What Gives Meaning to Your Life?

Kristin Sanders, LCSW-S on Nov 05, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

I had an interesting discussion this week about finding meaning in one’s life. How we define meaning, different levels of meaning, and where to look for it. Humans have been searching for meaning for millenia, and it’s something we all must grapple with throughout the course of our lives. Meaning can be found in the “big things” such as relationships, spirituality, and knowledge. It can also be found in smaller, everyday things, like stopping to watch the bluejays sing in the morning, looking at a new piece of art, or snuggling with your favorite pet at the end of the day. Meaning can also be derived from things we don’t necessarily find pleasurable. Sometimes the meaningful connections we have with others can also be the cause of stress. This doesn’t make the connection any less important, but the meaning and value we have assigned to any relationship helps us make decisions about how to proceed in times of stress or disconnection. If education or health is something that is of value to you, you might find meaning in pursuing these more fully, but it isn’t always going to feel good or pleasant (math and crunches anyone?).

If you aren’t sure what gives your life meaning, think about what is important to you. What brings you joy, pleasure, and positive feelings. What are the things you don’t want to live without, things that help you get through difficult moments? Make a list of these things and keep it close so that on days where you feel distant, disconnected, or down, you can seek out the things that keep you going when things are tough.

“Everything can be taken from [man] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

"Invitation" by Mary Oliver

“Oh do you have time to linger

for just a little while

out of your busy

and very important day

for the goldfinches

that have gathered

in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,

to see who can sing

the highest note,

or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,

or the most tender?

Their strong, blunt beaks

drink the air

as they strive


not for your sake

and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning

but for sheer delight and gratitude –

believe us, they say,

it is a serious thing

just to be alive

on this fresh morning

in the broken world.

I beg of you,

do not walk by

without pausing

to attend to this

rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.

It could mean everything.

It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:

You must change your life."

Kristin Sanders is a Clinical Social Worker in , NC.

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