Want a greater sense of meaning in your life? Here’s a tip from a recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog about the perceived need to make a trade-off between money and meaning:
Stop trading money for meaning. Start blowing up the dilemma by investing money — and much more significantly, time, energy, attention, relationships, imagination, and passion — in the stuff of a life meaningfully well lived.
The whole post is worth reading, but that one snippet particularly caught my attention. I love the idea of investing in what yields a sense of meaning in your life.
Typically, people seem to expect meaning to just happen for them. And when it doesn’t, they just accept it as the way things are, like meaning is something reserved for the select few, and the rest of us schleps have to just muck our way through life as best we can.
But when you think about it, why would meaning just happen? It’s certainly not anything that is cultivated by the materialist culture we live in. It makes sense that we need to plant the seeds of meaning and nurture and cultivate them while they grow.
Here are some ideas for areas to invest in.
The better you know yourself – what energizes you, what you value, what inspires you, what you care about, etc. – the better equipped you will be to create a life that aligns with that.
Invest your money and time in things that help you expand that self-awareness. That might be books, workshops, or working with a coach to help you find clarity.
While you’re investing in self-awareness, spend some time with the question, “What does meaning mean? What feels meaningful to me?” There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that, so explore what it means specifically for you.
Humans are social creatures, and our relationships can be a big source of the meaning we experience in our lives. Not just family and friends, but also work relationships, community (including finding the right communities for you), etc.
Invest the time in building and maintaining those relationships. Invest your money in experiences that
Making a difference
This one is what most people think of when they think about finding meaning. They want it to matter that they exist. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to think primarily in the big picture (“I want to be remembered for something big and important.”). As a result, many of the every-day opportunities to make a difference go sliding by unnoticed.
Invest your money in making a difference, sure (with things like donating to charity, making micro-credit loans through an organization like Kiva.org, etc.), but don’t neglect the small things like a warm smile, or an authentic compliment. The opportunities to make a difference as you go through your day are legion.
It’s not just that what you focus on grows, it’s also that what you focus on becomes what you see. If you invest your focus paying attention to the positive and the meaningful, you’re going to see more of it. And that will shape how you experience the world.
The definition of passion I use in my work helping people create careers that light them up is “passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.” When you invest your time, money, and effort into a path that energizes and inspires you, not only does it feel more meaningful, you’re also better at what you do. (Here’s another post I wrote on finding passion in your career.)
When I talk about creativity in this context, I don’t mean ability to draw or paint. I mean being open to the flow of possibility. The more you can cultivate that possibility, the more potential there is for the truly meaningful to show up in your life.
Last but not least (in fact, you could make a case that this should be first), invest in connecting with something greater than yourself. Invest your time in activities that help you feel that connection (meditation, prayer, a contemplative walk in nature, etc.). And spend your time with people who reinforce that feeling.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Do you have any other ideas? Where would you invest to create a life of meaning?
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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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