How To Have A Meaningful Life

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how to have a meaningful life

You walk to a deserted park bench in your track pants, eating Doritos.

Suddenly, in the dwindling light of the evening you have an epiphany:  you're an unsuccessful, unattractive lump of decaying lard.  You're obese, your ankles ache from numerous varicose veins, you're single, your B.O really stinks, you have no hobbies, and you have no job.  Basically, you're meaningless and life isn't a box of chocolates.  No.  Life is a box of discarded, rat-eaten potato chips.  Each one tastes the same.  And each day is the same - ambling, aimless and asinine.

It is then, amongst the quagmire of your wasteland of thoughts that you see a single apple core on the ground, two feet away.  You move your large derrière off the seat and pick it up carefully in your bulging fingers.  Then, you place it next to a tree and watch, wistfully.  You feel like that apple core - discarded, used and forgotten.  So you sit, and watch it empathetically.  Then, suddenly, a bird flies down, cautiously pecks the apple core, picks it up, and flies away to its nest.  You watch, stunned.  Warmth fills your entire body.  You smile.  And you understand.

Feeling Meaningless And Empty

We've all felt unsuccessful and purposeless in our lives.  How many times have you woken up one day and sadly wondered "what difference have I made to the world?"  If you're anything like me, you would have been confronted with these sobering thoughts and desperately wondered what great achievement you could pursue to fill that empty hole of purposelessness inside of you.

You think to yourself "Quick!  Time is running out!  Time is running out!" and you eventually collapse in vain, wound up in your grandiose thoughts, ideals and hefty expectations of what you "should" achieve.

We say to ourselves "But look, look!  He/she/they accomplished this, built that, started this, did that.  And how marvelously great they are!"  And we strive to do the same.

The sad thing is, many of us give up before we get there.  But it's ridiculous to expect that we ever would.  You see, may of us set out to fill our empty spaces, and to seize the moment, with expectations that are too unrealistic and too momentous to actually accomplish.  We bite off more than we can chew and then choke and wonder, in tears, how we can ever have a meaningful life.  Luckily, there is an answer.

Start small

When you remove your egotistical desire to achieve greatness or become the world's Number 1 philanthropic saint, you remove pressure from yourself.  You don't do things from a desire to make yourself bigger, but a desire to make yourself wholer.  When you decide to start small-scale, you make the decision to live a life of meaning, instantaneously.  Fulfillment to you is no longer a future land of milk and honey, but a present moment joy, a present moment wholeness.

And what can be more meaningful than making your present life happy and purposeful?

But how, you ask, how can I have a meaningful life right now?  In 2 seconds?

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How To Have A Meaningful Life In 2 Seconds

Let me share with you an incident that inspired this article.  I thank Sol, my inspiration, for his quirks that generated these thoughts.

After returning from an evening walk in the drizzle, Sol bent over, picked up a snail on the path and threw it to the other side of the road.

"Why did you do that!?" I cried, "You probably killed the snail!"

"No I didn't", he said, "it has a shell to protect it.  Plus, it could change the course of that snails life.  He could make a whole colony of babies there that he never would have over here".

I thought about this for a while, intrigued by the idea that one single act can change the course of another being's life.  One single, split second decision can change your life as well.  If you've ever seen the movie Amelie or The Butterfly Effect, you would perfectly know what I mean.

Even small changes to your environment can have large, long lasting effects.  For instance, just look at the interplay of the environment and mankind.  Without any bees, for instance, it's likely that we wouldn't last too long as a race of people on earth.  And if we did, it would be with great difficulty.  Bees pollinate the entire earth, allowing fruit, vegetables, trees and plants to grow which all provide us with sustenance.  If bees dies plants die, then herbivores die, then carnivores die, then we die.

So just imagine the possibilities.  Even one single decision to say, steal, can change the course of your life.  Even the daisy that you find on the edge of the bus stop seat that you give to the girl next to you, can alter your life forever.  Every single decision has an effect on the world and the people in it.  Scary isn't it?  But absolutely life-changing!

In less than 2 seconds you can potentially alter the world, or make someone's life better.  Even simply by placing a flower on someone's letter box.  Or leaving a note with a smiley face in a library book.  Or sending anonymous love letters to the local nursing home.  Even these seemingly small acts can generate great joy for others, or even have life-changing affects.

When you realize this, it's no longer necessary to see your achievements, or to bask in their glory.  Any simple act fueled by a desire to live a meaningful life and make a difference is enough fulfillment.

Why not give it a go?  Now.  Go out and drop a coin on the floor, or wink at a person, or draw a picture to leave on a park bench.  You may just have a meaningful life in 2 seconds.  And maybe even fill that empty hole inside of you.

What spontaneous acts of meaning have you done to make a difference in order to have a meaningful life?  Please feel free to share any below with me!

Photo by: Lotus Carroll

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  1. Thanks says

    under the Feeling meaningless and empty section, there is a part ” But it’s ridiculous to expect that we ever would. You see, may of us set out to fill our empty spaces, and to seize the moment,.” It says, you see, may of us…, is it many of us? I might of just made a life altering act! boom! or not, but i really enjoyed the read.

