The secret to a meaningful life is simpler than you think Quartz

By contrast, three-in-ten adults ages 65 and older mention religion when describing what makes their life meaningful and fulfilling. These divergent results underscore the very different nature of the two kinds of questions. The results of the open-ended question suggest that when asked to describe, in their own words, what provides them with meaning and fulfillment and satisfaction in life, relatively few people think immediately of pets or caring for animals. Other things – including family, friends, career and religious faith – may come to mind much more quickly for most people. Recall that naturalism is the view that a physical life is central to life’s meaning, that even if there is no spiritual realm, a substantially meaningful create meaning in life life is possible. Like supernaturalism, contemporary naturalism admits of two distinguishable variants, moderate and extreme . The moderate version is that, while a genuinely meaningful life could be had in a purely physical universe as known well by science, a somewhat more meaningful life would be possible if a spiritual realm also existed. God or a soul could enhance meaning in life, although they would not be major contributors. The extreme version of naturalism is the view that it would be better in respect of life’s meaning if there were no spiritual realm. From this perspective, God or a soul would be anti-matter, i.e., would detract from the meaning available to us, making a purely physical world preferable.

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Heintzelman and King suggest that routines, patterns , time blocking, and clean environments can all contribute to an increased ability to make sense of one’s environment, which in turn can lead to an increased sense of meaningfulness. People who report fewer social connections, loneliness, and ostracism also report lower meaningfulness . Sharing your passions with a group of like-minded individuals also helps further develop harmonious passions, which, in turn, can generate a sense of meaningfulness . The philosophical question is aimed at understanding the meaning of life in general, as well as our role in that meaning.

Finding Meaning as You Age

There is also debate about how the concept of a meaningless life relates to the ideas of a life that is absurd (Nagel 1970, 1986, 214–23; Feinberg 1980; Belliotti 2019), futile , and not worth living (Landau 2017, 12–15; Matheson 2017). If you feel lost or unhappy with how your life is playing out, the first step is to start thinking about what you value in life. Going through the process of identifying these core values can empower you to live a life full of meaning and purpose—sometimes referred to as “living intentionally.” Abe extracted measures of happiness and meaning-making from weekly journals, which were written over the course of a semester. The participants were given freedom to write about what they wanted, and were encouraged to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings. Therefore, this study allowed people to really process their emotions and integrate their experiences across time. But while religion is not a universal source from which Americans say they obtain “a great deal” of meaning, it is a highly salient source of fulfillment among those who select it. Indeed, among those who say (in the closed-ended survey) that religion provides them with “a great deal” of meaning, 55% say that religion is their most important source of meaning, while fewer (30%) say family provides them with the most meaning and fulfillment. But the language surrounding other topics was more nuanced, making the interpretation of some kinds of responses more ambiguous. Human coding conducted by researchers found that most such responses (77% of all responses coded as having referenced money) mention money in a positive sense.

create meaning in life

As you can see from these examples, intentions are an ongoing process. They are not just something that can be achieved or “crossed off” your list. Write a simple statement about how you would like to live your life in each of these areas. These statements, which are called intention statements, will help you live a more purposeful life according to your values. Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Wellbeing U, one of our free online learning platforms, offers a course on finding your purpose with life-coach and well-known author Richard Leider, author ofThe Power of Purpose. Your life purpose consists of the central motivating aims of your life—the reasons you get up in the morning.

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Notice that this objection is distinct from considerations of boredom and repetition ; even if one were stimulated and active, and even if one found a way not to repeat one’s life in the course of eternity, an immortal life would appear to lack shape. In reply, some reject the idea that a meaningful life must be akin to a novel, and intead opt for narrativity in the form of something like a string of short stories that build on each other (Fischer 2009, 145–77, 2019, 101–16). Others, though, have sought to show that eternity could still be novel-like, deeming the sort of ending that matters to be a function of what the content is and how it relates to the content that came before (e.g., Seachris 2011; Williams 2020, 112–19). Focusing on meaning in life, it is quite common to maintain that it is conceptually something good for its own sake or, relatedly, something that provides a basic reason for action . There are a few who have recently suggested otherwise, maintaining that there can be neutral or even undesirable kinds of meaning in a person’s life (e.g., Mawson 2016, 90, 193; Thomas 2018, 291, 294). However, these are outliers, with most analytic philosophers, and presumably laypeople, instead wanting to know when an individual’s life exhibits a certain kind of final value (or non-instrumental reason for action). Meaning-making through spirituality and religiosity is significant because it helps individuals cope with their loss, as well as develop their own spiritual or religious beliefs. Spirituality and religiosity helps grievers think about a transcendental reality, share their worldview, and feel a sense of belonging to communities with shared beliefs. With the experience of a death, people often have to create new meaning of their loss. Interventions that promote meaning-making may be beneficial to grievers, as some interventions have been found to improve both mental health and physical health.

