This month I’ve been exploring the age-old question: What is the meaning of life? Is there a purpose? Have I made “good” decisions? Am I on the path that I “should” be? Of course, there have been many philosophers throughout time who have proposed answers. However, as a freethinker, it is important for me to answer the questions for myself.
From my research and personal thoughts, following are my conclusions:
- Each person defines his or her own purpose in life. Can we obtain meaning by helping others, serving a deity, learning about ourselves, or raising children? It depends on your individual priorities and preferences.
- Self-reflection and a long-term view enable us to choose our purpose wisely. It is critical to assess whether those items you think are a priority are truly important. Many times we realize too late that our priorities in life were forced upon us by our culture or media.
- Life is an opportunity to:
Life allows us to interact with and observe our surroundings. For example, we can take a walk, interact with other cultures, listen to music, snorkel in the ocean, or breath in some mountain air. Experience can provide a profound connection with our surroundings.
We are social creatures, and relating to others can make us feel whole. This includes marriage, family, friendships, love for animals, etc. This could also include reading or watching a TV series where you relate to the characters. Relating provides an important connection with others.
Creating music, drawing, blogging, cooking, or presenting an idea can be rewarding. Creating more life/ raising a child or taking care of animals can be the ultimate reward. Creation contributes something to the world and can provide a deep sense of purpose and meaning.
We have the opportunity to improve ourselves, our world, and future generations. You could perform activities that enable you to:
- Learn and expand your mind
- Optimize your physical health and physique
- Optimize your mental health and well-being
- Share with and help other living beings
Happiness comes from both appreciation as well as pleasure received from positive experiences. A greater appreciation of our surroundings and loved ones strengthens those connections, and brings us happiness. You can also gain pleasure from a job well done, helping others, etc.
Note that doing things specifically to make us feel good doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of purpose to our lives. In fact, an obsession with happiness may be related to feelings of emptiness, or a life that lacks meaning. Also, trying to obtain pleasure through too much alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food, etc., can be detrimental to yourself and others. It seems we must be careful to balance joy with life’s other opportunities, which provide more long-term happiness and fulfillment.
Of course, the purpose that we choose must be compatible with societal law to protect ourselves. For example, just because Joe Schmoe feels that his purpose is to kill people, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him to fulfill that purpose.
For myself, I am going to use this amazing opportunity to experience, relate, create, improve my world (and its future) and enjoy it all as much as possible.
Related article: Why Should You Have a Purpose?