What leads to meaning in life? And what do you do to create more meaning?
What is the definition of meaning?
When we talk about meaning in psychology, we are generally referring to a significant or valuable explanation for why something happened or why it matters. This sense of meaning contributes to greater well-being. Although there is some agreement on what leads to meaning in life, ultimately, the definition of meaning depends on who you ask.
How is meaning different than happiness?
Both happiness and meaning come from interacting with other people. But meaning, in particular, comes caring for others. For example, parenting contributes to more meaning but tends to contribute to more happiness.
Meaning also often comes from experiencing challenges, while happiness does not. Doing things that are hard often generates a sense of meaning—we feel like we have done something important or meaningful.
Lastly, our identities can contribute to more meaning. For example, we may have had to overcome difficulties—difficulties that made us who we are. This sense of story about how we came to be who we are is often meaningful to us.
What situations are meaningful?
Here are some examples of meaning in situations that many people experience.
The birth of a child
Getting an important job
The death of a loved one
Divorce or relationship breakup
Losing a job
A near-death experience
It's interesting to see how meaning may more often come from difficult than ease.
How to create meaning in your life
Here are some ways to create meaning in your life
Volunteering or helping someone
Starting an important project
Pursuing something challenging
Learning something new
There are so many ways to create more meaning in your life.
Create meaning with kindness
One of the best ways to cultivate life purpose is by giving, being kind, compassionate, and generous–you may feel like you are in greater alignment with your values.
So ask yourself, what are kind acts you could engage in? Your random acts of kindness could be as simple as sharing a kind word or thank you. Or you could do a task for someone, like mowing their lawn, getting them groceries, or shoveling snow. You can also be kind creatively, maybe by giving someone a hand-made card or picture.
You could also do community service or join a program to clean up the environment. When you are giving, you can start to feel that you are providing something that helps others and are living a life of meaning.
Regardless of the strategy you choose, kindness is a great way to create more meaning in your life.
What is already meaningful?
Don't forget to notice the meaning that is already in your life. Maybe you find meaning in that one flower that somehow grew from between the cracks of the sidewalk. Maybe there is meaning in looking over rolling hills that seem to stretch on forever. Or maybe you find meaning in spending time with your pets. There are all sorts of little things that can provide meaning if you take the time to notice them.
If you make use of the tips provided here, you really can create more meaning in your life.