Living a Meaningful Life

Living a Meaningful Life

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
–William James, philosopher and psychologist

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  It’s a question we’ve all been asked at least a time or two… often as children, sometimes as young people working our way towards adulthood, and occasionally, for some of us, as adults who suddenly realize that what we do as a career and who we are as people aren’t always one in the same.

I can remember being asked this question a lot by various well meaning people.  Over the years my immediate answer has changed… veternarian, lawyer, child advocate, teacher, public speaker… but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the question asked is actually deeper than it appears and doesn’t necessarily have just one answer.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

–  I want to be wiser than I was when I was a child but still amazed at the wonders of the world both big and small.
–  I want to be a positive contributer to the world around me.
–  I want to be a reminder to others that life really is what we choose to make of it.
–  I want to be that small voice in my children’s head and heart that tells them that their potiential is only limited by their own dreams and desires.
–  I want to be alive, not one of the walking dead I see so often merely going through the motions.
–  I want to be a loving wife to my husband, an adoring mom to my children, and a good friend to those around me.

I guess what it boils down to is that I want to live a meaningful life.  And, oddly enough, I’ve come to understand that a meaningful life doesn’t really happen by accident.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “Without some goal and some effort to reach it, no one can live.”  Having spent a considerable amount of time goalless and effortless, I tend to agree with Dostoyevsky.  It wasn’t until I focused on a goal AND put forth the effort needed to reach it, did I start to feel as if I was living… as if my life had purpose.  Right now, I have a goal (ok, I have many goals), and I try to keep my eyes on that goal even though my present circumstances have me feeling as if the ground I am walking on is crumbling beneath me with each step.  I have to either move faster or find another route, and sometimes, I just have to step off the edge and trust that God will provide the path even when I cannot see it with my own eyes.

Life is meaningless only if we allow it to be.  Each of us has the power to give life meaning, to make our time and our bodies and our words into instruments of love and hope.  – Tom Head

What about you?  Are you looking for meaning?  Having trouble figuring out how to make a difference?  The answer may be closer and simpler than you think.  Ask yourself:  If I were gone tomorrow, what will I be most proud of having left behind?  The answer will be different for each of us.  Your answer can be as involved as a foundation you helped start, or as simple as a favorite picture that you took.  Something will be here when you’re gone.  What would you like it to be?  What one thing would tell the world what you were all about?  Maybe it’s the traditions you are creating for/with your child(ren).  Maybe it’s a journal you are leaving for future generations.  Maybe it’s your garden.  Maybe it’s a combination of things.  Maybe you’re already working on something that could turn into one of your greatest accomplishments.  Whatever it is, give it your all.  The more of yourself that goes into it now, the more people will be able to see you in it later on.


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