How to Have a Meaningful Life

In the last post, I suggested that the most  important goals people have can actually be achieved, but just not in the way that people usually seek them.

If we aim to produce a certain state of consciousness (or  unconsciousness, when it comes  to falling asleep), we find it unattainable.  Instead, most desirable states are the natural side-effects of the right activities.

A sense  of  meaning is the first of several states that we will consider.

When one seeks to find a meaningful existence, the very act of looking for a life of significant purpose prevents one from finding it.

People becomes a spectators of their own lives, as they watch and assess how much meaning they are finding.

Such a passive observer’s stance is likely to detach people from their activities, rendering them less meaningful.

Compare this to the experience described in the book Flow. The author (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) researched activities that produce an experience of meaning as  a by-product.

The three characteristics of flow-producing activities are:

  • They must be difficult enough that a person can complete them, but only with full concentration (think rock-climbing or playing a challenging piece of music).
  • The outcome must be measurable to the person (you get to the top of the rock safely!)
  • Along the way, you have  observable feedback to let you know that you are on-track (the notes  you are playing match the music).

Many activities can have these flow-characteristics, and we can design our lives  to find our own opportunities for a flow experience.

When people look back on moments of flow, they realize that they were fully involved in what they were doing and that they experienced an inherent sense of meaningfulness.

It takes no additional effort to find meaning.  Instead, the activities that challenge  us properly supply it as a by-product.

Every moment that you spend looking to find or assess the meaning in your life is actually spent preventing your life from being meaningful.

Go find the flow — your version of it — and you will notice in retrospect that you have been living a very meaningful life.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 26th, 2011 at 8:04 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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