Written by Michael J Theron
“Finding oneself and one’s path is like waking up on a foggy day. Be patient, and presently the fog will clear, and that which has always been there can be seen. The path is already there to follow”.
― Rasheed Ogunlaru, Soul Trader: Putting the Heart Back into Your Business, 2012
Following on from my previous post about purpose, entitled ‘You are in charge of it’ (20/06/2020) if Covid-19 has shown us anything it is that life has meaning, and that life lived for its own sake is meaningful. What is considered by many to be the pivotal exploration of significance is the book written by Viktor Frankl entitled ‘Man’s search for meaning’ (1946). As a witness to the countless horrors of the concentration camps during the second world war and as a survivor of Auschwitz, Frankl realised that having meaning is our greatest motivation in life.
Time and time again, as a prisoner in Auschwitz, Frankl observed that those who found meaning, no matter how simple like the joy of seeing a bird or a sunrise, found the resilience and strength to survive another day. Frankl asserted that it was how we chose to act and the responsibility we felt towards our choices that determined our meaning.
Meaning has no restrictions, and there is no general meaning, for it depends on a person’s unique set of circumstances and decisions. What is meaningful to one may not be significant to another, like becoming a vegan, doing volunteer work or becoming a loyal and dedicated friend. Our success and our survival are dependent upon our ability to find meaning. It does not have to be grand or spectacular but should be what will give you a sense of purpose and meaning to your life.
According to Iddo Landou, when we ask about finding meaning, we’re asking about value (Finding meaning in an imperfect world, 2017). What do you value in your life, and what has meaning for you? He goes on to say that perfectionism is one of the main reasons people tend to think their lives are meaningless. Like Frankl, he believes that people are under the impression that they have to be doing something extraordinary to find meaning. For me, it is as simple as being grateful for all that I have, a walk on the beach or a phone call from a friend.
If you feel that your life lacks meaning, there are some straightforward steps you can take to find it. Spend some time writing down what matters to you, your values and what you find meaningful in your life – what are you grateful for is a great place to start. The next step is to write down those things you don’t need in your life and get rid of them. I am a complete lover of ‘decluttering’ so tidy up those drawers you have been avoiding. Cleaning out your closet and donating your old items to a charity is another way to free yourself of unwanted clutter. Make small changes and create new habits that increase a sense of value and meaning to your daily life, like starting a gratitude list, or simply making a point of being polite and courteous to everyone you meet.
Starting to write has given me a great sense of purpose and meaning. I will be the first to admit that initially I was afraid to express my thoughts, but with each piece I write, I feel more motivated and invigorated. Wanting to improve my writing and finding my own voice and style is exciting and a awesome challenge. It has given me purpose and meaning, and for that, I am genuinely grateful.
So just breathe and start with something that you love and that brings you joy. Walk through the fear and believe that there is greatness within you. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and may you find some way to add more meaning to your life because you are worth it.