals.
    • U: Understating—of who we are and of the world around us.
    • R: We have the sole responsibility to choose the life we want and to own our actions and their consequences.
    • E: Evaluation, to ensure we are on track with our goals.

    There are several options available to you that can provide you with a feeling of purpose. True, you may sometimes feel as if your acts are insignificant as if you are too insignificant to make a difference.

    However, this is not the case.

    It’s all about bringing out the best in you and doing good for yourself and others when it comes to meaning. As corny as it may seem, if we all commit to the objective of bettering ourselves and the world we live in, a single drop may turn into a wave.

    Final Thoughts

    Every action we take is influenced by our search for significance in our life. It’s the underlying cause of all of them. There’s no clear answer to the question, either.

    There are several ways to establish your purpose, including forming a tribe, striving to be a better version of yourself, helping and serving others, and setting and achieving goals.

    Because it’s such a broad term, defining what “purpose” really means might be difficult. It might mean a variety of things to different people.

    It’s possible that, in the end, there’s no single, overarching purpose to existence. It’s possible that a mosaic approach to understanding our meaning and purpose is preferable.

    Each aspect of our lives—family, friends, accomplishments, recognition—is a piece. To know if you’re satisfied with the picture you’ve created, you have to look at it as a whole.

    Or, as Sadhuguru has put it,

    “What is life?” I am reminding you that you are life!”

    Or, perhaps, it is as Viktor Frankl said:

    “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

    And we are all free to decide for ourselves what, when, and how significant life is.

    Featured photo credit: Donald Giannatti via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Common Sense Ethics: The Ancient Greeks Got Happiness Right: 3 Steps to Eudaimonia
    [2] MyGov: Life skills in education – perspective through Bhagavad Gita concepts
    [3] DailyStoic: Stoicism and Cynicism: Lessons, Similarities and Differences
    [4] The Guardian: In praise of cynicism
    [5] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Stoicism
    [6] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Existentialism
    [7] Ted Ideas: 4 lessons from the longest-running study on happiness
    [8] J Pers.: Relationships between meaning in life, social and achievement events, and positive and negative affect in daily life.
    [9] The Nobel Prize: Konrad Lorenz Biographical
    [10] British National Health Service: Five steps to mental wellbeing
    [11] Darius Foroux: The Purpose of Life
    [12] Research Gate: When Helping Helps: Autonomous Motivation for Prosocial Behavior and Its Influence on Well-Being for the Helper and Recipient
    [13] The Book of Life: What Is the Meaning of Life?
    [14] Peter Wong: Existential Positive Psychology

    More by this author

    Evelyn Marinoff

    A wellness advocate who writes about the psychology behind confidence, happiness and well-being.

    What Is an Existential Crisis? (And How to Cope With It)
    What Is an Existential Crisis? (And How to Cope With It)
    Midlife Crisis for Women: How It Makes You a Better Person
    Midlife Crisis for Women: How It Makes You a Better Person
    What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning
    What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning
    Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)
    Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)
    Is There a True Measure of Success? How to Define Your Own
    Is There a True Measure of Success? How to Define Your Own

    Trending in Meaning of Life

    1 How To Find Your Purpose Through Community 2 Why Is Life So Hard? 4 Things You Can Do About It 3 Your Life Is a Mess? How to Fix It and Turn Things Around 4 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Like Your Life Is Over 5 Why Does Life Suck So Bad Sometimes? (And How to Fix It)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Explore the Full Life Framework

    Advertising
    Advertising