The meaning of life is an eternal mystery that everyone seems to chase. Why can’t the answer be easy? It can be. I will define life meaning in three words:
Yes, the meaning of life is to work towards intelligence, usefulness and responsibility.
To mean more to yourself and others, you ought to learn more, help more and handle more. Let’s divide this idea into three parts and go deeper.
The meaning of life can first be fulfilled by developing a desire to learn. I don’t really care how you learn, that’s irrelevant. When people tell you that reading books is a must, or listening to podcasts is critical, they’re telling you how they learn. Maybe how you learn is different from them. Find out how you learn and learn that way. That preferred way will make you more intelligent. Intelligence is one-third of your life meaning.
Learn about everything that interests you. Develop a curious mind about and towards the things that strike any kind of excitement in your life.
If you are pulling at your hair, trying to figure out what you would enjoy learning about, sit and do nothing for awhile. Become bored for awhile. Ignore the self-indulgent tendencies to play video games, watch movies or binge-eat. Only in silence could something like knitting, reading or writing become, dare I say, interesting to you.
Some of the most boring people in the world are quite intelligent. I will add an asterisk here before I am wrongfully chastized. They have learned how to be bored, while loving it. Then, when fellow intellectuals talk to them, there is a shared excitement. When you are intelligent, you can become humble and share exciting sides of you with many types of people. If you are quite exciting on the surface, you may be surprised at how boring you may actually be to most people once we dig into your life.
Now some of the most intelligent people in the world can be downright useless and irresponsible. I would look at many educated professors, doctors and lawyers and say many I have worked with or learned under made poor choices beyond the books. The smartest person in the world is nothing to no one (even themselves) if they live in a cardboard box their entire life. This is why many geniuses become insane, isolated, depressed and feel like their life is a meaningless existence. They go so far into learning that everyone and everything all seem trivial in comparison. Ahh perhaps the dangers of only learning and never living.
This is why we need to look at the other two parts, to round out the life equation.
You can use any number of synonyms here: altruism, helpfulness, etc. All just semantics. At the end of the day, are you doing something that helps others? This can be an external component of life meaning that intelligence and responsibility may only partially encapsulate. Oh, who am I kidding, you could just be useful to yourself and only help yourself. But that’s not what I really mean here.
Being useful is about making some type of contribution to the world while you exist in it. It’s the reason to learn anything or do anything. If all you ever do is read and never share what you learn, you’re useless to me. Be useful. Share your perspective in a way that says you are making a difference, at least to yourself.
Ask yourself if what you are doing now is useful to someone. Even better if it’s useful to someone beyond the corporations we may work for.
Find ways to start doing useful things if you are feeling useless right now. I would think hobbies are a good start. Building something is a good start. Writing your thoughts on paper is a good start (that’s what I’m doing with this sentence). You might be able to take what you are doing and share it with others. See if they find it useful. If they come back and say you are wasting their time, maybe you have the wrong audience or you need to put more effort into the project. Go back and try again.
Many times I’ve been told I’m useless, either directly or indirectly. It hurts. I have crawled into bed and disappeared for months and years before ever trying to be useful again. Think of all the years I could have contributed something, anything, during that time. I’m not the best at taking feedback.
When you are told you are useless, or your actions render nothing in return, go back and see what you can do differently. Take a humble approach and never take things personally. Once you find something useful to do, people will appreciate you more. You will appreciate you more.
You can be useful, no matter how useless you feel. Something is in you that no one else knows about. It could be a problem you are trying to solve, or a problem you just solved. Someone else could benefit tremendously from your findings. Don’t let the feeling of uselessness get in your way. Find what is useful to you and let others know.
I am a child living in a man’s body, unwilling to take control of my life. Well, that is a devastating way to go. No one wants to deal with a manchild. Yet I’ve run into this issue myself, countless times. Responsibility is about handling your circumstances. It’s about eliminating blame, anger and criticism towards others and dealing with life your way.
I believe your control of responsibility is quite high in your middle years, but more dependent on others in your early and later years, almost like a bell curve on a graph. Who has seen a baby take responsibility? Exactly. This is why, when you have the slightest cognitive capacity, it is time to take on control. I never did this for many years. It’s easier to just let the chips fall as they may, at least in the short term. I was irresponsible. Others will make decisions for you if you are irresponsible. Life will go on if you are irresponsible. It may not be the life you want. It likely won’t be.
Today, many people are choosing structure to avoid having to make major life decisions. It’s easier that way. No one wants to be the leader of their life, yet major life decisions need your input.
If the world seems to be crumbling under your toes, it may be time to take hold of those reigns and see what you can do to solidify your footing.
I don’t know if any of this makes any sense. I hope it does. Life meaning has always been attached to external circumstances or external forces, with politics, religion, non-religion, race and identity getting in the way of our own critical thinking. That can be nice for developing vague thoughts and feelings, but maybe digging deeper and constructing concrete ideas is exactly what we need instead. That’s why I broke life meaning down into three parts.
The great thing about these three parts is you can have some excellent meaning if you at least get two right in the near future.
Someone intelligent and useful can be irresponsible while making an impact.
Someone useful and responsible can be quite stupid yet still loyal.
Someone responsible and intelligent can be quite useless yet still make contributions.
You would ultimately be best served if you could work towards all three parts. Who actually wants to be irresponsible, useless and stupid? We never seek out these negative traits, yet do we actually put an active effort into cultivating our intelligence, responsibility and usefulness? Have a look and see where you are at with these three parts. Start implementing some of the recommendations I have mentioned. See if you can work towards life meaning.