If you feel as if your life is lacking meaning, there’s good news – it doesn’t have to be that way!
“What are some rules that you have for living a more meaningful life?” I asked my long-time friend.
After thinking about it for a couple of minutes, she replied, “Don’t go through life unaware.”
There’s an immediacy to this statement, since the word “life” implies human experience in its most present form. In other words, awareness must be applied throughout each day to make it meaningful – not just when faced with tragedy or crisis.
In fact, if we were more mindful of what happens, not just in their own lives but within our communities and throughout the world, we could make a real difference.
And although we might not be able to change everything we see, we would at least know why things are the way they are.
What does a meaningful life mean?
The definition of a meaningful life is actually quite subjective.
Nonetheless, there are common themes or characteristics such as loving yourself more, giving of your time and resources to help others, appreciating the beauty in life (whether it’s nature or man-made), seeking knowledge, gaining perspective on the things that affect you.
Why is living a more meaningful life important?
A meaningful life is essential for optimal well-being and motivation. Additionally, it is associated with greater life satisfaction, happiness, occupational wellness and positivity.
Research shows that with the exception of binge drinking and smoking, living a more meaningful life has a positive role on negative health behaviors in adolescents (Brassai et al., 2010).
It also has a positive role on depression, fatigue and coping even in persons with chronic diseases and cancer (Dezutter, 2013).
The presence – and not the search – of meaning has been shown to decrease thoughts and attempts of suicide (Kleiman & Beaver, 2013).
Is happiness the same as meaningfulness?
Although happiness and meaningfulness are often interrelated, they do have significant differences.
According to research, self-satisfaction was much more important to increasing happiness than it was to increasing meaning.
Additionally, whereas happiness was more focused on the present, meaningfulness involved an integration of the past, present and future.
Personal identify and self-expression contributed to a meaningful but not a happy life. Further, happiness was more linked to receiving and meaningfulness to giving (Baumeister et al., 2013).
So, with that in mind, here are five rules to experience a more meaningful life.
Rules to live a more meaningful life
Living a meaningful life doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Here are some simple and actionable ways for you to live a more meaningful life.
|Rules for living a more meaningful life
|(1) Start where you are
|*Identify what you need for personal fulfillment.
*Live in each season of your life.
*Be present in the moment.
|(2) Create a vision of where you want to go
|Keep it simple.
*Visualize yourself in the future.
*Think about how you want to be remembered.
|(3) Identify the roadblocks
|*Don’t underestimate the process.
*Stay accountable to your values and goals.
*Use willpower to overcome roadblocks and take action.
|(4) Have courage to take action
*Enjoy the journey and the positive impact you’re making.
*Find someone to hold you accountable.
|(5) Continue to grow and evolve
*Allow yourself to take breaks.
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1.To live a more meaningful life, start where you are
Perhaps the most obvious rule is also the simplest one – start where you are. When you feel stuck or confused about what path to take, it’s often because you’ve lost sight of who we are and what really matters to you.
You need to take a honest look at yourself before you can make any necessary changes.
So, the first step is being aware enough to recognize that there’s a problem with your current state of affairs. That somehow you’ve fallen into a routine or simply going through the motions.
You need to be mindful of how far off track you’ve gone and accept responsibility for what you need to change.
Starting with the present moment gives you a way to measure your progress and it keeps you from getting overwhelmed, since change will happen gradually.
“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua Marine
Tips for starting where you are
(1) Identify what you need to be fulfilled in your life
Identifying the things that make you fulfilled can go a long way towards getting you on track to a more meaningful life. In fact, it can put you in touch with your inner self.
For instance, do you want to spend more time with family, volunteer more or take up a new hobby.
(2) Live in each season of your life
Everybody experiences different seasons in their lives. Times when certain things are more important than others.
Take a step back and view your life as something that happens over time. Realize that living in each season is vital for making your days meaningful, since it allows you to appreciate the things you value most and make the most out of what you’ve got.
(3) Be present in the moment
Living in the present may sound simple but it can be difficult to put into practice because our minds are always wandering off to somewhere else – past or future – instead of focusing on what we’re doing right now.
So, let’s make sure every moment counts by bringing our attention back to where it belongs – here and now!
2.Increase meaning by creating a vision of where you want to go
Once you’re able to recognize the problems in your lives, the next step is thinking about how you can fix or improve them. In fact, creating a vision of where you’d rather be allows you to begin taking action.
