A meaningful, purpose-filled life is one of the most essential ingredients for true happiness. Here’s how you can start living one.
Source: INFOGRAPHIC: How to Live a Meaningful Life – Happify Daily
I figure I will not steal their thunder. The link above is to the post and the infographic, which is quite complete and a nice one to look through. I wanted to write a little about what it contains and how it pertains to my experiences.
All of us search for a meaning in life and if you are a thinking person, at one time or the other, you have sat down and pondered the meaning of all of this. Why are we here? What is our purpose? If the purpose seems cheapened or weakened due to a recent event or failure, are we lost? Is there anything we can do to salvage our reason for being as we had known it. According this this inforgraphic and according to Gallup, 37% of people in North and South America feel as if they have a strong and consistent purpose in life. I am surprised that this number is not higher. We live in a society that is full of social support, where social security exists as a government tool and where life expectancy has all but doubled in the last millennium. So then why are so many people without purpose? Why do so many people feel disenfranchised with themselves and their lot? Psychology aside, I would like to think that this is easy to remediate than world hunger.
So why do we need meaning in life? Much research has gone into understanding and documenting why purpose in life is important. This is the stuff of self help books of which I have read many. I conjecture that a strong purpose in life promotes healthy living and a feeling of well being. People who have a strong sense of purpose tend to live longer, bounce back quicker, have fewer mental and physical issues and tend to be better partners and neighbors. Some of the reasons for this are obvious. A strong purpose seems to make people happier, which in turn leads to less self destructive and more constructive activities. These people go to get more regular checkups, which lead to earlier diagnoses of illnesses, tend to drink and smoke less and finally are more apt to be critical thinkers. This leads to more positive brain activity and thus less plaque formation both in the brain and in the heart.
Feeling purposeful begins early in life. Kids with a strong sense of duty and a constantly validated sense of right and wrong tend to find it easier to continue looking for a purpose later on in life as well. Activities such as martial arts and Scout Troops build a sense of direction and a desire to follow the correct lead. These children at first find it a requirement to be good samaritans to be a part of these groups. They soon find that performing good deeds tend to make themselves feel better and they quickly become addicted to the rush of chemicals associated with the feel good activities. Positive re-enforcement is automatic and builds on the experiences of the past. This sense of helping yourself by helping others gives purpose to itself.
I have been really positively influenced by The Practicing Mind (aff). This book did not say anything that was new to me. However, it put things in a context that I could well understand. What I took away from it was that if we decide to practice anything diligently, without constantly checking for results and put the sought after results at the back of our minds, then this practice bears a lot more fruit. One of the tricks that I have learned from this book is to constantly remind myself of the D-O-C rule. It stands for do – observe – correct. This also reminds me of Demming’s Principle. For example: I go for frequent walks throughout the day since that is good for my body and it gets me out of my chair and from in front of the computer monitor. While I know that it is good for me, I do not necessarily enjoy the exercise and I always start to feel lazy or look for ways to not get up. Watches and health monitors have not helped me since all they do is remind me of how lazy I have been or how much more work I have to do to stay fit. I started by telling myself to not feel guilty for that which is already done. If I was lazy today and could not walk, oh well. I will try again tomorrow. I know that worrying about it will not help, I then focus on what I can do tomorrow to make it better. Once tomorrow comes along, I try my best to get up and walk. While I am walking, instead of thinking about things that are not related. I spend a lot of my effort focusing on my gait and my style of walk. I do not worry about how far or for how long. I simply focus on the walking and that is all.
This is HARD. I constantly have to remind myself of DOC, my mantra and constantly have to bring my mind back. It has gotten easier with practice but I notice that do not have to do much except remind myself that my thoughts are veering. Somehow just the thought that I am veering from the practice makes a big difference. Even in that I sometimes fail. I still move on and try the next day. I do this while walking, while driving, while exercising in the morning, while watching Netflix, while showering and almost everything in between. It has gotten slightly easier as time has gone on. I find that the knowledge from the book has paled a little and I am forgetting some of the salient points but I still persevere.
As for results, I am not thinner and am not much better off physically. But mentally I am super! I get going easier, have actually been exercising regularly for the past month or so and am much more fulfilled. I find purpose returning, can recover from excitement quickly and have a much more positive outlook on life. Even when I am barraged with life, outside of slight discouragement, I do not have really bad thoughts as often. It is strange how balanced I feel. I really like it.
Next entry in this series: Finding Meaning at work