“In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.”
~ Albert Camus
When the world seems chaotic, we can find solace in zooming out to consider a deeper meaning. We can’t always understand life’s rumbles while still in it. You know this: life can only be lived forwards but understood backward. Whatever we’re going through, be it worry, sadness, grief, or transition, we need meaning to help us through it.
On a societal level, how do we understand what is happening around and in front of us? Individually, how do you make sense of what’s happening inside you?
Meaning-making is a way to understand the chaos around and inside you. It can be a way to cope with difficulties and confusion. Some part of you knows there’s a story to be told throughout your life. When you’re engaged and open to the spiritual realm, you can make meaning out of almost anything. It’s a beautiful thing of your creation: No one else gets to make meaning of your life for you.
So then, how do you create a meaningful life?
You have a purpose.
Turbulent times ask us to find our ground with deep purpose. For some people, they find deep meaning in their work. For others, it’s in their art or creation; for some, it’s through their community or family. Social justice, activism, or volunteering can generate purpose. What moves you to action? We’re all here for a reason, and we all have something to offer, give, and create. It’s up to us to find it. Beyond the temptation of the monotony, your soul yearns for something bolder, more profound, extraordinary. These days, it’s even more necessary to find yours.
You embrace challenges
Embracing a meaningful life means remembering there is more than the challenge: You see beyond the difficulties. You know reorganizing is messy, and we tend to regress with every step of progress. Growth and learning are non-linear. Resilience proves how humans grow through difficulties. We often forget this when we’re in the thick of it. The human spirit is strong and resilient. In my work with survivors of trauma, I see this every day. We need hope when it’s hard, and meaning can give us a sense of hope. What sort of meaning can you make out of your current challenge?
You learn to go your own way.
A meaningful life may sometimes mean you walk alone, away from the crowd. Sometimes that means missing out. It means sticking to your soul even if it takes you on the less traveled path or the path you initially fear. A meaningful life is a path of surrender. You trust enough to let go and let life guide you. It comes from a deep knowing: when you listen from within and answer your heart’s call.
You can tolerate uncertainty.
Excitement and anxiety are two sides of the same feeling. On its edge, we consider that one holds trust, and the other is overwhelmed with fear. Uncertainty evokes fear in many of us. When you live with purpose and meaning, you can keep faith that it’s all leading us somewhere, even if on the way it is messy. Masterpieces often begin as chaos. Yesterday’s compost is tomorrow’s fertilizer. Endings lead to beginnings. We must find ways to trust ourselves, others, and life. To broaden the landscape of all that is still unknown about the future. We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re on our way.
You remember that it will all ultimately end.
Not a popular topic, I know. But talking about the end is a way I find meaning. The challenges will end just as the winning streak ends one day. Like the stock market, we’re on our way up, or we’re on our way down. A meaningful life embraces that we’ll all come to meet the end of our road. When we remember this, we’re gifted a reminder: we have limited time here, so we better make meaningful use of it.
There are countless other ingredients to add to what makes a meaningful life, and I imagine this list will continue to evolve as I age.
A meaningful life is not about saving yourself but choosing yourself.
Under stress, we can forget how powerful we are. We sleepwalk through our lives, inundated with meaningless habits and patterns that never serve us well. You create a meaningful life when you decide to wake up and start taking yourself more seriously. More boldly, you choose how you want to spend your time and energy, and where to invest your heart.
When we feel lost, stuck and confused, it might be worth stepping back and making some meaning of life. Generate something out of it. Where and how do you make meaning?