My friend Rosemary arrived with her kids at an Australia Day family picnic, threw her Esky and picnic rug down on the ground, sighed dramatically and said “I’m about to turn 40. What’s my life all about? What have I achieved? What’s the point?”
Deep into the long school holidays of entertaining children, facing the start of the New Year and anticipating a major birthday milestone has clearly prompted Rosemary to evaluate the meaning in her life.
Our search for meaning
There are times when all of us are prompted to think about our own significance, our purpose, our value. Often this happens when faced with major life events – a death in the family, a lost job, a back operation, a divorce. We reassess what we are doing with our short precious lives. And that’s a valuable thing…. Positive Psychology has shown that people with higher levels of meaning have better levels of wellbeing, lower levels of mental distress and more engagement in their work.
Some of us find meaning in our identities or roles – being a mother, being an artist, starting our own home-based business. Others find meaning in connecting to something larger than ourselves, by making a difference to others, to organisations, to society. This could be through our work, our church, volunteering in the community or to donating to worthy causes, to name a few.
The answer to the meaning of life is.........
There is no “meaning of life”! It’s about experiencing meaning in life. Finding meaning comes down to being deliberate about living your values, about pursuing goals you think are worthy and about, as much as possible, using your unique talents and strengths that are energising to you.
There are plenty of exercises in Positive Psychology which can help you to explore your own meaning. In our next blog, we’ll take you through the “Letter from the Future” exercise we find useful for many of our clients. Simple but powerful!
I told Rosemary that she’s already off the hook with contributing to the world – she’s done it; she’s a mum! She’s growing two little human beings who will make all sorts of contributions to the world in their own right. What a legacy! I must admit she did give me a bit of a blank look….the reality is that Rosemary will have to work out the meaning of her life for herself.
Flourishing Mothers were inspired by the work of Baumeister & Vohs, and Kashdan