Why is meaning important in language?

Meaning seems at once the most obvious feature of language and the most obscure aspect to study. It is obvious because it is what we use language for—to communicate with each other, to convey 'what we mean' effectively.

Fostering interests and hobbies is another way to find meaning in your life, buttressing against negative feelings and thoughts. On the whole, individuals with a higher sense of meaning in life a few years earlier were later living lives characterised by health and well-being. While this study focused on the differences between happiness and meaning, it should be noted that optimal well-being often consists of both. The pursuit of happiness and meaning are two of our most central motivations in life. A wealth of research in positive psychology suggests that happiness and meaning are, in fact, essential elements of well-being. Happiness and meaning are strongly correlated with each other, and often feed off each other.

Smaller shares of mainline Protestants (18%) and Catholics (16%) mention faith and spirituality as sources of meaning and fulfillment. Different groups of Americans mention different topics when asked what gives them meaning in life. Those with high income levels are more likely to mention friends and being in good health. Evangelical Protestants are more likely than Christians in general to say that they find a great deal of meaning in religion. Those who identify as politically liberal mention creative activities more than Americans overall, while conservatives are more likely to bring up faith, even after controlling for differences in their religious identification. For the most part, these and other patterns are observed in both the open-ended and closed-ended questions . Americans with high levels of household income and educational attainment are more likely to mention friendship, good health, stability and travel. A quarter of Americans who earn at least $75,000 a year mention their friends when asked to describe, in their own words, what makes life meaningful, compared with 14% of Americans who earn less than $30,000 each year. Similarly, 23% of higher-income U.S. adults mention being in good health, compared with 10% of lower-income Americans. And among those with a college degree, 11% mention travel and a sense of security as things that make their lives fulfilling, compared with 3% and 2%, respectively, who name these sources of meaning among those with a high school degree or less.

Suppose you’re a waiter; focus on the roles you play in your guests’ lives. Think about how you’re helping your customers unwind after a long day or celebrate an important occasion. The moment you ask empowering questions and start living the answers, you will be making a statement to the universe declaring the life you wish to lead. Your thoughts, words and actions become your affirmations toward life. So to create meaning in one’s life, it is important that Sober Home you simplify your life by finding out what is important to you. I suggest that you make a list and take the time to contemplate what the most important aspects of your life are and eliminate anything which competes against the pursuit of this importance. Landau argues that anyone who believes life can be meaningless also assumes the importance of value. In other words, if you think life can be meaningless, then you believe that there is such a thing as value.

Even if their ability to exercise is limited and they can only run for short distances, they can still pursue their goal of physical fitness without losing their sense of purpose. Whether you’re practicing the piano, writing, or saving up to buy a house, accomplishing a concrete step every day can make your actions feel more meaningful. When your goals don’t seem achievable, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have a purpose. If you feel stuck in a rut, assess your current projects, and break them up into steps that can give you a sense of purpose on a daily basis. Now that you’ve written down your personal projects and goals, work on drawing concrete actions from them. Turn the abstract, big-picture things that give you purpose into specific actions that you can accomplish every day.

  • In 2014, the First Congress on the Construction of Personal Meaning was held as part of the Eighth Biennial International Meaning Conference convened by the International Network on Personal Meaning.
  • He said that people could discover meaning through doing a deed, experiencing value, and experiencing suffering.
  • Balancing your macronutrients doesn’t require traditional religion—many secular and even atheist philosophies offer a way to cultivate them as well, focusing on ethical and moral behavior.
  • But that doesn’t lead to meaning being purely objective, permanent, unchanging.
  • A salient argument for this position is that judgments of the meaningfulness of a part of someone’s life are merely provisional, open to revision upon considering how they fit into a wider perspective.

As such, it seems to be a “hack” in our brains that helping out other people gives us a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Just the fact you can say to yourself, “If I died, then someone is better off because I lived,” creates that sense of meaning that can propel you forward. We know a few things about participants in Steptoe and Fancourt’s study who reported relatively higher meaning in life during the first survey. For instance, they contacted their friends frequently, belonged to social groups, engaged in volunteering, and maintained a suite of healthy habits relating to sleep, diet and exercise. Some people feel hesitant about pursuing their life purpose because they worry that it sounds like a self-serving or selfish quest. However, true purpose is about recognizing your own gifts and using them to contribute to the world—whether those gifts are playing beautiful music for others to enjoy, helping friends solve problems, or simply bringing more joy into the lives of those around you. Conversely, there are few topics that those with lower levels of income and education mention more often than others.

