How to Increase Meaning in Your Life

By Jennifer Jimbere, Business Coach

I get a lot of questions about how to have more meaning in life. I recently read an excellent book on the subject and want to share the insights I got. It is called “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters” by Emily Smith. In it, she writes about the research that caught my attention.

Scientists took a group of people and split them in half. They asked one half of the people to spend a couple of days and do a bunch of things that make them happy. That group went out and immediately did things that lifted their happiness, such as shopping, going to a movie or splurging on a nice dinner. They tended to do very self-indulgent things that immediately boosted their feelings of happiness.

The other half of the group were told to do something “meaningful”. Those were the activities that were about helping or serving other people, or about taking the time to work on a significant personal project.

Volunteering with friends can be meaningful.

Here is where it gets interesting.

After both groups came back the people that did things like eating and shopping, the short-term self-indulgent stuff, of course, said that they felt happier.

But three months later when they went back to these groups and asked how they felt, it was the group that had done things of meaning, serving other people, finding time to work on projects that mattered to them personally, that had higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with their life.

Satisfaction comes through living a meaningful life

The conclusion was undeniable in this study. If you really want to find meaning in your life, there are two important sources for finding it:

#1 In your Relationships: The more time that you invest in deepening your relationships with people that matter to you, the more meaning you are going to find in your life.

#2 Through Projects that Matter to You: There is a principle in science called the “Progress Principle.” Basically, it means that when you force yourself to take time to work on projects that matter to you - that could be writing a book, taking painting classes, working in the garden - and you make progress on those projects, it’s one of the fastest ways to find meaning.

In Emily Smith’s book she shares four things that really trigger meaning:

  • A sense of belonging.
  • Working on things that are tied to your purpose.
  • Storytelling and talking about what has happened in your life and the things that matter to you.
  • Have experiences where you sense awe.
Spending time with your friends in nature increases meaning

Let me share an example of how you can actually wrap those all up into one experience:

Go for a long walk in the woods with a person that you really care about. As you walk in nature, taking in the sights and smells and talking with that loved one, you are going to be doing all four of those things.

If you want greater meaning, invest in your relationships, find projects that are connected to your purpose, and find the time to work on them. And, whenever you can, make sure to get out in the woods for those long walks with the people that you care about.

If you struggle to find what is meaningful for you, try out a free introductory session with me on Coachilla. Together, we can come up with a project or even a job where you can connect to your meaningful life.

Jennifer Jimbere is a certified coach with over 17 years of experience in learning & development and co-author of the international best-selling series Dream Boldly I Dare You. She uses her rich knowledge to coach individuals, teams, and organizations to improve their leadership, change resilience and build positive relationships.If you want to work with her, have a look at her profile on Coachilla.

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