What Is The Meaning Of Life?
meaning of life
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde
I’ve seen a lot of lost soul, people who repeat the same thing each day even though they dislike it. And I have seen a lot of dreamers, people who have great vision but caged in their own tiny circle, which others known as the comfort zone.
They have everything they need: food, shelter, and clothing like the others. Their life seems perfectly fine, yet at the same time, they still feel unsatisfied about something and they do not seem to enjoy their life.
It’s like their life is lack of something. It’s like there’s an empty hole in their heart. They can feel the chill and hollowness from within.
Are you one of them?
Well, it’s okay if you are because I’m one of them too. Not just once. But several times in different stages of my life. I took time and came to realize that lacking of purpose in life is the main source of the so called emptiness.
I re-stumble upon this question again regarding the purpose of my life last year mainly because a lot of things around me has changed. It was a very challenging year for me. Intense inner conversation pushed me to rethink about my whole life seriously.
I asked myself a lot of questions about my career, passion, values and identity during the inner conversation session, and there’s one particular question which I can’t put it off from my mind. You guessed it right, what is the purpose of my life is the key question.
Why This Question?
Because it can helps to answer a lot of interesting things like:
1. Why are we here?
2. What is life all about?
3. What is the purpose of our existence?
In the past, I used to be able to tell what I wanted to do almost instantly, as if I know what I wanted in my life all the time. Yet, it was not the same for me last year. I took quite a long time to explore and to re-understand myself before I was able to answer this question myself.
When I was still struggling for the answer, it worries me a lot because I can’t seem to sort out the purpose of my life like I used to be. I think there was something wrong going on with me and it freaked me out. It leaded me to confusion and frustration. Not to say, it also made me feel kind of lost.
It’s rare for me to share my personal experience in such a way, especially when it is rather a not so positive one. But, on second thought, I think this is important for me to share it because I believe there might be someone else who is also facing the same frustration as I did.
My message is simple: you are not alone and this is normal as it happens to other people as well.
Now, I’m grateful for all the confusion and frustration I went through because what Tony Robbins said is true, very true indeed.
“If I’m confused, I’m about to learn something.” – Tony Robbins
Confusion triggers thinking, which eventually leads to linking and learning. In short, I was meant to get confused first, then only I have the chance to learn more about the purpose of my life.
The Quest Begins
Before I was able to sort out the purpose of my life (sounds funny and pathetic), I actually went through a lot of interesting things.
I began by Googling “what is the purpose of your life” and a list of “methods” pop up to teach me how to define the purpose of life. To put it in general, the methods are similar as below.
How to Find The Purpose of Life:
1. Get ready with a pen and paper
2. Brainstorm the purpose of your life
3. Rank them by feeling which one resonate better with you
4. Whichever falls on the highest rank should be your purpose in life.
I did brainstorm the purpose of my life. But I feel it’s almost impossible for me to rank them. Each and every one seems so important to me. Plus, there’s no particular way to help me in filtering the items on the list. Perhaps the direction is not clear enough for me to form a specific thinking pathway to find the answer. The question here is what should I base on to rank the items on the list and to pinpoint the exact purpose of life?
P/s: At the end, I came up with a list of questions, from which I pinpointed my direction and started brainstorming the purpose of life. It’s at the bottom of this article, but for now, please read on.
On second thought, I go on and Google “things to do before you die”.
I thought the things to do before we die should be something of more serious and should be in line with our purpose of life. When I was going through the list, I made a simple assumption. I assume that if I’m able to find the similar to dos in these lists, I can then at least grasp the general idea of the purpose of life.
However, things does not went out as I have expected. Each list offers different kind of things which should be done. It’s impossible to sort out the general or repeated item appears in these lists. They are just a pile of fun-to-do list or wish list which others want to do one day. The activities does not really portray what we should do in life in order to achieve the purpose of life. It proves my assumption was dead wrong.
I grabbed 15 to-dos randomly from random purpose of life lists, so you can understand what I mean they are just a fun-to-do list, not really portray the purpose of life. Furthermore, some are rather vague while the rest sound absurd to me, no offense though.
1. Send a message in a bottle.
2. Shower in a waterfall.
3. See a lunar eclipse.
4. Achieve your ideal weight
5. Go scuba diving
6. Overcome your fear of failure
7. Learn a skill
8. See northern lights
9. Forgive someone
10. Do an extreme sport
11. Be someone’s mentor
12. Sleep under the star
13. Own one very expensive but absolutely wonderful business suit
14. Watch all those damn movies everyone keeps talking about
15. Write a book
Some of the to-dos are quite meaningful like donate blood and hair. It makes me feel good about doing it. However, majority of the items in the list are senseless to me.
