The Meaningful Life

There are seven billion people on this planet.

Which means there are seven billion ways to live a meaningful life. After all, what’s meaningful is deeply personal. The jobs, poetry, adventures, romances that mean the world to me might be meaningless to you.

So, I don’t think it can be outsourced. We have to discover for ourselves how to live a meaningful life. There’s no surefire formula that I know of. But there are a few things I’m finding helpful right now.

Define success for ourselves.

We each have the responsibility to figure out our own definition of success and then spend our days living true to that definition. Yes, we might feel like salmon swimming upstream sometimes. But we get to go to bed at night knowing that today, we didn’t live anyone else’s life. We lived our life.

Respect our curiosity.

It’s easy to sidestep curiosity in the name of pragmatism. But a great many do just that and wind up living from weekend to weekend.

So, make time – real, serious time – for the things we’re curious about. Because those things? Those are some of the most important clues as to what’s meaningful for us. Artist Robert Rauschenberg put it this way: “Curiosity is the main energy.”

Spend time with people who remind us how we want to spend our time.

As has been said, we are shaped by the people we spend our time with. They influence us and rub off on us. Let’s spend time with the people we want to shape us. The people that we are renewed and inspired by, that we walk away from feeling filled with life.

Take care of ourselves.

We can do all of the above and it won’t mean a hill of beans if we’re too spent to enjoy it. Downtime, sleep, self-forgiveness when we falter and fumble, doing stuff for no purpose other than fun – all these common kindnesses towards ourselves are essential.

And then there’s this. When asked, “How can we live a meaningful life?”, radio host Krista Tippett responded:

“Living a meaningful life is nothing more and nothing less than asking that question in every moment and figuring out what it means in every moment. It’s sometimes very mundane, and occasionally it’s very profound. But living a meaningful life and all the virtue that goes with that is something we have to practice.

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