Thus, after describing your current state of affairs in detail, think about how you would like things to be.
"A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more." - Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Tips for creating a vision of where you want to go
(1) Keep it simple
When you get overwhelmed by too many details, remember that you do not need to figure out all of the specific steps required to get from Point A to Point B at once.
Instead, focus on the results you are trying to achieve. Additionally, try to get rid of clutter and distractions so that you can focus on what’s really important.
(2) Visualize yourself in the future
Use your imagination to think about how things could be different. You might even want to create a vision board with images that represent this new reality for you.
This is helpful in creating a sense of intent and purpose.
(3) Think about how you want to be remembered
Thinking about your legacy may seem a little excessive. But, it’s necessary if you really care about the impact you have on those around us.
Thinking about how you want to be remembered is a great motivator to start paying attention to the significance of your actions.
For example, you might try asking yourself:
“What kind of impact do I want to have on society?” “How do I want the world to remember me? How can I leave this planet better than I found it?”
Draw a picture of how you want your life to look like. Also, describe in detail what it would be like if all of your dreams came true (relationships, career, home, etc.).
(4) Seek inspiration from people who are living meaningful lives
How did they get to where they are today? What did they do differently from everybody else? Seeking motivation from inspirational persons can provide a valuable road map.
3.Identify the roadblocks on your journey to a more meaningful life
To create a more meaningful life, you should make a list of all the reasons why taking action is difficult. Try to get as specific as possible.
In fact, once you’ve got a pretty good idea of what stands in your way, you can work on removing those roadblocks that prevent you from living a more meaningful life.
"The greatest barrier to someone achieving their potential is their denial of it." - Simon Travaglia
Tips for identifying the roadblocks you face
(1) Don’t underestimate the process
Acknowledge that it will be difficult to change your current habits. But, do not let this scare you off. Think of any kind of opportunity for growth as a chance to learn something about yourself.
Additionally, remember that changing your habits, environment or the people around you is something that takes time.
(2) Stay accountable to your values and goals
You may have already done a lot of reflection on the practical steps you need to take, but now it’s time to reevaluate how well your actions are aligned with your deepest-held personal values.
This is an ongoing process that requires some self-awareness about what you want out of life.
Every time you make a decision, try to consider how it will affect your life in the long run. This requires being honest with yourself about what matters the most and takes work to build up over time.
Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that your values may change as you age.
This doesn’t mean that you need to abandon what was important to you at one point, but it’s useful information that can help guide you into new areas of growth.
If possible, try making decisions with the long-term consequences in mind even if there is a more enjoyable short-term choice available.
Doing this will help you form better habits that are aligned with your core values, which tends to lead towards a more meaningful life.
(3) Use willpower to overcome roadblocks and take action
This is perhaps one of the most challenging rules because it involves putting ideas into practice. The good news is that acting with intention can make a huge difference in your life.
In addition, having an open mind about what’s possible will be crucial as well. This means not becoming discouraged when things don’t happen right away or when you make mistakes along the way.
4.Have courage to take action to increase life’s meaning
Of course, knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it are two very different things. Partly because we’re often held back by feelings of fear, anxiety or doubt.
So finding the courage to take action is often where many people get stuck. But even if the first steps are small, it’s still better than doing nothing at all.
“Do not wait until regrets are your only option, make the changes and act before it’s too late.” ― RJ Intindola
Tips for having the courage to take action
(1) Starting small
Start with baby steps. In fact, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re starting out.
So, instead of trying to change everything in your life at once, just focus on making one small change that can have a significant impact on your the journey or your self-esteem.
Once you’re comfortable with baby steps, think about what’s the one thing that would have the most positive impact on your life if you just did it.
Whether it’s joining a new club or taking lessons, setting aside time to meet up with friends on weekends or even just starting an exercise routine.
Remember to find something that can serve as motivation for you to keep moving forward.
Read more about how to break bad habits that affect your life.
(2) Enjoy the journey and the positive impact you’re making
Even if we’re taking massive strides toward what we care about, it’s still easy to get bogged down by the daily grind.
In fact, it’s quite easy to lose sight of how our actions can positively affect those around us as well as ourselves. Remembering how your efforts are making a bigger difference can keep you going day after day.
(3) Find someone to hold you accountable
The idea of having to answer for your actions can be a little scary, but it can also be incredibly motivating.
This, consider sharing your goals and progress with a close friend or family member who you trust and who will keep you accountable.
