Where Do You Find Meaning In Your Life?

In the various aspects of your life, which ones provide meaning? In other words, what makes your life worth living?

We’ve talked before about values, and purpose. What do you do, and why do you do it? What drives you, motivates you to get out of bed, go to work, and in general behave like an adult?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’


But there is something that we haven’t talked about much: meaning. What are the areas of your life that mean the most to you? What would you miss the most if it were to vanish?

Where do you find meaning in your life?

Related questions: What gives you purpose? What is your life about? Why are we here? What are your values? What is important?

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

Imagine that you are Tom Sawyer, able to attend your own funeral. What would you hope to see and hear from those in attendance? How would you want to be remembered?

There are at least two different reasons to think about this question.

The first is to help others that survive you after your death. If you think about — and write down in detail — what happens after you die, you can save your loved ones a lot if guesswork. Everything from what to display at your memorial service to your final resting place, from DNR orders to organ donation, you can outline your wishes.

For grieving loved ones, that effort could be very comforting. Not only would your wishes help to relieve a source of potential stress, but it is almost a way of communicating after you are gone. Your request might seem like a voice from beyond, comforting your loved ones as they deal with emotional turmoil.

Even more important, however, is how thinking about how you will be remembered will help you. Thoughts of what you hope will live on after you can help to set your priorities while you are still alive.

For example, if you want people to think of you as generous, the best way to make that happen is to increase your generosity. If you want to be remembered for being a good parent, you may want to spend more time with your children and less time at work. If you hope that you are thought of as well-read, you can achieve that by committing to reading more.

In that way, what lives on after you can be seen as a mission statement for while you are alive. Your hoped-for future self can serve as an aspiration for the current you.

Have you given any thought to what will happen after you die? Do you know if you will be buried or cremated? Can you imagine which pictures and which mementos you want people to see at your memorial service? Is there something you want to be said in eulogy? And how might the answers to these questions impact what you do today, or in the days and years ahead?

Related questions: What would you say to people in the future? Should we be concerned with legacy? Why are people afraid of death? How do you plan for the future? Burial or cremation?

 

What Is Art?

Art is something that plays a part in everybody’s life. Anyone, from any walk of life, can make or appreciate art. But what, exactly, is it?

There are several ways of thinking about art.

For example, it is that stuff that you go to see at a museum. From the paintings hanging on the walls to the sculptures on pedestals, you can go and look at Art, with a capital “A”.

But it is more than that, of course. At the museum gift shop, you can buy a print of some of the pieces, and hang them on your wall at home. Surely, a reproduction of a work of art is still art, right?

You might buy a painting from an artist who is not a household name. Or you might even paint something yourself. All those are examples of artwork. So it would seem that the pedigree of the person producing the work is not what determines if it is art.

Does intention matter? If I sit down at an easel, with a paint brush, I can produce a painting. The finished product might not be very good, but it is an effort of creation.

However, let’s say I find an elaborate spider-web in the morning, glistening with dew. Is that art? The spider that spun the web did so as an act of creation, but didn’t intend to make artwork — it was just following a biological imperative. Maybe I’m so impressed, I take a picture. Does the act of photography make it more or less artistic?

Perhaps only the appreciation matters. If someone appreciates something as being aesthetically pleasing, is that thing automatically a work of art? But doesn’t that mean that anything can be so classified? And if that is true, does that devalue what the word “art” even means?

Related questions: How important is the artist to art? Art: create or consume? When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?

How Do You Justify Your Existence?

Author Isaac Asimov wrote a series of mystery stories about a group called the Black Widowers. In nearly every story, a question was asked of a guest character: How do you justify your existence?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘How do you define success?’


In the stories, the answer to this question always leads to a mystery or a puzzle of some sort being presented and eventually solved. In real life, of course, there probably will not be a mystery. But we can still have the discussion.

So how, dear reader, would you answer this question? What is your justification for your time on this earth? The question is simple, but the answer may not be.

Related questions: What gives you purpose? Why are we here? How do you judge yourself? What do you do that matters?

What Is Your Life About?

I recently made a mistake, one that I have been making since I was very young. Someone asked me about the book I am currently reading. Was I enjoying it? And what was it about?

By way of answer, I started to provide the basic plot of the book. Afterward, I mentally berated myself for making the basic mistake of conflating the plot — what happens — with what it is about. The point.

But then I started to realize that in my life, I often do the same thing. There is the everyday plot of my life: I got up, had breakfast, went to work, etc. These are the things that happen over the course of the days, weeks, and years of my life.

However, these events are not what my life is about.

It is true, of course, that the two can be related. In a novel, the plot can help to highlight the point of the book. It can be used, along with characterization, symbolism, and other writers tricks — to illuminate the purpose. But they are certainly not the same thing.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you define success?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


During the weekly meetings Michael and I have to discuss our lives and come up with the week’s questions for Intellectual Roundtable, too often I fall back on the plot of my life during our conversation. I did this thing. An event happened to me. I went here, read this, talked to so-and-so. It is an easy shorthand, to summarize the week that was.

Which, then, raises the question: What is your life about? How often do you think about the meaning, the purpose, the larger picture, of the book you are currently reading. Or, indeed, of your own life?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? What gives you purpose? What are you reading right now?