When creating Forging Magic, the core of the project was always about finding joy and meaning in life. At times everyone struggles with this and I wanted to do something that brought more light into our world. That helped those who were struggling, and created a safe place where people could explore, grow and blossom into something greater.
Creating a Life of Meaning and Purpose
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Why am I here? In the scope of the immense cosmos, how does my star dust level of existence really have any meaning? What is my purpose and reason for getting up in the morning? What is my passion that drives and shapes my existence? Most importantly, what is the meaning of life? And how can I find mine?
These are questions contemplated by people around the world from all walks of life, all cultures and countries, all ages and beliefs. So how can we find meaning in life?
Michael F. Steger, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of the Center for Meaning and Purpose at Colorado State University. He has dedicated his life to understanding the need many people have to find meaning in life. In his research, he finds that one of the keys to meaningful living is in finding opportunities for significance in daily life.
See finding meaning isn’t about the big things. Meaning doesn’t come from success, lots of money, or other abstract notions. It comes from those little things that we dedicate ourselves to every day that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
Finding joy in life is about discovering your passion and purpose. With meaning, your world becomes magical.
So how does one find meaning in their life? Here are some ways to get started.
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, connections with people who give your life purpose are important. It does not need to be a large group. But find the people who add to your life. That life you up, celebrate during the good times and provide a light during the dark times. Find those people who matter to you, and for whom you matter. Focus on those connections. It can often sound cliché, but love really is one of the greatest paths to meaning in life.
Passions with Meaning
What are you passionate about? Think back to when you were young and the whole world was before you, what did you naturally gravitate to? For me it has always been writing. I still have piles of old notebooks with my stories and writings (including lots of life plans!), from when I was a child and teenager. Throughout my life, whenever I have felt torn and lost, I turn back to writing and it always provides fulfillment and happiness.
For my husband it has always been art. He is an artist at heart and always has been. So when he was struggling he learned a new artistic skill, blacksmithing. In a matter of months he had found a passion that soon became his fulltime job and which he is still happily doing 5 years later.
Finding that thing that brings you intrinsic joy and makes you excited to get up in the morning and tackle the day, brings meaning.
To be clear, I am not talking about the things that you are known for, or successful at in your career. I am referring to the thing that brings you happiness, without the need to tell another person. That you would happily do for hours, even if you didn’t share it on social media to see how many likes it might get.
Turn Off the Screens
Screen time. It has become a very hot topic lately. As mentioned in the previous section, finding meaning in life is not going to come from the perception of others. It will also not come if you are constantly comparing yourself to others.
Meaning comes from you and tapping into your own intrinsic happiness, joy, love and passions.
So turn off social media. Take a break from the TV. Put your phone on mute. And instead spend some time doing that thing that you have always loved doing. Or, try something new and develop a new skill. You can also focus the time on family or helping others.
The key is to spend that time normally taken up by screens (which is a LOT of time for most people) on something meaningful and important to you.
You don’t need to give up screens entirely, but what if you set aside just 2 hours without any screens. What could you do with that time instead of scrolling feeds?
Perspective is so important. How we choose to see the work that we do, our connections, and our life is critical to our perception of meaning and purpose.
There will always be things to do in life that we don’t necessarily want to do. We need to go to work to make money and pay the bills. Cleaning the house is a never ending chore. There is always going to be those things we need to do.
But how we frame that work and those experiences changes everything.
Many of us crave work that is more than the sum of our daily tasks. We want our work to be a unique expression ourselves. For it to matter not just for ourselves, but also for others we care about, for our community and even our planet. Many of us have a flawed concept of what it means to do meaningful work, and this prevents us from finding it. These stereotypes and bias affect have us believing that what we do has no meaning.
But everything can have meaning and we can have meaningful workplaces.
There is a famous example of this concept: Three men are found smashing boulders with iron hammers. When asked what they are doing, the first man says, “Breaking big rocks into little rocks.” The second man says, “Feeding my family.” The third man says, “Building a cathedral.”
Who do you think has found their meaning in life?
Choose Joy and Love
I know, it’s not that easy to just say “I am going to be happy, joyful and loving.” But the power of affirmations and mindset is well known. Try spending a few minutes every morning, before you start your day, making a concious choice to chase happiness, joy and love for the day. Will it always work, nope. Some days are just going to suck. But over time you will start to notice improvements and more happiness and meaning in your life. Like draws like and when you put out lots of joy and happiness, it will come back to you, and provide meaning and fulfillment to your days.
Help or Volunteer
Give your time, knowledge and skills to something else. It could be someone you know who needs help, or there may be a cause you feel passionate about and want to get involved with. By helping others, either individually or as part of a greater cause, you are making your community a better place. Knowing that you have been part of improving the world around you, that you have made a real difference in someone’s life, can give you great meaning and purpose.
Find the way of giving back that makes you feel really good about yourself. The world is filled with causes that need champions. But you don’t need to do the big things, the world needs those small acts of kindness too. Little things like:
- shoveling your neighbours walk,
- typing up letters for a school fundraiser,
- quilting lap blankets for seniors,
- cooking a meal for new parents,
- helping a neighbour assemble furniture,
- dropping off a care package to the family that just moved into the neighbourhood,
- plus any other skills you have that could help others.
It might seem strange after all this talk of trying new things, volunteering and dedicating yourself to passions, to talk about saying no, but this is really important.
For life to have meaning and purpose, you need to surround yourself with the people, causes and activities that provide that fulfillment. That means saying no sometimes.
This could mean limiting your time with people who don’t value you, so you can instead focus on the people and connections that do matter.
Perhaps it is time to say no to activities that no longer serve your passions and greater goals. Often we get stuck in routines, or perhaps feel we need to do something, because we always have, but if it isn’t making you happy, it is time to examine things.
Do That Thing
You know that one thing that you have been thinking of doing for years? That dream you have?
My father dreamed of going out on a tall ship. It was something he had been obsessed with since he was a teenager.
When he was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing he said was that he wanted to get out on that tall ship.
It was his only bucket list item.
He passed away only weeks later having never made it onto the tall ship he had dreamed about his whole life.
What is that thing that you have always dreamed of doing? If you were told right now you had only months left to live. What would you put on your bucket list?
Go do it. Sure, it may not live up to your dreams. Or you may discover a new passion that gives your life meaning and purpose.
There are so many ways to add meaning and purpose to life. To create a life of meaning. We simply need to start looking for them.