If this doesn’t work for you, find someone online – there are a number of accountability groups you can join, with a little search you’ll find the right one.
(4) Be open-minded about what’s possible
Finally, remember that no rules are set in stone when it comes to living a more meaningful life. So what works for one person might not work for you. Believe in your ability to change and create a life of greater purpose and meaning.
5.Continue to grow and evolve to live a meaningful life
Life is a dynamic experience that requires constant adaptation. So, there will always be new obstacles to face or issues to address.
That’s why the final rule for living a more meaningful life is to continue growing and evolving. This allows you to learn from your mistakes while staying focused on what matters most.
When you’re able to recognize how far off track you’ve gone or where there’s room for improvement, you’re able to make more realistic goals.
Take some time on a regular basis to reflect on how your life is changing, what’s working, and whether you’re getting closer to where you want to be.
Take note of what efforts are working best for you personally. This strategy will help you pick up the pace if necessary.
“Life is change. If you aren't growing and evolving, you're standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.” ― Louise Penny
Tips for continuing to grow and evolve
(1) Practice self-compassion
It’s important to remember that being kind to yourself is just as important as being kind to others.
Treat yourself with the same respect and love you would show to your close friends or family members, because when things get tough, compassion can be an incredibly powerful motivator.
Research shows that psychological health, including positive relations and self-acceptance, is strongly linked to increased meaning in life (Brassai et al., 2010).
(2) Allow yourself to take breaks and enjoy the moment
This is especially important if you’re always on the go and having a hard time slowing down and taking a break from your schedule.
If you try too hard to be productive every waking hour of the day, you might burn out. Always remember to have fun along the way.
(3) Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can help you tune into your emotions and understand the power they hold over us. It will allow you to be more conscious of how your actions affect those around you.
Having a clear mind also helps prepare you for future obstacles. And remember to have fun along the way.
(4) Read personal development books
There are tons of great self-help books out there that can help you use your negative emotions as motivators, thus creating a more fulfilling life for yourself. Also, worksheets can help you identify what’s holding you back and how to overcome it.
(5) Surround yourself with positive people
It’s so much easier to remain positive if you’re surrounded by other people who uplift and inspire you, as opposed to those who are judgmental or unsupportive.
And, when you have a good support system behind you, it’s much easier to deal with your problems and put yourself out there without feeling worried or scared.
If you keep these rules in mind, I’d say it’s possible to have a more meaningful life. Although you may not be able to fix all of your problems, at least you’ll know where to start.
Final words on creating a more meaningful life
Living a more meaningful life is a personal journey. In the end, there is no one right answer. I hope that you’ve found some inspiration for your own life.
However, you have to be willing to take it upon yourself because nothing will change if you don’t step up and make it happen.
Please share your thoughts below and let me know what’s your best advice or biggest challenges relating to living a more meaningful life.
The importance of simplifying your life
Simplifying your life is a good way to be more productive and relieve stress. In fact, having fewer obligations in your life can help lower your stress levels, improve self-control and increase your overall life satisfaction.
Undoubtedly, it is easier to focus on one thing at a time, rather than several things at once. Also, try simplifying the tasks that you have been avoiding because they are too complex or time consuming.
Although it can be difficult, there’s great gain from simplicity.
How to inspire others with your work?
To inspiring others with your work, start by having a strong why. Really get clear on the purpose of your work.
Then, find ways that you can motivate or improve someone else’s life – or even their day – through it. Being able to do this will make your work more meaningful and impactful for others while increasing your own happiness!
Use this link to discover more on occupational wellness.
Brassai, L., Piko, B.F. & Steger, M.F. Meaning in Life: Is It a Protective Factor for Adolescents’ Psychological Health?. Int.J. Behav. Med. 18, 44–51 (2011).
Dezutter, J., Casalin, S., Wachholtz, A., Luyckx, K., Hekking, J., & Vandewiele, W. (2013). Meaning in life: an important factor for the psychological well-being of chronically ill patients?. Rehabilitation psychology, 58(4), 334–341.
Kleiman, E. & Beaver, J. (2013) A meaningful life is worth living: Meaning in life as a suicide resiliency factor, Psychiatry Research, Volume 210, Issue 3, Pages 934-939, ISSN 0165-1781.
Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs, Jennifer L. Aaker & Emily N. Garbinsky (2013) Some key differences between a happy life and a meaningful life, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8:6, 505-516.