Finding Meaning in Life: What Do You Value?

We all get caught up in the pursuit of happiness but often take a wrong turn. Happiness, after all, is the ultimate goal for everyone, isn’t it? And happiness leads to a more meaningful life based on your core values.

Unfortunately, many of us fail in this chase for happiness, tripping over steeples and wondering how it all went wrong. Here are some ways it might have gone wrong.

pursuit of material things
Source: Photo by John-Mark Kuznietsov on Unsplash

Chances are you pursued:

  • material items (purchased a car, a home with furnishings, etc.),
  • a more lucrative career, and
  • a bigger paycheck.

You were sure these items would bring you the happiness you crave. And now, at 50+, your career is on track and your paycheck is good or at least adequate to meet your needs. You’ve bought your dream home and decorated it all the material things imaginable.

But, wait! You don’t feel happy or have that deep feeling of self-fulfillment.

Abraham Maslow, who created the five tiers of human need, says

“it takes more than satisfaction of our body’s basic needs to give definition to our lives.”

maslow hierarchy of human needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs

Our homes and belongings satisfy the bottom tier, and governmental laws and protections give us safety and security. Most of us achieve these two bottom tiers. Yet, we aren’t happy nor completely satisfied with our lives.

As human beings, we want more, namely to be happy, to be loved, to belong, to achieve, and to be creative. Yes, we want to move up to the next levels on Maslow’s hierarchy.

How do we move up? Where does happiness come from?

The answer is simple: by doing the things you love, like hanging out with your loved ones and just being. Or taking up a creative hobby you’ve wanted to do all your life but never had the time.

So, how did you – and indeed all of us – get so off course?

It’s really quite simple! We become obsessed with achieving and acquiring things. These material possessions we have attained show how successful we have become. But we would all deny that reason, instead, telling ourselves, “it’s for our loved ones; it’s to make a better life for them.”

In reality, what makes life worth living is finding meaning and latching on to it.

What Can You Do?

So far, the pursuit of happiness has left you feeling drained and unhappy. How can you change that?

Life is a journey! So would you embark on a long journey without knowing your destination?

No, you wouldn’t. You would want to know all about your destination, and you would more than likely need to know about the journey, too. So, why are we so “content” to lead a life without direction?

Finding meaning isn’t just about you. Though self-care is an important aspect of a meaningful life, giving back is even more important, whether it’s to your friends, your community or the environment. To find meaning, it’s important to look outwardly.

Living a meaningful life may, for you, mean being remembered, while you are alive or after you’re gone. Or it may be simply touching or reaching out those around you. Finding meaning gives you a reason to go on, no matter what else is happening in your life.

Finding Meaning in Your Core Values

You shouldn’t dismiss anything when you are searching for meaning in your life – be flexible and open-minded. You will have more than one core value, and your life probably has multiple purposes.

For example, you may want to be an excellent spouse,a fantastic friend, a wonderful parent, an incredible teacher, businessperson, or writer. Regardless, you will have many core values that give your life meaning and purpose. Each of those can provide you with the sense of fulfillment that you are seeking.

What Do You Value Now?

It’s important to understand your values can change. Just as you have personally changed over time, it’s only natural that your core values may have changed as well. So, what aspects of your life are the most important to you?

Score these from zero to five (zero being unimportant and five being incredibly important).

  • Personal relationships
    parents: ___,
    siblings: ___,
    children: ___,
    friends: ___
  • Career: ___
  • Animals: ___
  • Nature: ___
  • Education/Achievement: ___
  • Healthy living: ___
  • The Environment: ___
  • Helping others: ___
  • Hobbies: ___
  • Being Creative: ___
  • Spirituality
    soul: ___,
    mystical: ___,
    religion: ___

Areas you rated as a four or a five are the things that are most important to you. Lower numbers indicate the things are unimportant. Your answers will give you an idea of what truly drives you.

Adjust your life to become meaningful by shifting your focus to these items you rated as five, then four, and so on. Make any changes relevant to refocusing your direction and activities.

You don’t need to fight crime or be a revolutionary to live a meaningful and mindful life. By mindfully pursuing the things you value, you will find new meaning and happiness in your life. Seemingly small things can help you embrace everything that life has to offer.

Happiness and self-fulfillment need not be elusive!

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