A Meaningful Life

When I am old I’d rather regret the things I did, than regret the things I did not do

This is, perhaps, one of my all time favourite quotes.  Everytime I revisit it, it encourages me to pause and reflect on where my life is currently at. Its message is simple: Take a chance on living. Do not sit around complaining about how bored you are, or that there is nothing to do, or that your life is going nowhere. Have the courage to take action. You can deal with the consequences later because, chances are, they will not be anywhere near as bad as you think, or as people tell you they will be. To borrow from one of the great corporate catch phrases of the 20th century – “Just do it”.

Life is simplicity. The most wonderful life can be created with nothing and enjoyed by all. Too often I find myself focusing on the future – on that wonderful day when my life will be complete and I will be ‘living the dream’. But then I realised, why wait? Why should I wait for that day to come when I can recognise that today is that day? We can spend years planning our lives, yet our lives were complete the day were came into this world. Being alive is the dream. What matters is what we do with the time we have been given.

But how does this work in practice? It is a conscious decision every morning to embrace the day as the greatest day in your life – to eschew mediocrity, to throw out bad habits, and to refuse to accept that you should be unhappy with your lot in life. It is about setting goals and working towards them. If you want to travel then decide where you want to go and start saving. If you want to get fit, put on your runners and hit the pavement. However, in order to be successful make sure that you goal is tangible, and achievable. Vague notions of a better life, or happiness, or even fitness will not provide the requisite focus to enable you to pursue a goal with your full potential. In fact, happiness is not a goal – it is a state of mind. This is beautifully exposed in the following quote:

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way

My life is in a constant state of flux. I move between states of comfort and discomfort, between employed and unemployed, and between contented and depressed.  What I never lose sight of is that everything I do, I strive to ensure that it is contributing to making this world a better place to live in.  My life has meaning.

Not everyone is in the same position.  I have lost count of the number of conversations over the years with friends who have lost their way – who are working not for the passion but for the security.  Constantly waiting for that day when their ideal life will come into focus.  While the ideal life might be years away, a meaningful life is possible today. And you never know, if you fill you life with as much meaning as you possibly can today, you may realise that you do not need that ideal life after all. What makes your life meaningful will of course be individual to you, but it will be founded on four pillers.

Personal Growth

What qualities do you possess that make you a great person? What qualities weaken you as a person? Do you honour truth, justice, integrity and compassion above all else?

The first pillar – personal growth – is focussed on making you a better person. Learning new skills, turning weaknesses into strengths, and living a moral and ethical life are all crucial to living a meaningful life. Each activity you do takes you to a higher level and each new skill you learn creates a powerful sense of accomplishment.

Relationships

Human beings are social creatures. We strive for human contact, despite how much we might say otherwise. Good quality relationships are vital to a meaningful life. And with this second pillar, quality is far superior to quantity. Toxic relationships create toxic energy within the participants, and toxic energy will slowly destroy you. Solid, loving relationships with friends and family provides you with the support and security that each human needs. Do not be afraid to cast off the toxic relationships, while there may be some short term pain you will both be better off in the long run. Focus on developing strong bonds with those people that you trust and take time each and every day to reinforce those bonds. There is nothing better in this world then knowing that you have people that you can turn to at the end of the day and know that they love you with all their heart and would give anything for you. Nourish those relationships.

Creativity

You do not have to have talent to be creative. This third pillar provides you with the opportunity to express yourself and to exercise a part of the brain that you would not otherwise use. More and more we are living in a world dominated by ideas. Ideas come from creativity and it is true that a problem cannot be solved on the same level that it was created. Thus, creativity begets inspiration. And with a bit of inspiration you can change the world.

Energy

The fourth pillar – energy – focuses on the energy you put into you daily tasks and the energy you create for yourself. Energy is like a bank account that cannot go into overdraft but has compounding interest – you can only get out what you put in, but the more you put in, the more you get out. The more you allow your energy to flow into your work, the more rewarding you will find your work thus giving you more energy to invest back into your work. The more energy you grow for yourself through exercise, the more you will have to invest back in yourself.

If you build your life around these four pillars then you will live a meaningful life. And best of all, it is yours today!