If there’s one thing I’m learning by playing my 1970s record collection, it’s this: sometimes the songs you found so profound as a 14-year-old sound ridiculous decades later; and sometimes they mean even more. Case in point:
What does it mean to live a meaningful life? It would be nice, don’t you think, to not be that person we’ve all heard about who expresses regret on their deathbed, regret for having wasted their life. It’s a rare opportunity we have here.
Maybe it’s just the Northern Californian in me, but I like the idea of daily affirmations. They can work to steady your course, make you happier, and bring peace of mind. One thing that works well for me is gratitude — to spend a little time each day in thanksgiving, noticing and being thankful for what I’ve got. I have never once found a shortage of things to point to. I find that it puts my life in perspective, and that can be a humbling experience; and IMHO, the world can use a little more humility.
Even better, though, are outward-looking reflections that go beyond our individual selves. I heard of a good practice this week: Each morning, set an intention for how you will use the day to make the world a better place, and remind yourself not to engage in any behaviors that are harmful to others. It might help to be specific about these daily goals, but it probably works just fine if you keep it general.
At the end of each day, reflect on how you did. What did you do today to help someone? Did you cause any harm? I also like to take a moment to notice who went out of their way to do something kind for me — we can learn a lot from others.
It all sounds very do-goody, I know, but isn’t that the point? Sure, life can be hard. It’s not always fair. We all get overwhelmed at times, and sometimes it can feel like a struggle just to take care of ourselves, much less others. But if it’s always about oneself, it might be a good idea to ask how much of that is just self-cherishing drama. And it’s not about being selfless. I believe we benefit ourselves greatly when we benefit others. We’ve all felt it, right?
How often do we stop to appreciate the good fortune we have to be here, alive and kicking? But not just that, alive and thinking, caring, loving, and learning, together. Really, what are we doing here? The first step in finding some meaning is asking the question.