For many people, the meaning of life is enjoying their lives, spending time with family, and trying to make the world a better place. Others may look at humanity as an epidemic that needs to be healed or eradicated, so they strive to create a paradise for only themselves in a cave or volcano somewhere. Still others believe that death is the end, and living out your days until you die is the goal.
There are also those who feel that the pursuit of happiness is a lie told by wealthy elites to keep us chasing our tails. Rather than seeking pleasure, they say we should focus on avoiding pain and suffering.
In other words, some think it’s all bullshit! That is why there is no universal definition of what the meaning of life is. It depends on who you ask and where you live. In fact, depending on who you talk to, different individuals will come up with completely opposite answers.
Asking about the “meaning” of life can get tricky because most people don’t have one. We’re not always conscious of how we’makingourlives meaningful’, but sometimes we are. If you pay closer attention, you’ll probably notice things like how my friend just went through a lot of tough times, but now she feels happy and confident. Or how my colleague got promoted even though he doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his job.
The pursuit of happiness
We often talk about the meaning of life as if it were an all-encompassing concept. Some people may refer to this as the ultimate goal or purpose of life, but that isn’t quite right.
The word “meaning” has two different definitions depending on who you ask.
The first definition is what we call experiential. It focuses on how life feels overall to you. This type of meaning comes from experiences you have while living your life.
For example, when I was in high school, my main focus was sports. So my internal narrative was constantly focused on success through athletics. That helped me feel good about myself, which made me happy.
As I grew older, though, my priorities shifted. I no longer felt like I needed to be the best at something to feel successful. Instead, I wanted to make sure others around me were able to enjoy themselves without feeling deprived because they didn’t know me.
That’s why being a teacher is a great career. Not only do I get to help other people, but I also get to watch them reap benefits of my work. They can learn from me and I can teach them things.
This sense of fulfillment is called extrinsic motivation. It’s not the same as intrinsic motivation, but it makes us happier.
For existentialists, what is the meaning of life is not defined in terms of things like having fun or making money, but instead looking into truths about who you are as a person and how to live your life according to those truths.
This way of thinking about the meaning of life was first developed by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He coined the term “existentialism” to describe his philosophy because he believed that each individual has an understanding of their own existence, or how they exist as a human being.
Many modern thinkers offer their own definitions of what it means to live an authentic life, or to define what the meaning of life is. Some use the word “life” as broadly as possible, while others restrict the definition more tightly. These philosophical perspectives vary in how specific they are about defining the term but they all share one thing: a desire to understand why we humans do the things we do and add value to our lives.
Modern day philosophers typically focus on two main questions: Why are there fundamental forces that govern matter? And what makes someone living an engaged life — one full of passion, motivation, and contribution to society and the world around them?
They try to apply moral philosophy to these broader topics by asking whether human actions can be motivated solely by self-interest or if there is a deeper source of motivation that goes beyond mere egoism. Are people who help other people because it benefits themselves simply being selfish, or are they investing in others for their own long-term well-being?
Another major theme in most contemporary philosophies of the good life is the importance of happiness. Different schools emphasize different qualities of happiness, but almost every philosopher worth reading discusses the importance of experiencing positive emotions suchas joy, gratitude, hope, love, and so on. Others discuss the need to find personal fulfillment through work, family, friends, and hobbies.
What is happiness?
A lot of people think that living with a sense of purpose or goal in life is what makes you happy. They believe that if they are not sure what their next big thing is, then they do not live a meaningful life.
However, this may not be the case. Being focused on something to make you feel happier may actually be making you less happy.
It sounds crazy but it’s true.
A few years ago, psychologist Daniel Gilbert conducted an experiment with twenty students. He had each student write down as many words as possible for one minute. Then he asked them to describe the word “stress” and gave them ten minutes.
The students who were able to come up with more definitions for the word stress tended to be higher achievers. They felt stressed about completing their tasks and wanted to know how to reduce stress so that they could focus better on other things.
