Having a sense of significance in our lives is important to our balance and well-being. Our internal guidance system is complex, but it ultimately comes down to the choices we make, and there is a fundamental logic to these choices. As beautiful human beings we choose to engage in activities that we know we are skilled in (often things we can do well or that bring us joy). We choose to engage in ways that make us feel good about ourselves, that hold value. We choose to do things that support our loved ones, our team and sometimes our community. We choose to action things that we have a measure of autonomy over, allowing us to execute on them in a felt or complete way.
When we have no choice, we can derive little joy out of what we are engaged in. That is not to say that throughout a day we will each only get to engage in things that make us happy, there is always a measure of “have to do”, in accomplishing those things that feed our sense of significance to enact our values. As an example, accounting, expenses and taxes hold very little joy for me but they are significant to me and I engage in them regularly and with purpose because they are key to enabling me to continue doing what I love to do for a living.
Meaning then is comprised of choices (large and small) that are based on our sense of self, our values, principles and awareness of what we enjoy doing (and why we enjoy it) and how it touches others. It’s often assumed that happiness is the needed focus in life – if we are happy then everything else falls into place. But happiness is fleeting, for many of us it is often conditional (we can only access it when certain conditions are present, or absent). Our relationship with meaning is quite different then the one we have with happiness; we recognize upfront there is work involved, that having meaning present in work and life isn’t a given (or an entitlement), but it is in our control to increase, and if we want what we do to be meaningful we need to look beyond our own needs and wants.
The wisest words that I could find on meaning were from Joseph Campbell; “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
Go bring your meaning to life.