I get a lot of questions about how to have more meaning in life, and that’s a big topic. I want to just shrink it down for you by sharing with you some research that I recently read.
There is a great book on the subject of “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters” by Emily Smith. In it, she writes about the research that caught my attention. With my coaching and consulting clients I share proven, research based applications that I come across.
Basically, what a group of scientists did was they took a group of people and split them in half.
They asked one half of the people to go spend a couple of days and do a bunch of things that make them happy. That group went out and immediately did things that lifted their happiness, such as shopping, going to a movie, splurged on a really nice dinner. They tended to do very self-indulgent things, things that immediately boosted their feelings of happiness.
The other half of the group, were told to do something “meaningful”. Those were the activities that were about helping or serving other people, or about taking the time to work on a really important personal project.
Here is where it gets interesting.
After both groups came back of course the people that did things like eating and shopping, the short term self-indulgent stuff, of course they said that they felt happier.
Where it got really interesting is three months later when they went back to these groups and asked both groups how they felt, it was the group that had done things of meaning, serving other people, finding time to work on projects that mattered to them personally, that actually had higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with their life.
The conclusion was undeniable in this research study. If you really want to find meaning in your life, there are only two important sources for finding it.
#1 In your Relationships: The more time that you invest in deepening your relationships with people that really matter to you, the more meaning you are going to find in your life.
#2 Projects that Matter to You: Projects that personally matter to you. There is another principle in science called the “Progress Principle.” What that basically means is, when you force yourself to take the time to work on projects that matter to you; that could be writing a book, taking painting classes, working in the garden and you make progress on those projects, it’s one of the fastest ways to find meaning.
In Emily Smith’s book she shared four things that really trigger meaning:
- A sense of belonging.
- Working on things that are tied to your purpose.
- Storytelling, the more you talk about what has happened in your life, talking about the things that matter to you.
- Have experiences where you sense awe.
Let me share with you how you and example of how you can actually wrap those all up into one experience.
Go for a long walk in the woods with a person that you really care about. As you walking in nature, taking in the sights and smells and talking with that loved one, you are going to be doing all four of those things.
If you want greater meaning, invest in your relationships, find projects that are connected to your purpose, and find the time to work on them. And, whenever you can, make sure to get out in the woods for those long walks with the people that you care about.
Jennifer Jimbere is President of Jimbere Coaching and Consulting, Co-Founder and Resident Expert at Radical Joy Seeking Women’s Club and would like to explore synergies to work with you. Contact me to partner in possibility and learn how to up your positive experiences.
Maintain momentum and make it a great day.
Image credit and artist: LA artist and old friend Jennifer Verge
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