“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. 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.”
What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of my life? For centuries religious figures, philosophers, sages and most of us have pondered these philosophical questions about our existence. The quest for meaning and the discovery of our life purpose is part of being human.
Often clients or students will comment, “I don’t know what to do with my life” or “I don’t know what my life purpose is”. It is a difficult process to experience and to navigate for most of us. Those big questions lead us to contemplate and try to decipher the cosmic significance of life but often leave us confused about what the answer actually is. Steve has a great answer: “The meaning of life is 42” which he adopted from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I prefer Joseph Campbell’s answer above. Unlike Steve and Joseph, I personally don’t have an answer for you! But I do have some thoughts I hope will be supportive.
Meaning … we flourish when we have it and suffer when we don’t.
Meaning exists as a concept for all of us and there are infinite potential sources of meaning, but what do we specifically experience as meaningful, as personally fulfilling or worthwhile in our own lives? How do we expand our understanding of what gives our lives meaning and how do we expand our capacity to experience more meaning in our lives? Is there a practical, step-by-step guide, a how-to methodology that we can follow? A Meaning Manual? I have yet to find one, and I promise to tell you all about it if I do! I do, however, have a couple of steps that I want to share with you that have been helpful for me and to some of my clients.
Step 1 – I have some questions for you.
Look over the questions below, you don’t have to have all the answers, but stay with the questions and see what comes up for you. Not all will speak to you, some will engage you more than others, but give them all some thought. Write the answers out if you can as that will help you to go a little deeper with the process.
What do you personally find meaningful in your life?
When you were young, what were your dreams and interests?
Is your life motivated by value-based goals? What are those values? What are those goals?
What do you stand for? What do you stand against?
What enthralls you and captivates your attention?
What do you really care about? What energizes you?
What do you dream about doing or being?
Have you ever lost yourself, and the passage of time, while doing something? What was it?
What takes up the majority of your time and is it a genuine expression of who you are?
What is your life trying to become and how do you serve or deny that life-drive inside you?
Do you want to make a difference in this world? How?
What does the world need from you?
If nothing stopped you from living the story of your very best life, who would you be in that story?
Meaning, purpose and passion.
Those three tend to get mixed up and interlinked in our minds and experience, don’t they? What do they mean to you? To me, meaning is linked to what Joseph Campbell wrote – that rapture of being alive and knowing that our lives resonate deeply with our own innermost being and reality. Purpose is defined by how we inspire and impact others, using our gifts to be of service to more than ourselves. Purpose would answer the question “what does the world need from you?” Passion is energy! It is engagement, drive and focus. We can have many different passions, which is wonderful, however not all passions are connected to our purpose because not all serve a higher good.
Step 2 – What’s your passion?
Step 2 is about passion, which the questions above are designed to support you in uncovering. We often wait for passion to find us and purpose and meaning to announce themselves to us, and in the waiting we can lose hope and direction. Passion is a result of action, not the other way around. We ignite it and keep it burning by actively engaging in it. The more that we engage in doing what we love, the more our passion becomes a driving force in our lives.
In order to engage in our passion we need to do more than think about it … action is required. That may mean taking steps like taking some type of training to develop our knowledge, skills or understanding. Volunteering in areas that are in alignment with our passion. Seeking consultation with those who have engaged in similar undertakings. Talking to people about our passion. Writing about it. Asking for mentoring, for advice, for support, for guidance and for help. These can be difficult steps to take because they often engage old belief systems that are difficult to move through. When we engage the process of evolution, anxiety can kick in, we can feel scared and ego thoughts can start to take hold. In order to keep moving forward, it may mean that we will have to break up with old friends like complacency, apathy, denial and sabotage. Our liberation from everything that holds us back from experiencing our passion and aligning with our purpose is our responsibility.
This is how I tell the story of passion, purpose and meaning – if you align your values with what you are passionate about, that value-based passion can ignite a purpose that is bigger than self, which supports your life becoming more meaningful through contribution and service.
Find your passion, let it serve others … you are the meaning that is brought to life.