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The Joy of a Meaningful Life

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ESPECIALLY THESE DAYS, it’s easy to lose sight of living a meaningful life. It’s an interesting phenomenon the amount of time, energy and money we invest in living healthier, longer and happier lives. Yet, we often still feel unsatisfied, and that our lives are devoid of meaning and purpose. When it comes to living a meaningful life, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What makes life meaningful is unique to each and every person. So to find meaning, you may need to do some exploration to discover what speaks to you. Meaning can come from many different avenues. Unlike happiness, which stems from receiving or doing things for yourself, meaning comes from giving or doing for others.

Perhaps for you, it comes from fostering a close family relationship. For some, it’s about choosing a fulfilling career path that involves helping others through teaching, nursing, counseling or coaching. Others find meaning by giving back to their community such as volunteering at the local food bank or mentoring as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Purpose can also come from forming an organization for a national cause that you’re passionate about. Or perhaps, taking up a hobby you enjoy, such as gardening — then donating your excess produce to a soup kitchen.

But before you begin your journey to explore new avenues for meaning, evaluate what you’re doing with your life right now. Perhaps you’re already giving in a way you don’t even realize and aren’t giving yourself enough credit. If so, you may just need to reframe in your mind about what you’re already doing and understand that it really does matter. If it still isn’t enough to satisfy your quest for a meaningful life, explore other options that are important to you. It’s after you’ve determined what would bring meaning to your life where the challenge most often lies. You must now make a conscious decision and concerted effort to follow through. If you’ve chosen a challenging path, only you can decide if the sacrifices and risks are worth the reward of a meaningful life. Often our sacrifices and risks are blown way out of proportion. The most significant risk may merely be an unrealistic fear of failure. The greatest sacrifice may be little more than stepping outside your comfort zone or setting aside a little happiness in exchange for something more fulfilling, uplifting and meaningful.

If these are the things holding you back, then you can make an effort toward changing your frame of mind. Schedule 20 minutes a day to sit in solitude with your eyes closed, envisioning your meaningful life. Allow yourself to build excitement and desire for that which would bring meaning to you and others. Also, spend some time each day reading or listening to audiobooks and watching online videos relevant to the activity that would bring meaning. If you find that you’re still holding yourself back, seek the support of family and friends and ask them to hold you accountable. A counselor or coach can also lend support to help you move toward your goals. Whatever path you choose and regardless of its outcome, give yourself credit for your efforts. Remember, having a meaningful life is often just as much about how you perceive what you do as it is about what actually you do.

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