If there’s one question that’s remained at the forefront of our collective conscience since the birth of humanity, it’s asking the question ‘what’s the meaning of life’. Interestingly, it seems that the answer many of us would give to this question is the pursuit of happiness, which in many ways is not surprising considering the level of materialistic comfort most of us in the Western hemisphere now enjoy.
And yet, if you ask me, the answer to finding the meaning of life – either as individuals or as a society – is not in the pursuit of happiness, but in the journey to find a sense of purpose in our lives.
After all, we all have moments of varying degrees of happiness – from a sense of security and comfort found in our everyday lives, to those feelings of joy and contentment that arise from those unique life experiences that we want to share with our loved ones and friends.
Seen from this light, for me it becomes clear that happiness shouldn’t be the end goal, but rather the by-product of what we do. In other words, we shouldn’t work, play, or live simply to be happy. Rather, how we choose to live our lives, how we choose to share our knowledge, experiences and ideas with those around us should create conditions in which happiness can be found.
For genuine happiness to take hold, it needs to be anchored to something that gives it meaning and value. And that anchor is purpose. It’s finding meaning in the action, in what we do and how we choose to live our lives. It’s knowing that what we do matters, not just for ourselves, but to those around us.
I think if we look at any great human endeavour, we’ll find that it was fuelled by that pursuit of finding and creating purpose. While the predominant driving force might vary among the various historical moments and achievements in our collective human history, the reason why so many of them still resonate with us today is because we can see woven within them the threads of purpose and meaning.
That’s why I think the question what’s the meaning of life will forever be a personal and deeply intimate line of inquiry – it’s not tied to our emotional state or how we view ourselves or the world around us, but to those things that provide us with a sense of purpose and drive.
By finding that sense of purpose in what we do, in who we are, and what we give of ourselves to those around us, we will find springing forth the very thing that occupies our hearts and minds in this modern age – happiness and fulfillment.
And that’s where I believe we will find the answer to the question of what is the meaning of life.
~Tanveer Naseer, MSc is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer, keynote speaker, and founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm. Tanveer has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work in the leadership sphere, including being recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts” as well as one of their “100 Great Leadership Speakers”.
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