The Joy of Living a Meaningful Life

How to Find Meaning and Overcome Road Blocks

By Kimberly Blaker
“It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.”–– Adlai Stevenson

The point Stevenson illustrates is a reminder of how 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.

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 by joining the Kiwanis or volunteering as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Purpose can also come from forming an organization for a national cause 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. Maybe 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 what you’re already doing and understand what you do 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.

After you’ve determined what would bring meaning to your life is often where the challenge 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 sacrifice and risk are worth the reward of a meaningful life.

Often, we blow our sacrifices and risks 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, work 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 you’re still holding yourself back, talk to supportive family and friends, and ask them to hold you to it. 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 as much about how you perceive what you do as it is about what you do.