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The Meaning of Life

Mandy has been working in the mental health field for more than eight years and has worked with a diverse group of clients. These range ...Read More

The eternal and, as yet, unanswered question: the meaning of life – what’s it all about? Plato, Aristotle, Jean Paul Sartre and the likes have explored this question with interesting results yet no one really has all the answers as to why we are here. Jean-Paul Sartre argued, that human life does not come with any pre-assigned meaning. Life’s purpose, if it has one, is not given to it by its creator.

Is there a reason for our visit to Earth? Are we meant to achieve a pre-assigned goal or does this happen once we have completed our role here? There are so many questions and so little scientific evidence to help us obtain a definitive answer.

I like the idea that the meaning of life is the meaning that we individually assign to it. For some it could be related to having children and ensuring the survival of the species. For others it could involve an altruistic tinge – helping others and leaving a legacy of some sort. Yet for others, it may be about learning lessons and becoming a better person. My mother toyed with the idea of reincarnation. She wondered whether we chose our parents before birth and placed ourselves into a specific life in order to learn lessons and increase our spiritual vibrations. The higher the vibrations, the more evolved the soul. All fascinating stuff. I’m not a huge fan of the reincarnation theory – mainly because I couldn’t bear the thought of having to come back and go through school again! Ugh…

Our thoughts create our experience of the world and with this power we can make life heaven or hell for ourselves. Think about this: Have you ever travelled on a train, ambled in a park or walked somewhere listening to an ipod? Have you noticed how the world seems better when you are observing your surroundings with good music playing in your ears? Yet – it’s the same world, the same physical reality. Enhanced with music, it suddenly seems better…happier (if you’re listening to upbeat music of course). Your thinking works in the same way. When you see the world through an optimistic ‘filter’, people seem kinder, life seems smoother. Think of your thoughts as a track on your ipod. Is it working for you?

What meanings are you assigning to every day events and people in your life? You get to choose…you have the power to pay attention to thoughts that empower you and that bring with them positive emotions. It makes sense to question what you are regularly telling yourself. Think of your thoughts as an ipod with a running commentary. Will you pick up the ipod labelled “today will be crap” or the ipod labelled “something good will happen today”?

You choose, and the ipod you pick up will ‘colour’ your perceptions for that day. It sounds simple and it is. We assign meaning through our perceptions..what do you want your life to mean to you? You are here in this physical form and you can interact with anyone else on this planet. Use your time here wisely.

Let go of the ‘fear ipod’ and listen to the ipod that encourages you to be brave, to see the best in others and to notice the possibilities where none seem to exist. It works – I’ve tried it.

Some days I seem to be superglued to the ‘misery ipod’ but it doesn’t last forever and the more adept I get at choosing from my selection of positive ipods, the weaker the superglue becomes…

This is why there can be no final answer to the question of life’s meaning. There are many things that make life worth holding on to and savouring and this can be different for each of us. Life is unpredictable and we are often mysteries even to ourselves. We think success, money, happiness, helping others, or achievements will make life worth living, but we when we get them we still feel empty. Philosophers have a lot to say about the value of all these things, and a little less to say about one of the most valuable things of all – love. So we can be clear enough about what it means for life to have meaning and value, but when we put down our philosophy books and actually get on with living, meaning and value can be elusive. Living well is more art than science or philosophy and we can all live well if we pick the right ipod tracks.

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