My Take

Finding Meaning for Yourself in Life – Part 3

Hi, I’m back. Today we’re returning to Finding Meaning for Yourself in Life. First though I’d like to take a moment to commemorate Rememberence Day. I wanted to post yesterday but I’ve had exams and a test.

In High School I had the privilege of being part of the Remembrance Day ceremony and speak, and later in the year we had a school trip to Europe. The historic places we visited were so emotional and powerful…I will never forget. We saw the trenches, the dented ground from explosions, a dedicated cemetery and finally Vimy Ridge. Truly a Canadian Pilgrimage. I do remember, and my respect for their sacrifice will never die.

Vimy Ridge
Vimy Ridge

Sorry about that interlude, we’ll move on now. So far I’ve mentioned the meaning that comes from my doggos, especially Mia my miracle. Having a companion that needs you can work wonders for finding purpose! In Part 2 I wrote about the flame of life and meaning, and shared some other things that helped me. Today I might be a little more philosophical.

Searching or Finding Meaning?

There is a difference, I assure you. While I wrote about finding meaning I was often referring to searching, but since then I remembered a key point in my discovery. Forcing your way into purpose is kind of like searching deliberately for the perfect significant other. In my very limited experience, really great things happen when you aren’t looking for them. For example I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend when Aaron and I became acquainted. It was simply a fun friendship where nothing was forced and everything was easy and natural. Our feelings towards each other transformed from friendship to something else without any deliberate impositions. This was and is precious to us.

A Little Known Secret

Before I get back to the above, I need to clue you in on this if you haven’t thought of things from this angle yet. It may seem small and odd, but here we go: Meaning and purpose are not usually huge, immediately life changing discoveries. I believe that in the long-term they are fundamentally life-changing, but they don’t arrive that way. Think of purpose and meaning as Ikea furniture that you’ll put together piece by piece. In this situation you don’t go back home with all the pieces, you receive them in the mail as you go. You’ll get pieces for many furniture items but you’ll get to decide which you want to use and put together. Ikea is frustrating right? And that’s part of the point I want to make; putting your life together is not an easy task! It hurts, it falls apart, it has to be redone, mistakes are made…you get the idea.

Did that seem like a strange comparission? I agree but you’ll put the pieces together. (I know…not that funny. Please cut me some slack, I’ve only had one coffee!) Forcing meaning is like forcing love because you want it to work so badly that you may lose sight of what’s really important. Great things come in small pieces. It’s like a puzzle that you’ll be working on your whole life but will come together better and better to reveal an image that is true to you. In other words the key is to arrange the pieces you have – your way, and not try to make the same image as someone else. No one has the same pieces and remembering that is a big deal if you want to feel personally fulfilled.

Putting together the puzzle of meaning and purpose

My point is that purpose doesn’t hit you over the head, tell you it’s here and is ready to solve your emotional struggles. C’est la vie. If you’re feeling lost and aimless in life, void of purpose and trapped on a hamster wheel that you hate…it’s time to try something new. A different angle…a fresh perspective, you name it. You may be thinking that you’ve already tried, and very hard, at that. However this is where working hard doesn’t necessarily yield the full positive results. Believe me, I worked hard. Unfortunately, that hard work was often misdirected, desperate and above all, forced. There it is again. My purpose was to keep going with school in the hope that things would make sense at some point. I also needed a closer purpose / goal because the sense of futility I felt was overwhelming, as was my perceived lack of control. What did I do? I forced another purpose; making my life revolve around becoming thinner. (And look how that turned out.)

Step Inside a Time Machine

Here’s a bit of a leap but you’ll see how it fits in and why it’s important. Do you remember a time when even if your goal was explained to be unrealistic, you held on to it regardless? The idea of becoming a dancer, actor, veterinarian, astronaut, athlete, firefighter, pilot, police officer…? I should stop, you get the idea. You probably wanted an exciting life; your dreams and passions were youthful and strong. You didn’t even call it purpose or meaning. It was simply… fun. Everything was an adventure and anything was possible. The money wasn’t really a consideration. Then you grew up. Learned about money. Saw the stress that surrounds it and were reminded by others that money is an end all be all. You started getting asked what you want to be in life. What a stupid question given the bigger picture. I’ll break it down; what do you want to be? What? Be? Are we serious? For one, I’m a who. Not a what. And as for what I want to be, well that’s easy. Happy. Loved and loving. I understand being asked what career interests me, but that previous garbage? Nope. If we replace who with what, (the what being a career), what does that say about how we are defined by society and therefore how we end up identifying ourselves? We are our career? It seems like it. “She’s a doctor, wow.” and conversely, “oh he’s nobody, just a cashier.” What in the … ? NO! How about we concentrate on the question; who do you want to be? If we look to our career for meaning…it reflects a sad reality unless that career ties in to who we are beyond it.

In short, we need less emphasis on money and more on happiness. Maybe you think I’m naive and perhaps I am, but am I wrong in principle? I’m only 21 but I’ve come to realize that societal values and doing what’s expected is not a recipe for happiness. I should know, and I’m trying to work things out for myself. It brings more and more questions. I feel that the more we extend beyond ourselves to fulfil obligations, the more we depart from our true nature. Suppressing our true nature is sabotaging our well-being. I’m not diminishing the importance of money, merely recommending that we don’t define ourselves by it. We obviously need money in order to survive; there’s no disputing that. However money is tool. We need tools and materials to build a beautiful house just as we need money as a tool to give us the freedom and time to do what we truly want.

This is a vast, psychological, philosophical and sociological topic that can fill many books. I want to keep it short and sweet though, because just as I believe in not forcing things I also believe that overanalyzing can paralyze us. The bottom line is to remain open and put ourselves in situations of potential discovery. It entails not intellectually imposing things that we think we should be, do and have. I want to care less about what I have, and focus more on who I am. I want to recognize it when my true nature is hinting at a possibility that excites me. You may not be feeling excited about anything at the moment, but this is why we need to remain open and receptive. Piece by piece, things will come to us. And sometimes we need to look at our puzzle pieces from a different angle. Maybe we need to put together the borders and the corner pieces before we figure out the middle. Perhaps, and please bear with me, we make this puzzle blindfolded to really feel what fits. Our eyes can be deceiving, but relinquishing that sense in favour of others…there may lie the key to our happiness.

If this article interested you, you may want to catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

Quick update, I did something drastic to my hair; I wanted a change and I hate my hair so…here it is.

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My Dad did it for me and we didn’t tell my Mom or Aaron. They were both very shocked which was funny. As for me, I don’t hate it…I like it even more than I thought!

What's YOUR take?