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As an example, one of the things I value is being able to share ideas and help others discover greater well-being. This motivates me to keep writing blogs and put my writing “out there” in cyberspace, despite some discomfort and worries about what others will think. As create meaning in life an Occupational Therapist in mental health ‘meaningful occupation ‘ is at the core of my philosophy. Your article puts the concept very concisely and has some excellent quotes and explanations to illustrate a meaningful life that so many people struggle to comprehend.

create meaning in life

It does not matter what you think to be the purpose of life is. What matters for this argument is that if one man says he finds the purpose of life to be drinking alcohol till he dies and another man says he finds the purpose of life to avoid drinking alcohol. The first man might be right, the second man might be right, or they may both be wrong but they will never both be right because they contradict each other. The truth to the purpose of life is hard to find because it is not a yes or no question. There is an answer to why we exist, most people just give up because it is arguably the hardest truth to prove. So I see a truly humanist stance as recognising our situation, that much about our meaning systems is inherited, founded in biological and social functions. History is not ‘out there’, but remade by each generation, who mix the past with their own concerns, and find new true insights, inexhaustably.

Even those who believe that God is or would be central to life’s meaning have lately addressed how an individual’s life might be meaningful in virtue of God more often than how the human race might be. A salient argument for this position is that judgments of the meaningfulness of a part of someone’s life are merely provisional, open to revision upon considering how they fit into a wider perspective. It is worth considering how far this sort of case is generalizable, and, if it can be to a substantial extent, whether that provides strong evidence that only life as a whole can exhibit meaningfulness. According to this version of naturalism, meaning in life varies from person to person, depending on each one’s variable pro-attitudes. Common instances are views that one’s life is more meaningful, the more one gets what one happens to want strongly, achieves one’s highly ranked goals, or does what one believes to be really important (Trisel 2002; Hooker 2008). One influential subjectivist has recently maintained that the relevant mental state is caring or loving, so that life is meaningful just to the extent that one cares about or loves something (Frankfurt 1988, 80–94, 2004). Another recent proposal is that meaningfulness consists of “an active engagement and affirmation that vivifies the person who has freely created or accepted and now promotes and nurtures the projects of her highest concern” . Cross-cutting the extreme/moderate distinction is one between God-centered theories and soul-centered ones. In contrast, by the latter, having a soul and putting it into a certain state is what makes life meaningful, even if God does not exist. Many supernaturalists of course believe that God and a soul are jointly necessary for a meaningful existence.

Similarly, the words used to discuss being in good health were distinct enough from those used to discuss health difficulties and medical issues that researchers were able to measure both concepts with two different sets of keywords. To tackle this topic, Pew Research Center conducted two separate surveys in late 2017. The first included an open-ended question asking Americans to describe in their own words what makes their lives feel meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying. This approach gives respondents an opportunity to describe the myriad things they find meaningful, from careers, faith and family, to hobbies, pets, travel, music and being outdoors.

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By the concept of relativism however, murder is not bad or good because a person could just believe the truth otherwise. If you disagree with this statement than you do not believe in a relativistic world because how can that person be wrong if HE SETS his truthful purpose in life. Why do we need a justice system to enforce a law if the laws are relative? What is proposed by allowing ourselves to set truth instead of proposing to find truth is chaos and anarchy. They don’t care that their objective life is meaningless because their subjective life is rich. But it works for some, to live in the Virtual Monastery of the Machine Elves or the Abbey of Brother URL. I will write them off as a reference point for this answer, because if it comes naturally to you, the solution is so obvious it does not submit to analysis. Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. As we do, at different stages of our lives, we find different questions and different possibilities. Purpose will be unique for everyone; what you identify as your path may be different from others.

create meaning in life

Draw connections between your day-to-day tasks and the people you’re ultimately serving. No matter what you do for a living, take pride in the fact that your work improves someone’s life, solves a problem, or makes the world a better place. If you find a deficit in a particular area of meaning, search for it in a productive way. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out how to do it on your own—philosophical and religious traditions have been doing exactly that for millennia. One of the best organized strategies comes from Hinduism’s concept of the ashramas, or the four stages of a balanced life.

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