What is the meaning of Life?
I think a better way to phrase it is; “what gives my life meaning?”
Why do we need meaning?
Meaning is what makes us get up in the morning, it is what drives us to do what we do. Every person is driven by a different set of meanings.
Meanings are usually beneficial but can be harmful in two ways. The first way is if it results in harm to self or others. For example, the religious fanatic relies strongly on the meaning have given to their religion so much so that they can be compelled to violence in the name of it.
The second way that meanings can be harmful is if too much attention is focused in one particular area while mostly neglecting everything else. The most common example is not balancing work with family which can result in a broken marriage, neglected children or a lot of important life moments missed.
We need to make sure that we are driven by the right set of meanings and it is up to us to look within ourselves and out into the world to decide what we want that to be.
This search for meaning is what drives people to philosophy, religion and self-help gurus – these are ready made meaning structures that we can take and adapt for ourselves. The search for meaning might be why you are reading this. The act of writing this is part of my own quest for meaning.
In my view, everyone (with the exception of sociopaths) has the same basic needs and desires. We all have similar brains and similar psychologies. And thus the most fulfilling things that give our lives meaning must be similar as well.
I call it the “Three L’s” philosophy of life:
Love: I need love. People to love and care for. People to love and care for me. I need a sense of closeness and belonging. I need to share experiences and thoughts. These are the deep relationships that make life worth living.
Learning: I need a sense of continual personal growth and learning. I need to feel like I am acquiring new and useful knowledge, removing bad habits, adding good habits and moving towards a better self through new and interesting experiences.
Living Ethically: I need to maintain a sense of ethics and “goodness”. This is a complex topic but in summary I stay true to my word and take trust extremely seriously. I do not use or hurt people deliberately. I balance my interests with the interests of others. I give more than I take.
Everything I do is with these three aims in mind. This leads to a deep sense of satisfaction and joy with the combination of where I am now and where I am going in the future. A sense of progress while enjoying the journey with a clear conscience.
I find that following these principles brings a deep and dynamic life filled with inner peace and contentment which is exactly what everyone is seeking, is it not?