What am I doing here? What is the meaning of life? Like a shadow, this question follows us through our lives, even if we never turn around to see it. We all want to feel like our lives count for something. We want to know that all this was not just a cosmic accident.
The good news is that finding a sense of purpose is possible at any age. But, first, we need to reword the question.
“What Is the Meaning of My Life?” is Really 3 Questions
Adding the word “my” to “What is the meaning of (my) life?” simplifies the problem, but it doesn’t solve it. At most, putting the focus on ourselves gives us a chance to answer the question. In order to find our purpose in life, we need to dig below the surface and ask ourselves even more specific questions. We need to understand our values, talents and potential. We need to ask ourselves 3 questions:
#1: What is important to me?
#2: What am I truly good at?
#3: What is my potential?
“What Is Important to Me?”
For many people, this question is the most difficult of the three. For most of our lives, we look to others to tell us what is important. When we are children, our parents provide structure and guidance. When we are adults, we are influenced by our friends, partners and colleagues, not to mention the media. But, how many of us have stopped to think— really think—about our values?
Force yourself to ask this question on multiple levels. What are the biggest problems you see in the world? What are their causes? Who are the most important people in your life? What are your dreams and aspirations for them? What are your values? How well is your current lifestyle aligned with these values?
These questions will not be resolved in a day. They may not even be resolved in a lifetime. So, return to them again and again. Make the search for meaning the story of your life.
“What Am I Truly Good at?”
Finding meaning in our lives requires us to look beyond our values and assess our talents. In doing so, we will find ways to make the world a better place, while enriching our own lives.
We all have unique talents and traits. How would you describe what you are really good at? Are you a strong communicator? Do you love to teach others? Are you creative, analytical, caring or disciplined? Are there specific sports or activities that feel natural to you?
Don’t let society’s value judgments prevent you from following your dreams. The more unique your talents are, the more likely they are to lead you to the meaning of your life.
“What Is My Potential?”
The first two questions ask you who you are. The last question focuses on what you can become. Each of us has the potential to achieve greatness, in our own way.
Life is full of choices. Do you want to follow the path that you have always known? Or will you chart a new course? Will you accept your life “as it is?” Or, will you chase your potential, knowing that you will never reach it? Will the search for your own potential lead you to find perfection in the journey?
What do you want to accomplish in the decades ahead? What kind of person do I want to be? What milestones do you want to reach? What would make you proud of yourself?
Ultimately, there is no answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” You can only answer the question, “What is the meaning of my life?” Even this question is just a placeholder. The answer will not come like a lightning bolt of inspiration. The answer will be the gentle rumble of thunder that echoes with the story of a life well lived.