The longer I went on looking at the list the more I got confused. Some of the things in the list were pretty vague, like look into the mirror and love yourself unconditionally, let go of your past, welcome all life lessons. All of these are important and they should be applied in life. However, I do not count them as the whole or most important things in life until I would call them as the purpose of life. They are just the small theme of life, while I was seeking a higher level theme of life which we all nod our head without doubt when we say it is the purpose of life, the purpose for us to stay breathing tomorrow.
So far, the purposes of life I’ve found are too vast and they are different depending on our age, culture, religion, gender and etc.
Then I realized it is important to first define the meaning of life. Once we are able to define the meaning of life, we can find our purpose to live. For example, if we think life is all about adventure, then our purpose to live is to see, to feel, and to try every single novel things; if we think life is about conquering our own fear and to be better, then the purpose of our life is to accept and to accomplish all kinds of challenges in life.
The Reference and Reflection On The Purpose Of Life
So, how should I put the meaning of life in one sentence then?
I was completely clueless when it comes to this question.
I have spent a long time wondering around, looking at internet source, books summary, trying to grasp the meaning of life. Yet, the answer I got sometimes was too general, sometimes was too specific until it is irrelevant with my life. In short they were not convincing enough.
However, throughout this process, I have some interesting findings.
I found the “meaning of life” quotes from Noble Peace Prize winners and others.
Quotes About Life by Noble Peace Prize Winners & Others:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
– Nelson Mandela
“We are but visitors on this planet. We are here for ninty or one hundred years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives. If you contibute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”
– Dalai Lama XIV
“A life not lived for others is not a life.”
– Mother Teresa
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The main purpose of life is to live rightly, think rightly, act rightly. The soul must languish when we give all our thought to the body.”
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”
– Robert F. Kennedy
It’s intriguing to imagine why would they want to go through all this hardship? What are their values? And, if I were to be able to meet them in person, what will they tell me about the meaning of life? The only thing I know here is that most of them are givers. They give others something while facing great challenges.
It is interesting to look at what these respectful people said about life. How they view their life can be a very good reference for me. However, ultimately, we will have to be the one who attach meaning to our own life. Only we have such right and only we are capable of doing this because it’s our own life after all.
There’s no universal (one fit for all) purpose of life. The purpose of life and the meaning behind it, we will have to define them ourselves, in our very own context.
Even if there is such universal purpose of life and if we were to seek it, then obviously we should be one of them sharing the same purpose.
So, perhaps, we should just start looking for the answer within us.
Now, looking back into the past, I’ve listed down the meaning of life I once lived by.
When I was a kid, meaning of life was about self-growth, I wanted to see how far I can go, particularly in my studies. Then, when I was a teenager, the true meaning of my life was to be myself, to think and to be able make judgement independently. After I joined the working field, I realized to be able to achieve inner peace was the meaning of life after went through various challenges in life.
For me, the meaning of life will just keep changing throughout our life. This happens because we grow, and then we tend to look at things from a different perspective. Also, learning new things will broaden our horizon, allowing us to view things from a completely different level. Cut it short, when we grow, the way we perceive the meaning of life change.
The Powerful Questions
So, if it keeps changing, then why should I bother to define the meaning of life now? If I insist to keep looking for it, then how should I find the meaning of life?
Great answer derived from good question. So, after went through the filtration, I get myself a list of questions below.
Top 5 Questions to Find The Meaning Of Your Life:
1. What would you do if you do not need to work for money any more?
2. What is the only thing you do not mind working on it for 12 hours per day for the next decade?
3. What is the number 1 thing makes you feel truly content from inside out?
4. If you were to write a book about your life, what do you want the story to be?
5. What would be your biggest regret in life upon the true face of death?
At the end, I personally top pick this “What would be your biggest regret in life upon the true face of death?” as the most powerful question to find the meaning of my life.
It reminds me of one particular article which talks about regrets, which I have gone through a very long time ago. I found it again and it was written by Bronnie Ware, a former nurse who spent years working in palliative care, looking after patients in the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives.
She has a book for this: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing
Regarding the book, some say it’s good, while others say otherwise. Well, if you ask me, I wouldn’t recommend the book because based on the reviews, the book concern much more about her own life than about those she had nursed. However, for those who would like to go more in depth on the topic than an article and do not mind to explore more about the writer’s life, you might want to purchase her book.
