“Meaning” in Everyday Life
What comes to mind when you hear a question like, “what is your Meaning in life?” Some common reactions are, rolling your eyes, or getting emotional, or feeling scared. It is one of those topics you only expect to discuss with a counselor, spiritual advisor, or maybe an intimate partner. We all know Meaning is important, but finding it involves work we may be afraid of doing. If you do decide to tackle the issue of finding Meaning in your life, you likely conceptualize it as a process you will throw yourself into for awhile with an end goal in mind. Once you achieve your goal of finding Meaning you will look to move forward without concerning yourself with this issue further. We usually look at finding Meaning as a milestone we must reach and then move to the next goal. The everyday grind of family, job, friends, and routine often seems separate from the topic of Meaning. The truth is your Meaning in life becomes fully integrated into your identity when you apply it in your daily life.
**The word Meaning will appear quite a bit in this post, so to keep it distinguished from the more commonly used definition of meaning; as in what a word means, I will be capitalizing it to emphasize we are referring to a philosophical concept of Meaning of life.
What is Meaning?
A quick discussion of the definition of “Meaning in life” is warranted. Some may say that Meaning is what gets you out of bed in the morning. This is a fitting definition in scenarios where your job provides you an outlet for your Meaning. For example, if you have found your Meaning is giving back to your community and your job is at a community welfare service center. This is not an all-encompassing definition though. You may find Meaning in something like environmentalism but work in a field that has little to do with this subject. In a case like this your reason for getting out of bed daily is not necessarily related to your daily routine. A more universally applicable definition of Meaning might be the existence you aspire to achieve. If you find your Meaning to be in professional success, family development, spiritual understanding, or giving to others, you are aspiring to reach a way of living that embodies these ideals. Defining Meaning is a topic that would need far more space than a blog to give a full analysis, but for the purpose of this discussion we will employ the definition that looks at how you wish to exist relative to the world.
For a widely acclaimed resource that delves deep into defining Meaning, see Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. https://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl
Integrating Meaning into the Everyday
You may believe that once you find your Meaning in life, it will passively influence every aspect of your existence. It is more likely that you will find time to pursue your passions that your Meaning inspires, and that time will be separate from your everyday tasks. Admittedly, it may not be valuable or even possible to integrate your passion for saving the whales into folding your sheets. But there are likely a lot more ways you can be chasing your passions and Meaning while doing your daily tasks of working, interacting with family/friends, and caring for yourself. Some examples of this may include
• Use your interest and passion for helping children as motivation for you to lead a project that connects your company to a childcare organization.
• If you find Meaning in professional success, use your drive to work as a chance to listen to audiobooks on how to improve your career.
• Spend time with friends and family discussing what interests you. They may not share your great passion for something like promoting physical wellness, but people are usually interested in hearing others talk about their passions.
• If you have found Meaning in educating yourself and others, create a “fact of the day” chart at home or at your place of work where you can share things you have learned and spark conversation about topics.
Why Integrate Meaning Every Day?
If you are a person who has spent the time and effort in finding your Meaning in life, you may believe that answering “the big question” of what the point of living is was all you needed from this exercise. Now that you have defined your overarching philosophy of what the Meaning of your life is, you may want to shelve that thought and only bring it out when the question raises its head again. But there are two strong reasons why you want to consider applying your Meaning to your routine.
First, exercising your Meaning daily gives it the same benefit that exercising a muscle does, it makes it stronger. Going back to the example of a person who has found their meaning in preserving nature and the environment, if they only limit this purpose to times where it is presented to them to act on it, it will not become a strong influence on their life. If instead they make a daily practice of integrating their environmentalism into daily tasks it will grow and lead to greater results. They may get the occasional chance to vote on cleaner energy initiatives, but creating an initiative at their place of work where energy is saved by using natural light will likely lead to more tangible and consistent results that help them reach their goal of living a life in harmony with nature.
A second benefit of integration of your Meaning into your everyday tasks is a likely increase in your interest and enjoyment of these daily tasks. If you are one who has found that becoming as educated as possible about as many topics as possible is your Meaning, you can turn your morning commute which is boring into a set time every day where you listen to a podcast on a new topic. Instead of seeing your morning drive as a time to think about the inefficiency of Orlando traffic, the stress of your day ahead, and the repeating songs on the radio, you’ll find yourself looking forward to this as your personal education time.
Using Daily Things to Find Meaning
On the other end of this topic, the everyday grind of life can be a place where we find our meaning. It is important to keep our eyes open to what piques our interests during the day. Things we hear or see on media or in our surroundings can be threads that if we pull on some lead us to finding deep meaning. Perhaps you notice that your neighbor has recently redesigned the front of their home. You may notice things you liked, you don’t, wonder how certain things are done. As you talk to them about it and explore more online and through other sources, you begin finding a passion for design and aesthetics. Not every thread will lead to anything worth pulling but if we don’t take put some effort into exploring more in depth about our daily surroundings, we will miss opportunities to fill our own life with more meaning.
If you are looking to find your meaning or want to work on ways to implement meaning more into your life, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.