A reason to get out of bed in the morning
Steps to Success:
What is the meaning of life?
Rather a hefty question for a Tuesday.....What about the meaning of your life? Do you know?
I was recently asked: “What are your values to live by?”
Several things flooded to mind: honesty, sincerity, love, compassion … I definitely had a notion of what is important to me but I was lacking a ready answer, any succinct philosophy by which I live or strive towards. But as I began pinpointing and defining what I truly believe to be important in this life, my purpose of why I am here, I realised just how useful it might be to know this for ourselves.
You may, like I do, have a tendency to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia: packing lunches, sorting bills, laundry, dishes, getting to work on time, the list sometimes feels infinite. In the midst of which, the bigger meaning of life can recede to an afterthought.
Until news of some tragedy, or near miss, harshly reminds me that life is unpredictable and can be all too short.
I’m sure we’ve all received those round-robin e-mails of quotes or anecdotes warning us that on our deathbeds, it won’t be more housework or days in the office that we will regret not having done … it’s that bigger living: living our purpose and making our lives mean something, however we individually define that.
Having a ‘catchphrase for life’ may sound trite, but creating a personal statement that sums up our intention for ourselves can be very powerful. This personal statement describes the very core of our vision for any desired future, boiled down and stripped of its manifestations. It is a statement of how we want to show up in this world.
Some suggestions for ways to help define your meaning of life:
* There are endless sources of great and inspiring quotes, writings and lyrics from people who have already done this for themselves. Take some time to peruse their ideas. Pick out ones that most resonate with you — usually a sign that they reflect your own deepest values. Amalgamate them and add any personal touches. At the very least, time spent reading inspiring words is sure to provide a lift and boost.
* Get specific. A phrase like, ‘keep fighting the good fight’ may be catchy but doesn’t give your subconscious much to work with. What is ‘the good fight’ to you? What does that mean? Outline what is most important about doing this and how it translates into action.
* Gather pictures and symbols that remind you and represent this way of being. If a picture speaks to your heart, ask yourself why and include that in your statement. E.g. it may be because the art feels so authentic, or creative, or it depicts a moment of courage. These are all values you are identifying with.
* Visualise your future if things don’t change — project forward to when you are on your deathbed. Take a look at your life from this perspective — how will you be remembered by family, friends, colleagues, society? What have you done that you are most proud of? What is left undone, what would you like to have done? What regrets could you face? This is not intended to be morbid, but to identify how you really want to have lived life in order to find peace at the end of it. It’s a time that will come to us all and we don’t know when, so this is about deciding how best to live it while we can.
* Write a Vow to yourself of how you are going to live. Literally start with the words: I vow to … What will you commit to doing? How will you choose to live? End your vow by saying that you will do this: ‘with self forgiveness, self compassion and self love’, because while we can strive to live up to this ideal, we must also treat ourselves with kindness and understanding that life is a work in progress and a continual learning curve. Your vow can be tweaked and adjusted over time as life evolves.
I recently completed this exercise and found it profound. My vow, for example, includes details of the kind of mother I strive to be, my desire to act with courage from my authentic self, to trust in abundance, and live to my full capacity of joy and compassion.
Once you have defined your personal statement or vow, what do you do with it?
* Put it where you can see it, often. Our quotes, pictures, symbols and writing are things to have on hand that reconnect us to our higher purpose. Perhaps carry them with you. The more we see them and are inspired to keep living up to them, the quicker we start to create the habit of living from our best selves. I have decided to put my vow on my office wall. It serves as a reminder for myself and my clients of the standards I’m aiming for. Yours may be something you share only with yourself, but I’d suggest doing so regularly.
* Incorporate your values and statement into your daily life by asking: how can I show up in this way today? Even doing the laundry and lunches and on the journey to work. Build your actions and visions around what life means to you.
This preparation work will also be invaluable on those days we find ourselves struggling, during life’s inevitable downs when we might ask, ‘What’s it all for?’ ‘What’s the point?’
Being able to say ‘this is!’ empowers us and provides inspiration and motivation to carry on striving.
I am reminded of one of my favourite books, ‘The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly’ (Harper Collins, 2006), a memoir by French journalist, Jean-Dominique Bauby after he suffered a massive stroke leaving him with ‘locked-in syndrome’, paralysed. His only method of communication was by blinking his left eyelid to a transcriber, through which he dictated his moving best-seller. It took ten months and around 200,000 blinks to complete. Three days after the book was published, Bauby died of pneumonia.
Whatever you believe about life, perhaps that it’s a trial-run for something better to come, or that we’ll keep being recycled until we learn our lessons, or that this is a one-shot deal, or something different, we’re here now; we might as well make it mean something. What is your meaning of life?
“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, responsible, honourable, compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” Leo Rosten.
Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner with Benedict Associates Ltd. Telephone (441)295-2070 or visit www.juliapittcoaching.com for further information.