Nonetheless, here it is.
The top 5 regrets of the dying:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish I’d let myself be happier.
To be frank, even though it is just a simple article, it helps me to form a new perspective towards the meaning of life. It reminds me something of importance.
If we were to define the meaning of life for now, it might not hold the same for tomorrow as we will grow. However, if we were to look at it as if we are at the last few years of our life, then we can have an eternal lasting meaning of life because we can come to see which meaning of life is the most important one at the end of the day. And, I would say this kind of meaning of life would the purest one we can come up with because we are looking at it now at the very last stage of our life where a lot of things does not matter any more.
At the end of our life:
1. We stop lying to ourselves
2. We stop pretending to be someone we are not
3. We stop chasing materialistic thing which we can’t take away with us
4. We stop competing with others when giving matter more
5. We stop wasting our time explaining ourselves to others because your close ones don’t need it
6. We stop overlooking the beautiful little things around us
7. We stop spending time with the wrong people
When we are at the very end of our life, we stop chasing the wrong things because we finally came to realize our time is depleting, we can’t take things for granted like we used to be, and we can only afford to pay attention to what we treasure the most. And by stop chasing the wrong things, we give the right things a chance to catch us.
The Discovery – The Meaning Of Life
Well, I guess Steve Jobs were right after all.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
– Steve Jobs
Look at life once more upon the face of death is very powerful, too powerful indeed.
It helps me finally come to understand that:
1. Life is not about the destination but the journey – Like Dalai Lama XIV said, “We are but visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most.” If that is true, then it’s the process which matter most, not the destination. It is just the same when we travel. Tokyo, Paris, or Thailand, the destination does not matter much, but it is how we spend our time and what we do matter the most. In short, how we live, our journey matters the most.
2. Life is nothing but the accumulation of moments – To have a meaningful life, first you need to have a series of meaningful moments. Always focus on the present, make the present a meaningful moment consistently and you will naturally have a meaningful life.
From this understanding, I would say that:
The ultimate meaning of life is to live totally, and to live totally means to live at present.
Looking at life upon death peels away all those beautiful illusion in life. It makes us understand that we are not living. We are in fact dying since the day you born.
In fact, it allows us to see that the future is just an illusion but the present is real. Every second we spent living in the future is just a second wasted.
Things became not so pretty but it definitely helps us to come up with the purest meaning of life. Once we start paying more attention to the present, instead of the future which lies beyond imagination, we truly live.
Furthermore, regrets only happens when we finally see what we are chasing after all this while is not the thing what we really want in life. And, looking back at the top 5 regrets of the dying, we can see that most of the regrets can be prevented if we understand the purpose of life is to live in the present. If we can live at the present, we can value things which is important to us right now higher than the things we believed is important to us in the future, and this prevent us from missing what we truly want in life.
The Conclusion on The Meaning Of Life
It sounds silly and pathetic but it took me almost half a year to come to this conclusion.
It took me a long while to go through books, articles, videos and other sources to see what others think about life. Meanwhile, I try to extract the meaning of life via inner conversation, also via going through normal daily activities myself.
It took me some time to boil it down to its simplest form and allow myself to finally be able to grasp the meaning of life which is to live totally. Once we understand this, we will not question about our existence anymore because we are now living it to the fullest, giving life its meaning. The meaning of life is here, not far in the distance future where it is just an imagination, an illusion.
With that saying, go do whatever we think is important right NOW. Punch through the obstacles and challenges along the journey until we accomplish it, so that we will have no regrets in life. We have to create and to attach the meaning to our life by living the things we think are important. Well, after all, we only live once.
Nothing comes with us when our soul leaves our body. Thus, the only thing we value the most before we leave this world will be our memories. So, let’s make sure we live totally and put in more happy chapters into our life now. Every single person is a book, so let’s write a really good one for ourselves.
Thank you for reading and I would like to end this piece of writing by sharing an interesting quote with you, a quote by Osho.
“Life is not a business, it is a play. And a play has no purpose really, it is non-purposeful. Or you can say play is its own purpose, to play is enough. Life is not reaching towards some goal, life itself is the goal. It is not evolving towards some ultimate; this very moment, here and now, life is ultimate.”
So, what is the meaning of your life?
And, why do you think that is the meaning of your life?
I’m super curious about it!
Please share it with me via the comment box below.
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