We all have such a brilliant capacity to create meaning-rich lives.
Doesn’t mean we do it though, does it?
We get stopped – we get into funks, lose the plot on how to create meaning – or else we are simply addicted to feeling stuck (though we might not know it).
Although what makes life meaningful is slightly different for us all, there is a lot of common ground too. Key things are creating and working towards meaningful goals, showing up in life fully as ourselves, and experiencing meaningful connection with others.
Here are 15 ways to make deposits in your ‘meaning banks’.
15 things that make life more meaningful
Giving meaningful compliments. Flirting (with both sexes). Playful interactions. Affection. Making eye contact and smiling at strangers – even when they don’t return it.
It is a curse of our culture, and to the detriment of everyone involved, that we are taught to conceal our delight in each other. Sure, demonstrating love does increase our vulnerability. But it takes a lot less energy than hiding our feelings.
Safety and proprietary issues factored in, why not tell people how you actually feel about them? Compliment without expectation. Be generous to the point of unreasonableness. Be a fountain of love, whilst maintaining your own unique self expression.
If it confuses people to begin with, or makes you feel silly, then so be it.
It is a more truthful way to live.
Making mental and physical gratitude lists
Gratitude has become a sort of fashion statement. But there is nothing faddy about the benefits.
Gratitude is the go-to emotion to generate for happiness, fulfillment and meaning. Every time we have a grateful thought, we are celebrating life and ourselves, and we raise our energy.
By the way, gratitude’s opposite is self-entitlement. Work on noticing any self-entitled thoughts, and begin to remove them from your vocabulary.
Hanging out with little people
Children can be our greatest teachers, if we let them.
They are permanently present (they know no other way because their analytical minds haven’t kicked in yet), and see themselves as powerful masters of their realities. They celebrate constantly. They aren’t afraid to get their needs met.
Spending time with them reminds us who we really are – before all the crap happened.
Using music and art to feel emotions
Finding sadness and melancholy in music and art is the ideal way to process our emotions and release them safely.
Doing so helps us to move through our pain, and gives us a sense of connection as we do it.
It is absolutely necessary for a healthy psyche.
Opportunities to be generous (and to receive)
Being generous with both your time and spirit is fulfilling on a level that booze and drugs can only mimic. It’s what connects us.
Whenever you can help someone, in a small or large way, without it getting in the way of your goals and integrity – that’s a ‘hell yeah’ experience.
Reading and writing
I like to think of reading as the material-pane equivalent of tapping into divine wisdom/consciousness.
Though you may not see it that way, maybe you’ll agree with me that reading anything, and especially non fiction, gives you greater capacity to understand reality and people.
Writing – gratitude lists, forgiveness letters, personal and instructional blogs – is another powerful way to use the written word as a force for greater clarity, connection and understanding. If we take our writings public, it can also be a bad ass tool for contribution (see #5).
Novel experiences expand the existing parameters of your mind, helping you to overcome yourself. It doesn’t need to be travel, though travel is an awesome one.
Obviously gravitate towards things within your current realm of pleasure (although throw the odd curveball activity in sometimes too! You can wind up liking the most unexpected things).
Pretty much every new experience improves self knowledge and is very empowering.
One of the most talked about ways that humans derive value.
Creating specific, achievable goals (with heart), structuring your days and life around making progress towards them, and then celebrating that progress – this will make you a meaning-making machine.
When you meditate, you separate the ‘you’ (as pure awareness) from the mind (thoughts) and body (feelings) – both of which can be pretty outta control at times, let’s be honest.
Meditation tunes you out of your past experiences and future worries, and tunes you into the field of possibilities. It helps to make you more present.
Being 100% responsible for everything that happens in your life creates a meaning-rich experience.
Seeing things through this lens means you consider that everything that happens helps you to grow. In other words, you see your pain and your challenges as good.
Because if we aren’t being challenged, then we aren’t being honest with ourselves – or we are simply not playing a big enough game.
We know that connecting with another person – even briefly – increases our happiness. But diving deep is powerful beyond measure and creates the kind of intimacy which we all cherish.
I think that every time a conversation between two hearts is had, we change the world a little bit.
Sometimes, having an authentic conversation means breaking rapport with people. Drop the idea that other people want you to agree with them all the time. They don’t. We value our friends that call us out on our BS.
Appreciate that to create more authentic conversations, we need to both work on both opening up and listening. Listening to people’s truths (which are not always being communicated directly) is our path to greater understanding and compassion.
Without that, a meaningful interaction becomes impossible.
Opportunities to mess up
Situations that make you nervous are where life’s gold lies.
Every time we triumph over our fears, even in small ways, we get a meaning spike. It must be our souls saying ‘well done, warrior. You did good’.
Demonstrating your imperfections
Another form of generosity (#5), although a special one deserving its own category.
We tend to show eachother the highlight reel. Do the opposite of that. Make it your personal mission to redress the balance.
I am not encouraging you to use your screw ups as a way to make yourself center of attention.
I am talking about being generous about sharing your struggles at times you sense it is needed. It helps us to connect, plus we learn to love ourselves and others more.
Opportunities to enforce your boundaries
This one is hard to step into. But it is a necessary component of self-love and a meaningful life, because it builds integrity.
When you aren’t comfortable doing something or with a person’s behaviour, and the discomfort isn’t derived from fear or emotional triggers, practice speaking up. Every time you do that rather than avoiding the situation or letting it slide – you just made a large deposit in the meaning bank.
The process of (1) noticing where you get unstuck, (2) reflecting, and then (3) shortening the refractory period (the time it takes you to process it) is the art of self-mastery.
We need to keep turning the pages that need to be turned, and examining the results.
Self-reflection is best done during alone time.
10 things to pass up
Sometimes saying ‘no’ is the path to more meaning.
Your smartphone addiction
It is an awe and connection blocker of the highest order. Plus, you rob yourself of your ability to be present.
Self-isolating (especially when lonely or sad)
It’s ironic that when we need to reach out the most, we have the impulse to withdraw. Doing so gets in the way of meaningful connection, prolongs suffering and extends the time it takes us to bounce back.
Unless you are taking time for constructive self reflection, there is no real need to be ‘left alone with your thoughts’. Consider that this is just a symptom of your addiction to them.
Negative self-talk and moaning
Negative self talk is diminishing. Complaining spreads the disempowerment. Say no to both.
Sometimes it is okay to spend time with people who don’t care about having a meaningful connection with you. But mostly it just doesn’t create space for more meaningful connection.
Being busy for the sake of it
Meaningless clutter cordons off your energy. We use it to block intimacy and to avoid dealing with what’s keeping us miserable and unfulfilled.
Attempting to control situations and other people
It removes true spontaneity and opportunity – and possibility! As Patricia Madson’s awesome book says: don’t prepare for life; just show up.
I personally notice that every time I do this, it makes me feel smaller somehow. There is a time for judgment (where safety is at stake). The rest is a waste of time. It blocks connection, self awareness and personal growth.
Holding grudges keeps us stuck in the past and holds us back from creating a new personal reality. For your health, it is one of the worse things.
Falling off the saddle – and staying down
Setbacks, including rejection, are part of life. Getting up when you have been knocked down repeatedly is spiritual boot camp.
Going comfortably numb
Food, alcohol, drugs, sex. Frequent use is a sign that we desperately want change – but we are going about it the wrong way (we need to create change from ‘inside’).
Using vices not only prevents us from creating meaningful change, they stunt the brain’s capacity to experience pleasure. Who wants that?
What do you do for a meaning-fueled existence? Get in touch!