When using Google to search for the term: “the meaning of life”, there are roughly 4.7 billion results. When you exclude the term “monty” from the search, you see a significant drop to just over 7.8 million.
Aside from the obvious implication that the Monty Python movie is more popular than the actual philosophical question that has been tossed around for centuries, and that many books, articles, and TV shows have some version of that phrase in their titles, it is still one of the most sought after, but hardly ever attained answers to the question:
What is the meaning of life?
At The Overwhelmed Brain, I look at how everything relates to becoming overwhelmed and stressed. And, how to transform those things into clarity and peace. And I truly believe that when you are able to find your purpose, and the meaning of your own existence, you will not experience overwhelm or stress anymore – at least in the same way.
Acting from a place of purpose gives what you are experiencing an entirely different meaning. For example, if you had unwavering faith that something you were doing was not only the right thing to do, but also made you feel passionate and alive doing it, would you be as easily stressed?
There is of course meaning in everything we do. When we breathe, the meaning of that activity is to supply oxygen to the body, and rid the body of carbon dioxide. We all breathe, so we probably don’t even think about breathing as a meaningful activity, even though we can’t live without it!
But that’s not why most people are asking the question about the meaning of life. No, they are asking because mulling around doing the same thing over and over again, every day, seems meaningless. Of course, there are other reasons too, but most people want to know, “Is there more to life than just ‘this’?”
There is something more, something most of us knew about as children. But many of us have lost sight of as we grew into adults. And some of us never experienced it in the first place. As a child, pleasing our parents was everything. “Look what I did!” was something I often expressed to my mom and dad, hoping to get that smile, or those words that made me feel so good inside.
But some kids were raised by parents or caretakers that really didn’t care. Or didn’t know how to care. And when those kids looked to their parents for acknowledgement, and didn’t get it, the ‘meaning’ of life wasn’t about getting praised. It was probably more about surviving.
And, it’s not that children with more attentive parents have more meaning in their lives than those without. But those that didn’t usually have a more challenging time trying to find real meaning in their life. They typically have to bridge a larger gap between searching for meaning, and acquiring it.
So, what is the meaning of life?
To give a specific answer that would be ideal for each person on the planet would be impossible. Viktor Frankl explains this so eloquently in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning:
I doubt whether a doctor can answer this question in general terms. 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.
To put the question in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to a chess champion: “Tell me, Master, what is the best move in the world?” There simply is no such thing as the best or even a good move apart from a particular situation in a game and the particular personality of one’s opponent
But how can one walk away with any definitive direction from this answer? Not to worry, there is something you can do right away to give meaning to your life. And it’s always been there, right at your fingertips. You just need to reach out, and make it happen. And this amazingly simple process is directly attributed to something else Viktor Frankl said.
Viktor was once asked by a student:
“So this is your meaning in life… to help others find meaning in theirs?”
To which he affirmed, “That was it, exactly.”*
This is a lesson that all of us can learn and apply right away. How can you help someone else find meaning and purpose in their life?
One simple act of solving a problem for someone else can be exponentially rewarding. When you do something like this for someone else, you will know what purpose and meaning feel like.
Viktor Frankl’s quote is so applicable to almost any situation. After all, when someone comes along with the solution to your problem, and your struggles disappear, the overwhelming gratitude you have towards them can be intoxicating to that person.
This simple, but highly rewarding process may not be the meaning of life, but it carries a huge meaning for others. And if you feel like you are stuck searching everywhere for the meaning of your life, take a break.
If you can help someone with their struggles first, then check back in with yourself, you may find your search is over.
** Source of quote: http://www.viktorandimovie.com/biography