How Important is Meaning to Your Life even If You have The Means to Live?
You know this guy. We know this guy.
“I want to be like Steve Jobs,” he declares.
You mean, dead?
No one can be like Steve Jobs. Tim Cook cannot be like Steve Jobs.
Even the fake Steve Jobs could not be like Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was Steve Jobs.
“I want to do all the great things he has done, including pissing off employees. I want to be that tough.”
A few days later.
“I want to be like Branson.”
“The new boss is a bitch.”
“It’s not so much the boss. I am pissed with my job.”
“Why does it rain so much?”
“Why is everyone so dumb?”
“I think backpacking to Nepal would do me good, what do you think?”
“Nah. I think I’ll settle down with Jan.”
You know this guy. He has a great paying job. He looks good. The only thing is that he has this thing. Consistently inconsistent. An Un-Happy.
He is stumbling. Tumbling through life. There are no rails to hold on to. In his life. There is a lack of cohesiveness. There is a need for identity.
From the outside, you’ll think he is doing well. He constantly adds to his wardrobe. He must have the latest and greatest. Gadgets. And, he is predictably complaining about them. Or, the weather.
Clearly. He has the means to live. But, he has not found the meaning to live for. Contingent upon personal resilience, this existential vacuum could lead to tragic consequences.
At Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl saw people die easily. Even committing suicide. In ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ Frankl wrote, ‘It may well be that an individual’s impulse to take his life would have been overcome had he been aware of some meaning and purpose worth living for.’
Nido Qubein has a point story. A tragic story. The suicide of a rich Californian girl. Despite the lavish birthday party, a few days before, complete with 21 candles wrapped with a thousand dollar bill each, the body was found by her parents, with a suicide note in her hand. It read, “You have given me everything to live with, but nothing to live for!”
Worth thinking. What will you be clutching when they find your body?
Do you have something to live for? Do you live a meaningful life? A why? Why are you needed here? Mark Twain observed that there are two important days in your life. The day you were born and the day you found out why.
Frankl found that, the ‘something’ need not be a vision of grandeur. Just something you are passionate about. Something that has a deep meaning for you. Reuniting with your loved ones. Finishing a book. Wrapping up a laboratory project.
“He who has a why can endure anyhow.” Not that it’s Nietzsche’s. But because it is lucid.
It’s like climbing a flight of stairs. Hold the rails. It keeps you from falling. It keeps you from losing focus. It will lead you to your destination safely. Surely.
Richard Leider, writes in ‘The Power of Purpose,’ about a unifying sense of direction. Providing coherence and purpose. Purpose provides constancy. The constancy of purpose.
Have you built rails in your life? An instrument that keeps you steady in face of crisis? When you are stumbling, what can you hold on to? That keeps you from falling away from the path. To fulfillment. Living a life. That you are passionate about. A meaningful life?
What are you passionate about?
Mother Teresa: “To show mercy and compassion to the dying.”
Oprah Winfrey: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
Denise Morrison (CEO, Campbell Soup): “To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”
Amanda Steinberg (Founder, Dailyworth.com): “To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.”
Notice it is about giving. Not getting. That is the difference with goals. True purpose is about finding meaning by giving meaning. To others. To the community. To the world.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Not that it’s Churchill’s. But because it makes sense.
Instant karma. Researchers have found that living life with an altruistic purpose enhances your wellbeing. Gregg Jacobs, in his book, ‘The Ancestral Mind’ quoted a major study. Men who volunteered for community organizations were 2.5 times less likely to die from any cause. Volunteerism is linked to boosting of immune functioning, fewer colds and less headaches. Add to that, relief from pain and insomnia.
Another bonus! Sound familiar? No, not another online offer. Helping others will increase your chance of being Alzheimer-free by 50%. Better than a few more free videos.
You will also get more love. For you. From yourself. Think about that old straight blade paint scraper. Rusting, unloved. In your toolbox since. After you’re done painting your house. Five years ago.
Now you will hold it adoringly. Show it love monthly. Wiping it clean after using it. Storing it carefully. You have repurposed it to be a garden tool. It cuts off pesky weeds from the edge where the wall meets the hard ground. Like no other tools can!
It has a shining new purpose! Now you think. “What will I do without it?”
Worse than vacillating between Jobs and Branson. If you do not have your own life purpose, you may be co-opted into someone else’s. Like I did with the paint scraper.
Is that okay for you? If not, why?