    • says

      Yes, it’s expectations and desires that create suffering in our lives. When we open ourselves, change what we can, and accept what we can’t, our lives are much easier!
      Thank you for reading, and I’m happy you could get something out of it! :)

    • says

      Sree, now that you’ve discovered where you’re going wrong, you can actually know how to solve your problems (that’s the joy of developing self-awareness!) Best wishes!

  2. William says

    A fantastic read. I couldn’t agree more that everyone needs to stop comparing themselves to others. The phrase the grass always looks greener on the other side is so true. I know some people who lost 60% of the value of the home they bought. On the surface it might look like they are doing great. A home, two cars in the garage. You would never know on the surface looking in that things are actually very bad. I had another friend (no longer friends) and we met over a decade ago. He did the normal family thing, but was unhappy with his job because they didn’t pay him enough. He has the mentality that making 100K+ will some how be a life goal. So he uprooted his family and changed jobs. I don’t know how much he makes, but I know they he was spending more on child care then most people make in a year. All said and done, I’m pretty sure he spends more of his salary on living expenses then he did when he had the lower paying jobs. The worst part is, his life style and co-workers/friends kind of turned him in to a jerk. Last time we talked, his relationship was tolerated, kids draining probably 60K plus of his salary. In short, he really isn’t doing very well, but he is living the status dream, so he will fight the good fight till the end of life. The last story is a little personal, and was a huge eye opener for me. I have an ex-wife. When I met her, she seemed down to earth, wasn’t crazy about spending money. We never went shopping for fun and money was never an importance. I don’t know what changed, but she became a workaholic cared only about social status, we never had savings no matter how much money came in. We even had dual income, no kids status. She tried to buy happiness. As you can imagine, it didn’t really work. She fast food’ed a 2nd marriage and it lasted two years. Now here is where the grass is always greener really comes in. I was down about being single and not really moving a long with my life. I had found out that her second husband was charged with a sexual assault against my ex-wife. Now, don’t take this as a revenge happiness thing. It really messes with my mind. The part I looked at, and what changed my life was, this guy is on the permanent sex offenders list, is still in prison. Talk about a mind falk. I thought I was struggling with life. Nope. So, stop comparing yourself to anyone else, no matter how good it seems like things are going. Chances are, they too are struggling with something.

    The message of doing something and taking baby steps is important. Always do something and never do nothing. No matter how small it seems, if you are doing something to improve yourself or others, then its important. Don’t worry about the end result or if it can be done. That trips everyone up. Just work at whatever you are attempting and keep chipping at it, not matter how small the task or goal. A lot of times, it feels useless, but doing nothing is really the only useless choice you can make.

    • says

      I like this part of your comment William: “stop comparing yourself to anyone else, no matter how good it seems like things are going. Chances are, they too are struggling with something.”
      Very true, and so important to remember. Most of us don’t remind ourselves of this truth because we don’t put in the effort of being conscious in our daily lives. It goes to show you that life is all about where you direct your effort and attention – this is where you will reap the fruit.

      Thank you again for sharing these experiences of yours. I enjoyed reading them!


  3. Mary Allinger says

    As I read your story I put down the cheese puffs, dusted off my sweat pants and went in and swiped deodorant on under each arm. I recently got laid off and am losing my home at the end of the month. I’ve been isolating in a bad way and let’s just say I’ve been feeling mighty sorry for myself. I am up! I am off my duff! I am going to take one of my paintings and leave it in our downtown plaza on a bench; I’m going to donate some of my work clothes to the women’s shelter; and I’m going to ask the little old lady next door if she needs some help cleaning up her yard. How could I not feel good after that? Your story was the extra oomph! I needed to go out that door. Thank you …

    • says

      Mary, I really feel as though this article was worthwhile writing after reading this comment. Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I wish you all the best in your endeavours. It´s good to remember that we are what we think all day long, or, in other words, our happiness is dependent upon the thoughts and perceptions we entertain in our minds every day. Believe in the power of your subconscious mind to attract good things into your life, and I am positive that they will occur sooner or later within your life. With much love – L

  4. Tessa Coker says

    I love this idea. Recently I have come to see myself as a synergist (is that a real word?) or a channel, or a pay-it-forward sort of person. Loved Amelie and have put The Butterfly Effect (1,2&3) on my Netflix queue. Pay it Forward was a great movie too.

    • says

      I love how fluid the human identity can be, it’s such an amazing and liberating thing to realize that you can BE someone else, isn’t it Tessa? You don’t just have to remain the unfit, unhealthy gamer who exposes themselves to sunlight once every week.

      Hope you get around to watching that movie! Thanks for reading ;)

      • Tessa Coker says

        It came to me today that I meant CATALYST (not synergist). I teach various fitness formats and love that I can make a big difference for people but I will never be financially rich on it; rich in spirit, emotionally wealthy!

        • says

          Don’t you love when that happens? :P
          Sounds like a rich and fulfilling job – I’m happy that you’ve found your calling! Beats the rich but empty-at-heart way to live life.