Tips for Living Life More Meaningfully

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Tips – December 2018
Living More Meaningfully

Our most recent blog highlights the 12th Annual Leadership Summit held on November 9 at the Phoenix Art Museum. Read here. The beautiful leading image is the graphic depiction of our day, created by the very talented artist Steph Martini.

The tips we share come from the day’s framework found in The Power of Meaning [1] by Emily Esfahani Smith. Smith begins by contrasting happiness with meaning. Chasing happiness can actually make people unhappy, she declares in her Ted talk (2017)[2]. Happiness is a temporary state of feeling good in the moment, a state that we all enjoy and appreciate. But living with meaning in our lives is a much stronger and sustainable goal. And a lack of meaning in one’s life has been shown to be a predictor of despair.

So how can we live more our lives more meaningfully? Let’s take a look at the 4 pillars of meaning, with ideas for how to build on them.

Belonging is the sense that you are part of a group and valued for WHO you are, not WHAT you do. Belonging is the opposite of invisibility. The most basic form of belonging is the membership we all have as human beings.

What groups do you belong to? Is “belonging” to them based on appreciating your unique attributes? Do you find yourself feeling like belonging to a group or tribe or committee is not a fit for you? How do you welcome others into your inner circle? Do you extend a welcome of belonging to the people you meet by making eye contact, offering a smile, extending a kindness?

Purpose is about using your unique strengths in the service of others. Purpose gives us something to live for.

What are your unique gifts? Do you love writing, or making music, or listening deeply to others? How are you using these strengths to help others? Are they embedded in your work life? If so, lucky you! If not, look for ways to incorporate these talents in your time away outside work, perhaps even with family or friends.

The size of the stage you use your gifts on is not important. What is important is that you recognize using your gifts, and that you do it with intention.

Transcendence means that we understand our connection to a higher reality, thus becoming less self-centered. In a transcendent state, we can lose all sense of time and place. When volunteering at a community garden, I can focus on the dreaded weeding that has to be done, or I can see myself as part of the global effort to reduce food insecurity.

How do you see your life in the big picture?

Storytelling. This is the notion that we tell ourselves stories about ourselves. Sometimes these stories are not very helpful. Our brains are hardwired to notice negative things much more than positive, deriving from the early days of threat assessments that helped guarantee our species survival. But that negative focus is not nearly as helpful today. Have you ever heard yourself say something to yourself like “I’m not motivated, smart, talented, thin, pretty (choose your own word) enough to …” But because this story telling is of our own creation, we can replace the negative stories with positive ones.

Every time you hear that quiet voice in your head tell yourself a negative story, notice it.

Identify positive stories to replace the negative ones. “I can do hard things.” “I can do new things, and I don’t have to be perfect at them.” “It is so great that I am willing to be vulnerable.” “I choose to grow, even if it means I make a mistake.” “The times I am no so great at something are useful, because I am learning from those experiences.”

At this time of the year, it is so easy to get caught up in doing, hurrying, delivering.  It is a wonderful time to get back to meaning: to be clear on our purpose in the moment, to reach out to others to create belonging and to create new stories that help us transcend the incidentals that don’t matter and live the activities that do!

Wishing you holidays of meaning, purpose, belonging and transcendence!

Jill Bachman, MSN

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[1] Smith (2017). The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness. Broadway Books, NY.

[2] https://www.ted.com/talks/emily_esfahani_smith_there_s_more_to_life_than_being_happy?language=en