Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 Ways to Add Meaning and Fulfillment to Your Life

by Lee Walton

"For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment."
- Viktor Frankl

Below I will outline 5 ways to add meanings of life, as I see them.  This list isn't meant to be prescriptive (“This is the meaning of life, because I say so.”) so much as they are descriptive (“Based on my observations, this is how people add meaning to their life.”)  The categories aren't perfect, overlap in some places, and perhaps even could be added to.  The point of them, however, is to get you thinking - to allow for thoughtful consideration about how you are living your life.  Are you living life as fully as you could be?  Are there aspects of your life that you may be neglecting?  How can that be fixed?  Please consider these questions while reading and, as needed, open your heart to changing your life for the better.


Life is all about meaningful relationships.  It’s about: looking deep within your lover’s eyes and seeing care, compassion, and connection looking back; snuggling with a beloved pet; the loyal bond forged between life long friends who have been through it all together; and enjoying company and conversation with those that share values, ideals, and passions.  We are inescapably social creatures and we are most alive and actualized when we are living in community with others we care about.

Reflection questions: Do I have enough love in my life?  How can I find healthy, fulfilling love?  How can I give and build love to another? (Gentle reminder: This about so much more than romantic love.  Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have that right now.  There are a myriad of other forms of love and meaningful relationships to focus on.)

Practices to enhance your relationships: Set aside time together. Don’t wait for others to initiate contact; be an initiator.  Love others as they want and need, not how you want and need love.


Life is about involving yourself in causes that are larger than yourself.  It’s about making the world a better place, getting caught up in building something lasting, and improving the life of others.  Think of those often revered by history - Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, Mother Theresa, etc. - they had one major thing in common - they lived to improve the world.  It is this passion that sparked a flame in their own heart, as well as the hearts of the world.

Reflection questions: What are the causes I care about most?  What am I doing to see their success?  What should I be doing?

Practices to enhance your involvement in important causes: Deeper is often better than broader.  Find causes and organizations that you believe in and find out what they need.  Don’t limit yourself to thinking about giving money.  Money is cheap.  What is often far more valuable is time and talent.  Give what you can where you want!


A symphony, a glass of wine, the sound of rain on a summer afternoon, a touch, a souffle, jumping out of a plane, the stillness of a snow covered forest - each one of these experiences enriches the lives of those that partake in them.  You may be tempted to think of this life purpose as shallow.  I hope that you won’t. Enjoying our five senses is vital to enlivening our mind to the beauty and "worthwhile-ness" of life.  They flood our brain with pleasure neurotransmitters that awaken our minds to the fullness of life.

Reflection questions: What are my favorite experiences?  Within healthy moderation, how can I enjoy these more?  What experiences do I want to have but never have?  How can I seek those out?  What are experiences that I haven’t had in a while but should?

Practices to enhance your experiences: Savor.  Slow down.  Focus on and appreciate the little details.


Set meaningful goals.  It’s essential to living a fulfilling life.  While not everyone has the interest or ability to run, I have received a huge amount of fulfillment from accomplishing some of my running goals.  As I ran across the finish line of my first marathon, I broke down in tears.  I was overcome with joy and gratitude (and, yes, pain) for having accomplished a goal that I had been working towards for more than a year.

Reflection questions:  What are important goals that I want to accomplish this year?  The next 5 or 10 years Before I die?  How can I work toward those?

Practices to enhance goal success: Set meaningful goals.  Break down tasks into S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).  Celebrate not just the achievement of goals but also progress. Set goals together.  Have kids? Friends with similar interests?  Maybe you could set meaningful goals about spending a certain amount of time together, building/making/doing something together, going on a big trip together, etc.  Don’t compare your goals to other people.  You are the only true measure of your success.

Personal Growth

This is, admittedly, a subcategory of ‘goals.’  With that acknowledgement in mind, it is still worthy of its own category because of both its importance and breadth.  We stop fully living as humans when we stop reaching to become better, smarter, more loving, more generous, more alive people.  This is the ultimate quest and fundamental story line of every hero epic - to slay the dragons within and to obtain peace and enlightenment.

Reflection questions: How have I grown over time?  What progress have I made?  What are areas of my life that I need to grown in?  What are reasonable, accomplish-able goals that I can set for myself in this arena? (It’s important to not be overly self-critical here.)

Practices to enhance personal growth:  Choose who you want to be first and then make action decisions in line with who you want to be. Spend time around people you look up to.  Build routines into your life that foster growth.

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