How To Find Meaning in Life

I was sitting at my cubicle at work, cozy at my desk on a dark, wintry afternoon. I liked my job, and was content enough. It felt safe, like government jobs do, and I was doing work I enjoyed. And after experiencing a traumatic financial crisis of my own, I wasn’t interested in taking any risks with my career or my income.

Or so I thought.

That afternoon showed me that expectations can change in a heartbeat. One moment I was working on the Town’s payroll, and the next moment my intuition took me by the shoulders and breathily whispered in my ear: “There’s more than this job. You know it. It’s time to do more.”

I literally grabbed the edges of my desk to steady myself, and admitted to myself for the first time that I was meant to make a bigger impact in something, or for someone. But what?

This scared me. I wanted to maintain the stability in my life that I had fought so hard to rebuild, and having two young children, one with autism, meant that my priorities were shaped around being available for them and for my husband. I didn’t want to go back to school. I didn’t want to quit my job. (At the time anyway. I left it 3 years later.) And I wasn’t willing to do a job that limited my flexibility.

So I decided that I would stay open to ideas and opportunities, but I would stay safe for a while by still focusing on my job.

How To Find Meaning in Life
Discover your meaning in life and stay open to opportunities.

There is more in life and I wanted to find it

Eventually, as I was reading Karen McCall’s “Financial Recovery,” my intuition knocked on my shoulder again and said, “Coaching! That’s what you’re supposed to be doing. Go do it!”

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience: Your intuition is regularly whispering – or screaming! – “There’s more! Find it.”  

Or maybe you feel the pull toward something that feels bigger than you and the work you’re doing now. Maybe you’ve experienced a life-altering event that’s encouraged you to find meaning in your life.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, and a desire to find your purpose, and its ultimate discovery is natural. If you’re ready to allow yourself this journey, but you’re not sure where to start, follow these tips to start transforming your life, and the lives of others.

Four Tips for Finding Meaning in Your Life

1. Don't force it.

A friend recently asked me “But what if I don’t feel a purpose for my life?” She feels pressured at times to find her purpose, and yet doesn’t feel actually compelled to go through the motions to find it.

My answer: Don’t force it.

But once you dial into the fact that there’s more for you, allow yourself to open up to the opportunities to try different experiences. Get curious, and be honest with yourself about what doesn’t interest you or about the people you’d rather not spend time with.

And remember that according to Maslow’s "Hierarchy of Needs," when you’re fortunate enough to feel compelled to find meaning in your life, you’re at the point of self-actualization, and that’s a continual process that spans your lifetime. Enjoy the ride!

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

2. Don't pay attention to your inner naysayer

Even when you know in your heart and gut that you’re ready for growth, the difficult part can be letting go of self-imposed restraints that sound a little like:

“Who am I to think I can do THAT?”

“What will my partner / parents / friends / co-workers think?”

“I can’t take that kind of risk. I need to take care of myself and/or my family.”

Relax. This is normal. You want to change, but there’s a big part of you (called your “unconscious” or “subconscious”) that hates change and will be happy to keep you where you are.

As for the REAL naysayers, working with a coach or a trusted friend through this transition by role-playing can help you practice responses to discouraging or negative “advice.”

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3. Take your time

In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” author Viktor Frankl tells us that we can find meaning in every moment of our life, however mundane or tortuous. Therefore, even though you feel an incredible drive to find more meaning for your life, heeding Frankl’s advice to find meaning in every moment can alleviate the pressure you’re putting on yourself to have answers NOW.

Take your time and enjoy the unveiling of your new path. The journey to finding the meaning of your life should feel expansive and fun, not frantic and pressure-ridden. Just because it seems like everyone else is celebrating their purpose in life doesn’t mean you need to know yours right this second.

As you navigate this journey, put time aside to journal about your adventures, your work, and your relationships. Meditate or do solo activities that remove distractions and let you be with your own thoughts. Give yourself room to make mistakes while you’re trying new things.

Friends support you in finding meaning in your life.
Ask your friends for support.

4. Ask trusted people for input

One exercise that I “assign” to many of my coaching clients who are on self-discovery journeys involves asking trusted friends, family members, co-workers to answer the following questions:

  • In your opinion, what are my personal strengths? (e.g. determined, caring, bright, etc.)
  • What aspects of my life deserve more nurturing? (e.g. relationships, health, etc.)
  • What do you notice about me that you don’t think I know about myself? (e.g. inspiring, a great parent, self-sacrificing, etc.)
  • If I could change my job / career, what would you recommend I do?

The answers to these questions will broaden your self-discovery and inspire you to try new experiences that will potentially lead you to finding more meaning in your life.

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Remember, you’re entitled to ask “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”

Moreover, you’re entitled to think in broader terms and go on a quest for more meaning in your life. Start slowly, even quietly if you feel compelled to keep it to yourself. Eventually you’ll enjoy the process and feel fulfilled enough to share your self-reflections with a broader audience, and the ripple effects of your sharing will help others live their best lives.

Share this article with a friend who’s ready to find their purpose in life.

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