What Is Life About – Happiness, Meaningfulness, or Something Else?
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” ~ Viktor Frankl
What is life about for you? To go for the gusto and experience a new thrill every day? To live a quiet life? To live a good life? To live a happy life? To live a life of meaning and purpose? Each phrase brings a different picture to your mind, doesn’t it? What does it mean to YOU to really live?
Life is about how you choose to spend the time you have – only you can define and design the life you want. What makes you happy or gives your life meaning may be vastly different from anyone else. The key is to determine YOUR Perfect Life and then live it without apology.
While we have differences, there are some basic human behaviors and emotional responses that remain constant. Take for example our shared reactions to living for happiness, living for purpose and living for meaning.
What do you think: Can you have happiness without purpose? Can you have meaning without happiness? So many times they’re linked together, aren’t they? Yet, you may have noticed these subtle differences…
It seems like everyone wants to be happy, but happiness can be elusive. That’s because oftentimes happiness depends on external circumstances in the present moment. Your health, wealth or good relationships may make you happy, but just let a circumstance change – you catch a cold, you lose your wallet – and happiness turns to misery. Happiness also depends on experiencing pleasure and getting what you want, when you want it. It can, at times, be a very superficial or fleeting quest.
Finding meaning in life is a deeper pursuit. It takes introspection and isn’t dependent on circumstances like health or wealth or satisfying all your needs and want. It takes into consideration the past, present and future. When you find your meaning or purpose it energizes you for a lifetime.
Neurologist and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, survived the holocaust so he has a unique perspective of thriving despite adverse circumstance. Some of his wisdom on the topic of what life is about is shown in the following quotes:
- “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
- “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
- “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
- “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
- “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
Dr. Roy Baumeister, a Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University studied the differences and similarities of living a happy life and living a meaningful life. While other researchers don’t always agree with his findings, they do provide much food for thought. He suggests that…
- Pure happiness is about getting what we want in life; meaningfulness seems to be more connected with giving and sacrifice.
- Happiness comes from what others give to us; meaningfulness comes from giving to other people.
- Happiness seems to be connected more to the benefits one receives from friendships; meaningfulness is associated with providing for close family i.e. children.
- Happiness doesn’t tolerate worry, stress or anxiety; meaningfulness rises above these challenges.
- Happiness isn’t dependant on self-expression of your personal and cultural identity; meaningfulness is.
Time after time, century-old wisdom is proven true: Life is not about pursuing pleasure, since it will not lead to either happiness or meaning. Again, it all comes down to what you know to be true for yourself, because that will determine where you invest your energy.
We can’t always be happy or “up”. But we can create an abiding feeling of well-being, inner joy, peace of mind, and satisfaction that sustains us through the ups and downs. Down times are simply reminders that you need some self-care to restore the energy you’ve spent. It gives you time for reflection and introspection to see if you need to make some kind of course correction.
If you’d like to focus more closely on finding YOUR answer to “what is life about for ME?” please attend our upcoming Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP. It will be held in Ashland, Oregon, so make plans now to attend. Nando and I will support you in your quest for your perfect life.