What is a meaningful life? Is it due merit or virtue? How do we live a meaningful life? What is the point? Some are motivated to live a life of meaning by a belief that they will be judged at the end of their lives, others by a belief in karmic debts, accrued in past lives, to be paid in order for evolution in future ones. More still insist that life is meaningless so the idea of a meaningful life is obsolete.
For centuries the human condition has been the subject of artists and philosophers. Who are we? Why are we here? How are we here? What is a good act? What is justice? We are endlessly interested in ourselves and discovering our purpose but are we happy? Are we fulfilled? Are we connected? Do we experience peace? Have we uncovered our potential? Have we acknowledged God within?
Positive psychology claims that there are three dimensions of happiness. The Pleasant Life, where a person experiences positive emotions by accepting the past and present and remaining hopeful about the future. This is a life of pleasure and gratification. The Good Life that embodies virtues and cultivates strengths. This is a life of growth and value. The Meaningful Life that sees a person working creatively, living positively, embodying virtue, living kindly. This is a life lived in the service of others, working towards a greater happiness; something greater than yourself.
Whether we agree with this, are drawn more towards an idea of one connected consciousness or a different value system altogether, the idea that we work towards a greater world by focusing on our own acts of meaning is an idea many approaches foster. A vast number of people accept and believe that a life that helps and aids humanity is a life well lived and that recognising our connection to others and respecting that connection is conducive to happiness.
So how do we live this way? How do we uncover our passions, utilise our strengths, be at peace with our past and choose growth over comfort? It would seem that acknowledging our power and inborn abilities is the first step on the path and to do this we must shrug off the ego and its insistence that we pay attention to the teachings of society that see us as single, separate, limited, under attack. We must understand our role in the bigger picture and take responsibility for our choices. We must examine our ideas of comfort and explore whether we are fulfilled, living a life with purpose, happy with how we are spending our time on Earth.
Are we working to build and shape an altruistic, loving and kind world or something other? We know how it resonates with us to be kind, to act from love and to serve others but how quick the ego is to jump in and judge us on whether we are really good or faking or judge others on whether their reaction to our kindness is wrong or right.
When we cast off the ego and its unhelpful voice, we are more likely to begin discovering who we really are and how we might really live. Life is full of opportunities. When we decide we don’t actually know who we are, we are able to open up to who we might be. There is no law that we each find our purpose. No demand that we grow from our encounters but we find that spiritual insights abound once we let go of what we ‘know’ and become curious about more explorative modes of being and living.
More and more we are beginning to understand that we have the power to choose different roles for ourselves than the ones we have been cast. We do not have to accept the labels society has forced upon us and live a life that leaves us dull and unfulfilled inside. We can choose to find meaning in life in spite of the pessimists and precisely because if there is no meaning then why not use our time to encourage true happiness and wellbeing for all?
For an hour, a day or even a week, what could change for us if we question every unhappy or unhealthy thought that we have? Every thought that tells who we are, what we are not, to just stay safe, stay comfortable, not make the effort to explore a new way? What could change if we make every single choice from love for ourselves, love for life, love for the people around us? How might things improve if we embrace life and promote passion and reverence for it?
All we have is this moment we find ourselves in right now. The past is no longer happening, the future is but a dream. Do we want to spend our now in an unconscious state of survival or do we want to choose a more meaningful existence? We learn as we grow and our ability to learn never leaves us. If life is a journey then our path is a spiritual one and we have the choice to reach a point of comfort or keep moving forwards through levels of enlightenment, letting go of the rules and regulations that have been foisted upon us and opening up to the limitless potential of the intelligence within.
A life of meaning is a life lived as a message. What would you like your message to be? You get to choose.