If we look into human history, there has been one question that has been either asked directly or alluded to, in all religions and cultures. This question is: What is the meaning of life? Ever since humans started thinking rationally and analyzing their surroundings, they have been curious about why things are the way that they are. From wanting to know how organisms have evolved to asking more broad questions about the purpose of life, God and the nature of the universe.
What makes life worth living? Is it a life filled with happiness and success or a life filled with purpose and meaning? Is there even a difference between the two? Recently, I read a quote by John Maxwell and the dots finally connected. He says: “Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value to others.”
While the thirst for success is never quenched, significance satisfies our deepest heart and soul. It allows us to lay our head on our pillow each night confident that we lived a valuable and fulfilling day. The pursuit of significance is a daily practice of priorities. It is when you set out on a path, focused on something important and you work towards it with dedication every day. It can be anything from a tangible goal to the legacy you leave behind one day. It truly does not matter where you begin, what matters is what you achieve at the end.
The purpose of life, therefore, is to create your own meaning and to bring it to fruition. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us—right here, right now. We can find meaning in every scenario, event, occurrence and context. We can find meaning in the sublime, the absurd, the dull and dreary, and in the perfectly wretched in life.
Here are simple ways to pursue significance in your life:
Begin and end with gratitude:
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. Start each day and finish each evening by thinking of three things for which you are grateful. When we anchor ourselves to the abundance in our lives, we uncover that which is most significant to us. It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us true happiness and contentment.
Value what you have:
If you need something to believe in, start with yourself. Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. And until you value your time, you’ll do nothing with it. When clearly defined, your values will simplify your decision making process and will create fertile soul for you to flourish.
Dream big, live big:
Clear out the clutter in your mind so that your dreams have room to live and grow. Set goals: Plan, execute and implement them. A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action becomes a reality. Dream big, work hard, make it happen!
Act with meaning:
The purpose of life is not to be happy, rather it is to be useful, honorable, compassionate, make a difference and leave your mark in the world. In the hyper-competitive world in which we live, leaving a legacy is often implicitly put forth as the highest virtue. It is a way in which we will feel valued and remembered after we have gone. It doesn’t have to always be grand, it could be something small that aids you in leaving the world a slightly better place than when you came into it.
The Tyranny of Time:
Do not be lured into the premise that ‘someday’ you will take action, since that day may never come. Many people die with their music still in them. You’re never going to be 100% ready and it’s never going to be just the right time. This means that every moment is also the right moment. If you want it, you just have to do it!
If you don’t make the time to creating a life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with the life you don’t want. Remember, we came to this world with a purpose. Find out what that is. It’s going to be hard, but hard isn’t impossible.