How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?

~ Charles De Gaulle ~

Do You Need Meaning For Happiness?

June 30th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 58 secs

Hmm, meaning you say...

Hmm, meaning you say…

If meaning leads to happiness, what kind of meaning do you need? Are we talking about everything in life having to have deep significance at all times? Or, are there other ways to make sense of it?

I’m trying not to get too philosophical here. But it seems to me that this meaning business actually matters a lot. If it paves the road to enduring happiness, then it’s definitely worth getting your head around (At least for a few minutes!).

I take a broad-brush view of meaning myself. The reason being is that meaning in a practical sense seems to vary so much from person to person.

For instance, meaning for one is a life purposed with conscious intent. Deliberate actions are built around belief and there seems to be a “why” to almost everything.

But, for someone else, meaning is broader and less crucial. Meaning still matters, but in a more relaxed kind of way. There is an acceptance that some things “just happen” and this attitude is just fine with that.

Another person’s take on meaning is looser still. Meaning rests more toward the side of feeling. Consequently, if it feels right then it probably is. Which makes purpose get its worth through finding happy moments (and the more there are, the merrier life will be).

That shows there’s an infinite range of ways to perceiving meaning and what works for one certainly won’t for another. So how can we make sense of this? Perhaps, by stripping back our differences to find our commonality.

The crucial feature to meaning is that it’s our way of making sense. To me, that sense is really the foundation because it shapes how we build our thinking in a day-to-day way.

Philosophers might not like it, but the idea of meaning is inherently subjective. Personally, I need meaning to give me motivation to do a whole lot of things (some of which, like cat tray cleaning, are definitely lacking in appeal). Then again, you can do a lot of routine stuff without giving much thought to it at all.

While I don’t necessarily think that’s a good way to live at a deeper level, feelings and instinct are fine for a great many decisions requiring little consideration.

Like a two track race, there seems to be room on one for considering and deciding on the fly on the other. While the latter gives you the ability to enjoy pleasures easily, it’s thoughtfulness that offers satisfaction and even, wisdom.

Although making meaning of our life, our selves, and why kids use so much shampoo takes reflection, it offers extra benefits, not least contentment and that almost forgotten treasure, dignity.

Having reasons to live for certainly enhance life. While, by comparison, having no reason to do anything is undermining; leading to indifference and an unhappy aimlessness (so common in modern life).

Which brings me back to happiness and where meaning fits in. Meaning alone isn’t going to make you happy (while, some meaning is, by nature, more inclined to lead to happiness than others). If you see yourself as:

  • Capable of contributing to the wider life of others
  • Helping those in need
  • Able to express your ideas in constructive ways through your voice, hands, and heart
  • Someone who values wisdom rather than doing only what you are told
  • Not too important but, importantly, capable of much good
  • Both original and appreciative of the originality of others
  • Accepting of other people because you know none of us are perfect
  • Curious and aware that there is infinitely more to keep learning about

then I believe your interpretation of those meanings has the potential to be compelling.

As a Christian myself (and, no, I didn’t change my name), I attach a particular spiritual aspect to these meanings. Yet, whatever our thoughts or religious perspectives, these basic meanings work well for everyone.

Satisfaction has a chance when we reflect upon the qualities in our life as it is or how we can live it to be. As good as impulses are, they are not enough to produce deep contentment. For that kind of happiness, we’ve got to contemplate: what is, was, might have been, and can still be.

It’s Not The How Of Happiness But The Why

You’ve Gotta Love Something

Have You Got A Good Reason?




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