Is this all there is? Is there something out there that needs chasing, needs awakening or is this it?
We sometimes find ourselves asking and pestering ourselves with these questions. What is the actual meaning of life? In our 3rd podcast episode, we discuss what could be deemed the four pillars of a meaningful life. We believe that if you can answer to these four aspects, you might just find the answer to this age old question.
Emily Smith during her TED talk explains that, “Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed, and alone. According to the research, what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It's a lack of something else, a lack of having meaning in life. Many psychologists define happiness as a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment. Meaning though, is deeper. The renowned psychologist Martin Seligman says meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself, and from developing the best within you.”
Many of us, living in the current day and age, given the fast-paced lifestyles we lead and that much of our lives exist on our various social media platforms, eventually discover that we lack a sense of belonging. Belonging could be integration into your community, understanding your neighborhood, their rituals, cultures and being involved. Belonging could be cultivating a long working relationship with several colleagues to help steer the entire company culture. Belonging can be summarized as being fulfilled with what your professional, personal and spiritual life offers to you and being actively involved in them.
In the world right now, there is so much division that it sometimes feels that one does not belong anywhere. It seems that certain gender, race, social-economic or even spiritual groups all have their own properties that make them feel like they belong. As mentioned by Lehan in the episode “But because of world and life, and, you know, division, and racial division, and gender division, and whatever other divisions, people see each other as different, they look down upon each other, etc. and that creates a sense of not belonging to some people - people that don't fit in, or people that feel that, you know, they don't sit next to the same people, and they can't relate to the world as it is” Unfortunately, a certain craving to belong to certain social groups could be dangerous as well. We see many crime stories that sprung from the very sense of belonging to a certain group, that could lead to peer pressure and inadvertent actions. But generally speaking, health, wealth, spiritual and personal belonging will serve you well in your pursuit of leading a meaningful life.
Belonging can be summarized as being fulfilled with what your professional, personal and spiritual life offers to you and being actively involved in them.
But belonging on its own is just one part of it. The next step to leading a meaningful life, one that’s worth living and enjoying is:
We all yearn to discover and live out our purpose. This is a sense of performing, creating or delivering something into the world that serves others, makes the world a better place or makes people smile. Many of us only discover purpose later on in life. I remember for example when I started in my career, my goals and aspirations were very much materialistically motivated. I wanted the car, the house, the family and the TV. But guess what, when I finally had all these things, I realized that I am empty inside and that I feel I have lost a sense of purpose. So, I have actually noticed that purpose could change from time to time, but as soon as one reaches these growth purposes, it is important to define an ultimate purpose in life that will fill that void that you might be feeling in your meaningfulness.
So many of us are okay with meaningfulness, but it is because we did not acknowledge and paid attention to it. So many of us do the same, where we get the girl, house and car go on autopilot and survival mode for years at a time. As we mentioned in our podcast “It's really being cognisant of it and aware of the fact that if you feel empty, it's probably because if you go in and assess your life, you probably have no drive towards one specific direction. You might be just an autopilot.”
This is a sense of performing, creating or delivering something into the world that serves others, makes the world a better place or makes people smile.
A very good way to find a purpose in life, is to simply look at what it is that you are great at, what is your skill. Find a way to make that skill serve you and later, serve others. When you are actively doing this you will also find joy and belonging that will naturally culminate into purpose.
Transcendence refers to what you achieve after you have met your ordinary limitations. It is surpassing and excelling beyond the limits you thought existed, into something extraordinary.
A really good way to explain transcendence is during a music festival for example, have you ever been at a concert that you waited for your entire life. You buy the best tickets, you are at the front of the stage, you are wearing the bands’ merchandise. Then they come out, they play an amazing set. The crowd cheers along, sings along. The pace of the show seems to get louder and faster with their best most popular songs coming up. You are dancing, your heart is racing and then the lead singer stage dives onto the group of people where you are and you get to lift him back onto the stage. If you have ever experienced this, this is transcending.
I agree that this is an extreme, isolated example, but it burns the concept in really well. If you had to adjust it for what we mean here, it would mean less intense and short-lived moments of transcendence, and rather long lasting or even permanent transcendence.
Emily Smith describes transcendence as moments where “your sense of self fades away and you feel connected to a higher reality”. During the podcast episode we used the example of philanthropy “It's all good and well to donate into a fund for example I do know that it's going towards a good cause and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. That is beautiful. Everyone should find the level of happiness and joy that that provides. But transcendence is when instead of giving money to a fund - go to one of these places. If for example you want to donate into an old age home, go to one of these old age homes and go help an old granny, and make her coffee and sit and talk to her. Tell her some jokes. Make her smile on the age of 94 in her little wheelchair. That will be absolutely transcending; I think that will make you skyrocket for weeks”
moments where your sense of self fades away and you feel connected to a higher reality
All of these points discussed up and until now, will get you far down the line of feeling you are living a meaningful life. Feeling as if you are living a meaningful life, actually translates into a healthier happier life overall. All of this will not be complete without the last pillar:
You want to leave something behind that you can be proud of. You want to have your proverbial scars, - depicting struggles, lessons, successes, advices, guidance loves lost and loves won - open to the world, so you can leave them behind proudly as they make up your story. The important thing to note here is that you're the author. It's not like buying someone else’s book that can never be changed. Your life’s goal posts may change when you exceeded your previous goals. You might find a new divine purpose when you meet the Gorillas in the Congo jungle. Hell, the Gorillas, the jungle with all its noises and beautiful vegetation might even have you enter a state of transcendence and find a new sense of belonging.
Everything in your story is written in pencil. You are allowed to make mistakes, scratch over and change your story as many times as you want. The important part is that whatever is written in your story, shows a consistent yearning for belonging, purpose and transcendence.
Everything in your story is written in pencil. You are allowed to make mistakes, scratch over and change your story as many times as you want.
We should be wary of what the world feeds us and how that influences our story. Many times we find ourselves scrolling through social media, depicting the storylines of our nearest and dearest. It is not as if anyone ever posts themselves frowning, and we get subliminally brainwashed into believing that the whole world seems to have such perfect lives while yours might feel a little derailed. As we explained in the podcast episode: “we are indoctrinated and brainwashed by all of this social media and data points throughout the day, where we scroll through social media. We rarely see sad people or ill people and people struggling on that platforms, you just see the best parts of people's lives. This lowers self-worth.”
It is thus extremely important that you not focus on others’ and their stories. You might only be privy to the best visible parts, but more often than not they have some battle scars and issues of their own. Start focusing on what you want your story to look like. Hopefully by being more aware and intentional about applying the steps to a meaningful life, your story will come together perfectly.