A Search for Meaning
Four questions to ask yourself.
Posted Oct 22, 2020
The following is a composite of my clients who have searched for more meaning in their lives.
Joe said goodbye to his last client of the day and stared. “Yes, I help some people but ..." His mind flitted to, “My marriage is good but ... ” "I like playing the guitar but ... ” “I like my church but ... ” “I appreciate nature but ... “I dreamed of something bigger for my life but ... ” “Thinking more about this just makes me sad, so I better just feel grateful for what I have.”
Many people experience a variant of the above, often concluding that it’s wise mainly to savor what they already have, perhaps making incremental but not monumental attempts at improvement.
Of course, one size doesn’t fit all. So in an attempt to facilitate your deciding what to accept and what to change about you and your life, consider answering these questions:
Should you stay in your career, make incremental changes, or chuck it for something wiser? Of course, it’s natural to resist major change—It’s usually scary, risky, and you’re throwing away your sunk costs. But occasionally, especially if you take the long view, a major change is wise.
I think, for example, of the many salespeople and fundraisers who push prospects unduly to part with their money for dubious benefit to them or even to the nonprofit's supposed beneficiaries. Often, such salespeople and fundraisers do that in the service of being able to afford nicer digs, car, furniture, jewelry, vacations, blah, blah blah. Mightn’t they be happier and more contributory if they, for example, did something unquestionably beneficial and enjoyable?
Last night, I re-watched Being John Malkovich. The protagonist is a puppeteer, virtuosic, and committed to telling stories that would both entertain and edify. He survived by doing performances on the street for tips. Alas, near-broke, although living in a decent apartment with a not-cheap-to-keep chimpanzee no less, he felt the need to sell out and take a job as a file clerk. Wouldn’t he have been wiser to live in a hovel, sans chimpanzee, on salads. tuna fish, peanut butter, etc., so he could continue his puppeteering?
Should you be in your current relationship? Seek another? Be solo, at least for now? Society still imposes pressure to be coupled. Do you want to cast aside that pressure and think hard about what would serve you and, importantly, your partner or a potential one? I have a client who, though married for 16 years and plans to stay married, in her heart of hearts, admitted, “I think I was meant to be single.”
Should you do anything different avocationally? Some people fill every discretionary minute, perhaps because they enjoy being busy but just maybe, at least in part, because they don’t want to leave time to think. Conversely, other people, mired in inertia's quicksand, do little after work. Would the Wise One within you change anything about how you use your discretionary time?
Are you giving wisely? This isn’t merely an issue of whether to give more or less; it’s how. Many people uncritically do the obvious: give to family, religious institution, to fight a disease that afflicts them or a family member, or to charities that pitch them.
Here, I have a clear opinion, of course, to be accepted or rejected as you see fit. My philosophy of giving is to choose a cause(s) that is underfunded and where my dollars are likely to yield above-average benefit. One example is donating to a public-school foundation in a working-class area, earmarking it for mentorships for intellectually gifted kids. In today’s public schools, the focus is on low achievers, so that kids of above-average intelligence are less likely to have the opportunity to live up to their potential. That cause passes the aforementioned test because few people nor government nor foundations today give much money to support gifted children. Yet. those are the kids with the greatest potential to become wiser doctors, researchers, lawyers, inventors, and, yes, ahem, political leaders.
Is there at least one thing you want to do differently to enhance your life’s meaning? Or should you focus on gratitude and acceptance of what you’ve been bestowed?
I read this aloud on YouTube,.