Thinking About Meaning

A challenge for me over the last few months is thinking about building a meaningful life and a career within that life. I am at a stage in life where it feels that a lot of doors are open for me in terms of a career trajectory, and choosing one direction is scary because I don’t want to close out better opportunities than where I decide to point myself, and I don’t know exactly which direction is indeed going to feel the most meaningful and fulfilling.

 

I have come to understand that in many ways what we choose as our ultimate goal is less important than the effort we put into achieving that goal. Colin Wright puts it this way in his book Becoming Who We Need to Be, “The journey itself is meaningful. The goal is important, but the act of working toward it, even when painful or disheartening, is meaningful by association.” I want to have a solid and inspirational goal to work toward, but I also recognize that the effort toward the goal will teach me unexpected lessons, will create new avenues for opportunity, and can be what helps my life be fulfilling.

 

As I move forward, I am trying hard to identify problems that I have a skill set that I can apply to those problems. My hope is that I will identify a goal where my abilities can help contribute something positive to mitigate a serious problem to at least a marginal extent. With a solid trajectory, I believe I can find satisfaction by continuously  engaging in habits and processes that help me work toward that goal. I am frustrated that I cannot see my path forward as clearly as I can see where I have come from, but I am confident that meaningful action will open the right doors for me.

 

I think that my thoughts on fulfillment are something that should be shared more broadly in society. We seem to find meaning in things that don’t really exist and we don’t really seem to know what we mean when we say we want to have meaning in our lives. Finding meaning in a spiritual sense is not something that resonates with me, and is not something we should expect to resonate with everyone on the planet. Finding meaning in material goods is problematic for a whole host of reasons, and ultimately seems to leave a void in our lives. Identifying goals that in one way or another make the world a better place and trying to work daily to improve the world by pursuing our goal appears to be a robust way of at the very least creating fulfillment in our lives. Finding absolute meaning in our goal may still be difficult or impossible, but hopefully the actions that take us toward that goal will make us feel valuable and useful, and hopefully that will create a sense of fulfillment.

Avoid the Self-Focused Mindset

Dr. Laura Schlessinger continues in her letter of advice to James Harmon for Harmon’s book, Take My Advice, and writes, “Life is not about personal aggrandizement, acquisition, and self-fulfillment.  In other words, man cannot live by “me, me, me,” alone.”  In this passage Dr. Schlessinger is writing about having a full and meaningful life, and she explains that a life focused on ones own personal existence, having lots of things, or always having fun does not translate into a meaningful life.  It is difficult, but once you begin to understand that life does not have to be a competition to show how successful one can become, you start to feel more attached to the things that you do every day, and you begin to appreciate where you are each moment.
As I have entered the working world out of college, I have had a struggle with trying to identify my goals and understand what success really looks like.  On the last episode of the Mindful Creator Podcast host Brett Henley talked to a guest about being confident with oneself and where you are in your journey at whatever point of your journey you find yourself.  The guest brought up the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”, and argued that a happier life is one where you give yourself permission to not want the lifestyle that is projected in movies, television shows, and advertisements.  The two talked about how liberating, both mentally and economically, freeing yourself from materialistic desires can be.
I think that Dr. Schlessinger would agree with everything the two talked about on the podcast.  It is important to be self aware and recognize when you are focusing only on yourself and doing things only for your own personal and materialistic gain.  Understanding that you have desires for things and certain lifestyles because you have seen them projected through mass media or across your friend’s Facebook is an important step in realizing how to live a better life.  Being continually focused on impressing others with your lifestyle and possessions will place an unfair amount of stress on yourself, and will alienate you from people who you could otherwise share a deep connection with.  Learning to be happy with who you are, where you are on your journey, and to drop the pressures from visions of what your life should be will open you up to become a more compassionate person. Beyond that point you become a person who can share more meaningful moments with people around you.