July 19

6 ways to have a more meaningful life

Margaret Wheatley in her book, ‘Who do we choose to be?’ says: “Ours is a culture obsessed with the pursuit of happiness. As a consequence of this, we are more lonely, estranged and lost than at any time on this planet.”

There is much talk nowadays about how to become happy. Whether it is to be richer, thinner, famous, have the latest gadget, be more popular, have more holidays; in my own life, I know there isn’t much that can’t be rectified by some warm sunshine, or a good cup of coffee. It is important to know what it is that recharges us or cheers us up. However, I wonder if this drive towards happiness masks a deeper longing, for our lives to matter – to have meaning. If this is the case, how do we find meaning?

Here are 6 suggestions:

Connect with your values.

When you reflect on those things that are most important to you – your values – you become more likely to approach challenges than to avoid them and are better able to see the meaning in difficult circumstances. If you can connect with your values, you can find meaning in everything you experience.

Find your tribe. 

We are social creatures. Even those of us who enjoy our own time and space need to occasionally connect with others. Finding people who share some common interests, or convictions, or just enjoy the things we do will go some way to meeting that inbuilt need for connection with others.


Giving to others doesn’t have to mean financially. Giving our time often seems harder but is often more valuable. Stopping for 5 minutes to chat to your elderly neighbour, becoming a governor at the local school or taking a meal around to a friend who is under the weather, makes a real difference to people’s lives.

Find meaning at work.

Catch the vision of the organisation; how is it making the world a better place, and how does, what you do, contribute to that vision becoming reality? We need to know that what we are doing isn’t just making a profit for someone, but it is making a difference to the world.

Learn to be content.

Modern life feeds on the idea that having ‘more’ will give your life meaning, whereas in reality, it’s the opposite. A good way to build appreciation for what you already have, is every morning, to write a list of 6 things you are thankful for. Recognising that what we have is enough, is the key to being content.

Discover what your strengths are.

Whether it’s using your imagination, drawing, teaching, logical thinking, caring, baking, making people laugh – we are all good at something. The world is a better place when we are doing what we are good at. Wherever you look, there are major global issues that we cannot solve by ourselves. But if each one of us does what we can with the resources we have, then just maybe, we can make a major difference.

If positively impacting someone else’s life can make our lives more meaningful, asking “what can I do to make a difference to someone else’s life?” may be a better question than “how can I make myself happy?”. In this way, we may find that a temporary happiness is replaced by a deeper emotion; joy.

This article is written by Vanessa O’Shea


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