What Makes a Meaningful Life?
It is hard to give a definite answer to the question, “What makes a meaningful life?” This is because everyone has their own ideas of what makes a beautiful life. What may give purpose and meaning to one person, maybe completely be different to what gives purpose and meaning to another. In a general sense, I believe, a meaningful life is a life of happiness and self-accomplishment, a life that is surrounded by loved ones and activities that are enjoyed. If a person is content with what they are doing with their life, then to them their life is meaningful.
To have a meaningful life is to wake up every morning with a sense of appreciation for the opportunity to live another day. Everyone is here for a reason. Finding that reason could be difficult, but in order to find it, you have to pursue your passion. Doing everything that it takes to accomplish something that you love makes your life worth living. Whether it be caring for people, excelling in your job, or creating something new, your passion creates a joy inside that compares with nothing else. When you know that you are working every day towards that passion, you feel a sense of purpose. You are driven towards this state of self-accomplishment. And until you are able to accomplish this goal, you are unsatisfied and feel a void in your life. Reaching self-accomplishment should be an ongoing goal for everyone. The entire process gives your life meaning, but you cannot stop when you think you have reached your goal. You must continue to set your goals higher so that your life always has meaning. Imagine if one had a physical or measurable goal and they were actually able to reach that goal within their lifetime. If they did not find a new goal, then their life that was already so accomplished would become a life without meaning. I think that would be a very lonely and sad way to spend your remaining years. Instead, when a person reaches a goal, they should take the time to appreciate what they have done and then move on towards another goal so they always have something to look forward to and somewhere to put their energy. Push yourself to always be in the state of mind that you have done everything possible to give your life meaning. Strive to be the best person you can be. We should wake up everyday and want to be better than we were yesterday.
Personally, I am committed to a collegiate soccer team. One thing that my coach always tells us is to come to practice and work harder so that we can improve and be better than we were before. He tells us never to settle with the way we are at the present moment because we could always be better. In games, if we score a goal he says, “Why not try to score another one?” We can improve our ball skills, our shooting, our defending, our headers etc. He says we can’t quit trying to be better unless we become the best female soccer players in the world, and since that is not going to happen to any of us anytime soon, then we all have to keep practicing because there is plenty of room for improvement. I do not look at this as a negative or daunting task that is impossible to reach. Instead, I use it as motivation to strive to be the best player and teammate that I can be. When I perform better than the day before, I am rewarded with a sense of self-accomplishment and all my hard work has meaning and purpose. This hard work and pay-off happens in all aspects of one’s life. Having a meaningful life may be a very individual and unique concept for each person, but it undoubtedly is influenced by and affects those around us. We do not live in a bubble; we are members of a community that need to work together to coexist on this planet. That being said, our life’s meaning and purpose will interact with and affect the lives of others.
A meaningful life in worldly terms is a life that positively affects the people we interact with, or one that leaves a positive affect on those who will come after us. On a more personal level, it is important to have good experiences and memories with loved ones. These are the things that not only fulfill your life but theirs, as well. They fill us with great joy, satisfaction, and meaning. Sometimes, the encounters we have with loved ones, especially family members, are not positive, but we must persevere and help each other get through these hard times. These difficult situations or responsibilities provide us with a sense of purpose and make us feel helpful and useful. These daily interactions can be as simple as getting kids to school, or as complex as saving someone’s life, but they are all opportunities for us to have positive experiences that provide meaning and purpose for our lives. In my life, my family and close friends are probably the most important things to me. They give my life meaning and purpose. Without my family I honestly do not know where I would be right now. I come from a large Cuban family. My mom is one of nine children, and each of the siblings has at least two kids. Because there are so many of us, there is a family event pretty much every week, and everyone comes together to celebrate the occasion or to support in times of need. We attend each others’ sporting events, graduations, and religious ceremonies. It gets crazy sometimes, but it brings joy to every single one of us. I consider myself a pretty humorous person. Whenever I say a joke or make a comment and someone in my family laughs, it brings me happiness. Knowing that they think that I am funny and that I can cheer them up when they are upset gives me meaning and purpose. There are a lot of kids in my family that are around my age. I feel that we can talk candidly to each other about anything and we will always be there for one another. Whenever someone in my family gets into a fight with someone else, we all stand up for our sibling or cousins, because at the end of the day, they are our family and these are the people who give meaning to our life. Spending quality time with my family is very important to me, and is an essential aspect of my meaningful life. Life’s meaning is ever evolving as you move through the stages of your life. Right now, at this stage of my life, I am a freshman in college and my idea of a meaningful life is probably very different from someone who is in their mid-life, and even more different from someone who is closer towards the end of their life. I have many things to look forward to, and not too much to look back upon. My one true responsibility is to do the absolute best that I can in school to prepare myself for my future. I must also take good care of my relationships with my family and friends. I am at the beginning stages of finding my life’s meaning and purpose with the limited experiences that I have had to date combined with my idea of what lies ahead. For people in the middle stages of life, maybe parents of school age children or those who are well on their way in their careers, perhaps life’s meaning is more focused on the present. Parents can easily find purpose in providing for their children and keeping their family safe. They want what’s best for their families so their life is made meaningful by being able to be there for their significant other, their children, and their friends. At this stage of one’s life work can also be very meaningful and it can provide many opportunities for one to feel useful and needed, thus leading to self-accomplishment. Someone who is older or closer to the end of their life might be in a stage of looking back and examining or evaluating their life.
They may ask themselves, “Did I do my best?” or “Did my life have meaning?” They might even have a bucket list of things they want to accomplish before their life ends. In a perfect life, this would be like your chance to tie up loose ends or maybe right a wrong from your past. Hence, your perception of your life’s meaning or purpose will change as your life unfolds. One very important thing to note when considering the meaning of life is whether or not you believe in life after death. Those who believe that there is some sort of life after death are likely to feel that how they live this life will somehow affect their next life. If that is the case, then the meaning or purpose of this life might be a bridge or right of passage to the next life, so it may effect their actions here on earth. If one believes they will be judged on how they lived their life that too may play a major role in your concept of the meaning of life. I, for one, do strongly believe that there is life after death and that in order to achieve this eternal life that I must live a good and meaningful life. Personally, a meaningful life is a life that positively affects everyone you interact with. It is a life of development of the mind, the body, and the soul for the purpose of empowering yourself so that you can be more helpful and useful to others. Since I also firmly believe in God the father, the creator of heaven and earth, I feel that none of this is possible without God’s mercy and intervention. I believe that a meaningful life is one that is closely aligned with God’s will.