This group also reported being less happy than the others after performing the first task.
When the researchers re-tested these students two weeks later, they found that most of them became much happier when they were given the same challenge again!
They realized that defining the word “stress” helped them deal with its negative effects on their lives. By learning how to reduce stress, they learned how to enjoy life more.
That is why we should try to avoid thinking too hard about what will make us happy.
The balance of life
There are many theories about what the meaning of life is, but none of them seem to agree on one thing – so we can’t say with any certainty that one is right over another.
Some people believe that the purpose of life is to make sure your family survives by teaching your kids good morals and religion. Others think that living for yourself (and self-love) is the most important part of life. Still others feel that living in community with likeminded individuals is the key to happiness.
We can rule out religion as a major factor because some religions suggest that death is the end! According to Buddhism, the aim of life is to be happy and enjoy this present moment, so why would you want to spend your time looking forward to something that doesn’t exist?
In fact, some religious groups go as far as telling their followers not to live long enough to find out if there is an afterlife! This could easily have the opposite effect and make people even more concerned about dying than they already were.
Which makes no sense at all! If you’re alive now, then clearly you wanted or needed to be here — otherwise, you wouldn’t be!
The other reasons mentioned above are just variations of each other – living for yourself means not giving anything or anyone else your attention, which brings us back to the original idea: being in control of your own destiny. You decide how much energy to devote to different things, and to different people.
Living a good life
There are many theories about what the meaning of life is, but none of them have really stuck around for too long. Most people agree that living a meaningful life means to find your purpose or mission in life.
This doesn’t necessarily mean getting a job that you love and making lots of money, however. It can be anything you choose — creating a business that makes a difference, working with others so that they feel better after meeting you, teaching classes online to earn some extra cash.
Finding your life’s mission isn’t an easy task, but it’s something you will always know there is. You’ll know you’ve done your best when you’re walking away feeling happy and accomplished.
Living without a goal beyond “I want to live my life” leaves us empty, like we’re missing part of ourselves.
The journey is the reward
We spend our lives chasing what we want, thinking that this chase will make us happy. But sometimes- a lot of times- it makes us unhappy. I’ve spoken about how living for happiness isn’t workable as an aim because you’ll never be satisfied.
And while there are things in your life right now that aren’t quite enough, there’s also something that is way too much. You have to ask yourself if this desire to satisfy that need is really worth all the time you spend on it.
Because at the end of the day, none of these things matter. Not anymore.
What matters is whether you made someone else happy. Whether you succeeded in showing love to those who needed it from you, and let them know they were loved. Whether you left this world knowing you did everything you could possibly do to help another person find their own sense of self-love.
That’s what true significance is. That’s why “the meaning of life” is to leave this planet feeling like you’re just one more piece in the puzzle that was designed by God for another being to enjoy.
A part of him.
You are alive today not because you were born at a specific time and space, but because somewhere out there, someone had the amazing inspiration to exist.
You cannot answer this question
The other day I heard someone ask what is the meaning of life. They asked it after spending hours talking about all sorts of things – from politics to sports to religion. They even discussed their personal lives in great depth. And they concluded that the meaning of life was to enjoy each moment as fully as you can because there are no guarantees in life, not anywhere.
This person then made the mistake of trying to give his own opinion on the matter. He said that the most important thing we should be looking for in our lives is to feel happy and to keep learning and experiencing new things.
He also mentioned that being compassionate towards others is an integral part of living a meaningful life. Finally, he stated that sharing your knowledge and experience with people around you is another way to connect to the world and to understand the value of life.
All of these ideas are good, but they only apply if you believe that life has a purpose. If you don’t think that life has a goal beyond making us happy, then none of them make much sense.
The classic definition of “life having a purpose” comes directly from the word “purpose” itself. In fact, some philosophers argue that without a reason for existing, the term “life” doesn’t really make any sense!
So how do we know whether or not life has a goal? We just have to look at the facts.