This is the last entry in a short blog series describing my current thinking about meaning. Have you enjoyed these?
These blogs might help you select a meaning to guide your life. Or fake meaning if you’re in an “in between” period, like me.
Or not. Either way, I wrote these mostly to share my thoughts with you, which feels meaningful in itself.
This is not meant to be definitive. In fact, it’s meant to be playful, to spark a conversation inside yourself or with others.
As of today, I sort the sources of a life’s meaning into:
Perspective Category 3: Relationship-Based Life of Meaning
Sometimes people find meaning in their life through their relationships.
This is self-less than being motivated by “self-as-meaning.” (Not selfish or selfless, but less oriented on “self” than “other.”)
This year, I’ve felt in between meanings. I decided to search for meaning in part through searching for how other people find and choose meaning in their lives.
After having dozens of conversations on the topic of the meaning of life, I heard that “meaning via relationships” seems quite common.
This sounds like “Everything I do is because…[insert core relationship].”
The relationship that is the source of one’s life meaning might be:
- A person or family (partner, kids, parents, etc.)
- A career or team
- An organization outside of work
A self-oriented meaning is focused on identity, status, or performance.
A relationship-oriented meaning is more about being an integral part of a whole.
This categorization may be splitting hairs. Yet I detected a noticeable difference between those who found meaning in identity and action compared with those who found meaning in relationship or community with a person or group.
Perhaps you or someone you know finds their life’s meaning through a relationship. This might sound like:
- “Family is everything to me. Everything I do is for them.”
- “This work makes a difference in the world.”
- “This organization is essential.”
Like the other categories of meaning, finding meaning through relationships is neither positive nor negative except for someone assessing it either way.
Reflecting on the conversations I’ve been having this year with others about how they describe the source of meaning in their lives, I see “relationships as source of meaning” as having the potential of being both wonderful and toxic.
Sometimes it expands a person into a mindset and behavioral choices that grow them and help others. This type of meaning serves all involved.
Sometimes having a relationship-based meaning contracts them into imbalance in their lives. This dynamic causes harm.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 3 blog offerings about the perspective of finding meaning through categories of time, self, or relationships.
Which perspective of meaning are you most attracted to? Get to know yourself more through these reflections.
It was very uncomfortable to feel like I’d lost my sense of meaning. I grieved this shift in my perspective about my life.
And yet it has been very exciting – life affirming! – to go through this process of learning and exploring how people find meaning in this human life.
Sorting the sources of meaning into three categories this way gives me a framework for discovering my life’s meaning again if I ever feel lost and bobbing along meaning-less-ly.
I hope you’ve found my rudimentary map useful. At a minimum, my wish is that this is a fresh way of approaching your own search for meaning as you travel your life’s path.
P.S. I invite you to fall in love with the “Less Stress, More Fun” podcast. Subscribe today! Each week’s episodes offer smart, fun ideas to reduce stress and boost your sense of playfulness.