INSEAD does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, colour, or national or ethnic origin. When expectations aren’t met and we become unhappy or even bitter, we turn assumptions into premeditated resentments. Expectations are often more based on wishes than reality, and assumptions how to create meaning in life are often self-centered, not taking into account the needs or feelings of others. When you can recognize these patterns, it becomes much easier to consider other perspectives and the possibility of different outcomes instead of holding on to your assumptions. When you expect nothing you can learn to appreciate all that you have.
— Lolly Daskal (@LollyDaskal) December 12, 2019
Two decades ago analytic reflection on life’s meaning was described as a “backwater” compared to that on well-being or good character, and it was possible to cite nearly all the literature in a given critical discussion of the field . Anglo-American-Australasian philosophy of life’s meaning has become vibrant, such that there is now way too much literature to be able to cite comprehensively in this survey. To obtain focus, it tends to discuss books, influential essays, and more recent works, and it leaves aside contributions from other philosophical traditions and from non-philosophical fields (e.g., psychology or literature). This survey’s central aim is to acquaint the reader with current analytic approaches to life’s meaning, sketching major debates and pointing out neglected topics that merit further consideration. Feeling like your job is pointless is normal, but the key is to change the way you think about your work. Draw connections between your day-to-day tasks and the people you’re ultimately serving.
Much of the procedure has been to suppose that many lives have had meaning in them and then to consider in virtue of what they have or otherwise could. However, there are nihilist perspectives that question this supposition. According to nihilism , what would make a life meaningful in principle cannot obtain for any of us. The theories are standardly divided on a metaphysical basis, that is, in terms of which kinds of properties are held to constitute the meaning. Supernaturalist theories are views according to which a spiritual realm is central to meaning in life. Most Western philosophers have conceived of the spiritual in terms of God or a soul as commonly understood in the Abrahamic faiths . In contrast, naturalist theories are views that the physical world as known particularly well by the scientific method is central to life’s meaning.
Rather than pursuing happiness as an end-state, ensuring one’s activities provide a sense of meaning might be a better route to living well and flourishing throughout life. One important strategy is to suggest that subjectivists can avoid the counterexamples by appealing to the right sort of pro-attitude. Even here, though, objectivists will argue that it might “appear that whatever the will chooses to treat as a good reason to engage itself is, for the will, a good reason. But the will itself….craves objective reasons; and often it could not go forward unless it thought it had them” . And without any appeal to objectivity, it is perhaps likely that counterexamples would resurface. Notice that none of the above arguments for supernaturalism appeals to the prospect of eternal life . Arguments that do make such an appeal are soul-centered, holding that meaning in life mainly comes from having an immortal, spiritual substance that is contiguous with one’s body when it is alive and that will forever outlive its death. Some think of the afterlife in terms of one’s soul entering a transcendent, spiritual realm , while others conceive of one’s soul getting reincarnated into another body on Earth. According to the extreme version, if one has a soul but fails to put it in the right state , then one’s life is meaningless. A serious concern for any extreme God-based view is the existence of apparent counterexamples.
In other cases, however, the two approaches to asking the question about what makes life meaningful yield very different results – at least at first glance. For example, in the open-ended question, just 5% of respondents mention something about pets or animals when describing what makes their lives meaningful. But in the closed-ended question, fully 45% of Americans say “caring for pets” provides them with “a great deal” of meaning and fulfillment. Cross-cutting the extreme/moderate distinction is one between God-centered theories and soul-centered ones. In contrast, by the latter, having a soul and putting it into a certain state is what makes life meaningful, even if God does not exist. Many supernaturalists of course believe that God and a soul are jointly necessary for a meaningful existence. However, the simpler view, that only one of them is necessary, is common, and sometimes arguments proffered for the complex view fail to support it any more than the simpler one.
The search for life’s meaning is the uniting characteristic of our species and is perhaps the most important part of being human. It is thus unsurprising that throughout the history of humankind, the question of the meaning of life has attracted theologians, philosophers, psychologists, evolutionists and cosmologists alike. Lately, however, an extreme form of naturalism has arisen, according to which our lives would probably, if not unavoidably, have less meaning in a world with God or a soul than in one without. Although such an approach was voiced early on by Baier , it is really in the past decade or so that this “anti-theist” position has become widely and intricately discussed. A second argument for the view that life would be meaningless without a soul is that it is necessary for justice to be done, which, in turn, is necessary for a meaningful life.
The open-ended responses were coded using a computer-assisted approach in which certain keywords were identified as indicators of particular sources of meaning or fulfillment. For the most part, the interpretation of responses including these keywords is straightforward because respondents were referring to topics in an overwhelmingly positive way. Responses containing words like “Jesus,” “Christ” or “Bible” are clearly indicative of respondents who find meaning in Christianity, and those Sober House containing phrases like “traveling” and “exploring the world” are indicative of respondents who enjoy traveling. The keywords related to security and stability also conveyed something respondents feel positive about, rather than something they lack. Similarly, the words used to discuss being in good health were distinct enough from those used to discuss health difficulties and medical issues that researchers were able to measure both concepts with two different sets of keywords.
To tackle this topic, Pew Research Center conducted two separate surveys in late 2017. The first included an open-ended question asking Americans to describe in their own words what makes their lives feel meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying. This approach gives respondents an opportunity to describe the myriad things they find meaningful, from careers, faith and family, to hobbies, pets, travel, music and being outdoors. It refers to the extent to which we experience life as being directed and motivated by valued goals – in other words, that whatever we are doing matters. We can even see meaning as an experiential byproduct of a life lived in the way we think it should be lived. At the same time, we may also discover that meaning has deeper layers that need to be unearthed if we want to find out what’s meaningful to us.
A lot of times, you may have something pulling you in one direction or another. For instance, making sense of life after surviving abuse is a difficult, gradual process. For many survivors, using their experience to help others in similar situations plays an essential role in healing. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. Balancing your macronutrients doesn’t require traditional religion—many secular and even atheist philosophies offer a way to cultivate them as well, focusing on ethical and moral behavior. Listen as Arthur C. Brooks and Lori Gottlieb explore the key components of happiness—pleasure, joy, and satisfaction in How to Build a Happy Life. Then start blogging and writing and share your ideas with people who might benefit from it. If you find meaning in what you do, you will find the devotion to commit to it and you will build the discipline to show up and do the work for it. If you can connect to a deep-rooted why you will find a deep well of resilience to keep going no matter how difficult the journey becomes.