Excellence Reporter: Karen, what is the meaning of life?
Karen R. Koenig: Although this view makes people wildly uncomfortable and desperate to find meaning, I believe that there is no intrinsic meaning to life other than what we assign to it. To assume otherwise, that others know what life is for or that there is some higher purpose, is based on the uneasiness of not knowing.
As a psychotherapist and people observer for 71 years, I’ve seen that humans have a low tolerance for not knowing and with uncertainty in general—what they should eat, what college would be best for them, who to marry, how they should raise their children, whether there is a God. We want to be right, we want things to work out well for us, we want to know that the choices we make are the ones that will bring us happiness and success.
The problem is that this causes people to spend their whole lives seeking answers to finding the “right” meaning in life when they could be simply living and finding their own meaning. It causes regrets and shame and too much time spent looking backwards or forwards rather than being in the moment.
I love the freedom of not having an external meaning. I am a very purpose driven person and value doing what has meaning for me—serving clients, writing, enjoying friendships, being devoted to my husband, taking care of the environment, helping those less fortunate than I am, seeking self-knowledge, and enjoying sufficient pleasure to keep me fueled for these endeavors.
~Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., is a psychotherapist specializing in eating psychology based in Sarasota, Florida, an international, award-winning author of seven books on eating, weight and body image, and a popular blogger.
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