The Meaning of Life
The Meaning of Life.
I really do believe I have stumbled upon the meaning of life. It came to me in a eureka moment when I was on a plane, not too long ago. Before I share this with you, I want to stress the value and urgency of what I am writing. The value is high because those of us who choose to take action on what I describe will have a drastic change in their life. The urgency is high because when you talk about your overall state of mind and your level of happiness in your life, you likely view this as your highest priority life objective, the desire to improve, for if we do not–the consequences are huge. Life is short, so every day we are not happy with where we are or what we are doing is a day that is lost. I like to prevent those days as much as possible, which can be difficult in practice (although easy in theory). The other way to look at this is to use today to make a better tomorrow. If you don’t like your life right now, then do something small today to make it better and then do something tomorrow and the next day, and then over time you see significant change. Okay, so what is the meaning of life?
When I was on that plane I was reading a book on leadership when I came across a very distinct sentence that turned into what I consider to be THE meaning of life, not just A meaning of life. Here it is, “Only pursue an activity for the sake of the activity.”
I thought about this for a few minutes and then it struck me in a profound way. What this means is that whatever thing you engage in during life HAS to be done for an internal reason. If you do, for example, a job only for money, power, or prestige, then over time it loses meaning and you get burnt out. It gets to the point where you don’t care about how much money you are making or how much prestige it gives you. Ever since I read that and have been thinking about it, I have come across people from varying professions all telling me the same thing: It is not worth it if you aren’t in it for passion.
I met a nurse who works in an emergency room. He was telling me the money is really good and the hours really aren’t too bad. However, there are many days when people treat him very bad. He says he has been called every name you can think of, including the N word, and no amount of money is worth that in your workday. I asked why this happens and he said that angry relatives and/or patients would say all sorts of terrible things to medical professionals such as him, and this happens all the time. Solution: Perhaps not working in an ER setting, which might mean less money or more hours… but a happier day.
I met a guy who teaches math at a high school, and while he has great hours and often a very rewarding job, he has many days where students treat him poorly and then of course he has to deal with all the politics of the education system so that his superiors can be satisfied. Like other teachers, he would prefer to be an educator while minimizing all the dramas and hardships one often has these days in order to keep the goal of helping people learn. Solution: Different age group, different district, or maybe different type of school.
A friend of mine works as a bank teller, and again, she was telling me how customers can get angry because they can’t cash a check or have some issue with their account and they call the bankers a-holes or other names on a regular basis–which makes the work environment less than ideal. Her situation has its perks since it is a secure job, but the angry customers make it tough, and in this case she doesn’t even make much money–so it’s a matter of “better to have a job than no job at all.” Solution: Get a different job, maybe something other than customer service.
A relative works at a dialysis center and has been there for almost 20 years. The work environment has become horrible and there is a vice president at the company who was described as, and I quote, “Evil.” The issue here then is while it would make sense to leave the job and get into something else, she has all her vacation days built up not to mention benefits, 401K and so forth so to leave would be quite a sacrifice. Trying to get a gig at a different company is difficult due to the tendency for healthcare companies to hire people within their own company first before other candidates.
The point of all this is that here are people from all sorts of work experiences, different pay rates, and different work pressures that are moving them to do something better–but people often have to make huge changes in order to eliminate or reduce such problems, and many of us do not take that plunge.
I am guilty of this too. In fact, I may be 50 years old before I am satisfied with my work and get my problems and pressures down to a more reasonable level. I mean, I’m realistic enough to know there will always be some drama. The idea is that you get it to a point where 9 times out of 10, your days are having you doing exactly what you want to be doing in life and you like its flow and dynamic. You deal with the bad times and then move on–they aren’t taking up as much energy in life as they used to. Maybe it means that if you are a doctor, you become a small town physician so you don’t have to deal with big city office politics and nightmares of insurance companies. You can just treat people, pure and simple. Remember the movie Doc Hollywood? Watch it.
We can get closer to our ideal if we pursue activities ONLY for the sake of the activity. It’s easy to get lost in the money game. Look at Wall Street, you always need to be making “more” and how empty of an existence is that? It ain’t worth the fancy cars and big offices.
When you do the activity for its own sake, you begin to realize that providing life meaning is worth the challenges it takes to get to that type of life. It has been said that there are two problems you can have regarding money: You don’t have enough of it or you have too much of it.
If given the following choice, think about what you would choose and why. Would you rather be rich and unfulfilled or poor and happy?
For me, the lesser of two evils is being poor and happy. If you can’t be rich and happy, or even decent money and happy, then the next best thing is poor and happy. Being anything less than that is far from the meaning of life.
This concept takes many of us our whole lives to grasp.
Write this on a sticky note and place it on your refrigerator: Meaning of life: Pursue an activity ONLY for the sake of the activity.
If you are like me, you will work on this a little bit every day so that one day you will be exactly where you want to be in life. Isn’t that a good goal to have? Share with me your comments on what you are doing…