Couple looking at sunset

What does it mean to live with meaning? We all have unique interests and passions, talents and abilities. It never ceases to amaze me just how different people are — even siblings and close relatives. While we are all united in this human experience, we are all distinctly ‘us’. There is no one — not one person alive — that is the same as you. From an early age, there are things we are drawn to. In my case, I always loved to write, draw and create. I would spend hours as a kid writing stories and sketching characters from my favourite movies and videogames, or of my own creation. Jess, while it took her until her late twenties to pursue nutrition, always had an interest in food and almost signed up for culinary college after high school, only to instead study for a business degree at university. Still, that interest in food stayed with her and she found her way back to it eventually.

Certainly, there are many people who will say they don’t know what it is they want to do or what it is they are ‘supposed’ to do. Of course, not everyone is a childhood prodigy pianist, is born with the voice of an angel, or demonstrates at an early age a remarkable aptitude for arithmetic. When you are clearly very talented in a specific area and figure this out early in your life, your path may be set, or at least a direction offered. But how many of us are tentative and unsure? How many of us drift along the conveyor belt of society, moving through the school system, into college or university to study a subject we may have little interest in (at 18, who really has the life experience to know what they are interested in?) How many of us take the first job we can find after school and get set on a career path we may have given little thought to other than that next paycheque, then the next one, then the next one…

It isn’t always easy to know what we want to do with our lives, but with the right approach and just a little focused self-examination, the answers often lie not too far beneath the surface. Life is short and we should all strive to experience the things that truly light up our souls. Here are some quick methodologies that can help us to live with meaning.

Determine your beliefs

Determining your beliefs can be a lifelong endeavour, but how many people simply drift along not really giving much thought to their beliefs or values? Whether you adhere to a certain religion, are an open atheist choosing to put all your faith in science, or lie at a point in between, finding room to both understand and appreciate science while leaving room to be open to that which we can’t understand, it is important to spend time learning and developing your belief systems. But most importantly, listen to your inside voice. Guidance and direction can come from many sources, and good advice should always be sought. Seek out wise and trusted mentors and carve out time to meet with them regularly. But keep in mind that in this age of media bombardment, with so many parties attempting to sway us to their own agendas, looking within is more important than ever. In the long run, it is those things that nag at us within that we should perhaps pay attention to. For all the outside influences in our lives, if we have an inner compulsion to write a science fiction novel, to go back to school and develop a latent skill, to travel and experience other cultures, to help people or animals — whatever it may be! If it’s there inside of you, demanding your attention, take heed. Meditate. Clear your mind. And listen to what your heart truly desires.

Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude goes a very long way. Quite simply, negative thought patterns obscure our intuition and delay our personal evolution. It’s hard to make progress in our lives or improve ourselves when we are hung up on negativity. At the end of the day, we all have a lot to be thankful for. We live in a part of the world where we are free, comfortable, have access to clean water and nutritious food, and we have all the conveniences anyone could ask for. It may sound cliche, but it is no less true that there are many millions of people in the world today that have a much lower quality of life than we do. So, be thankful! For the roof over your head, the shoes on your feet, and for all the many possibilities and opportunities that are open to you. When we take time to feel and express thanks for what may seem like the ‘little things’, we set our thought patterns on a path of positivity that releases us from self-imposed mental bondage and makes the world seem like the colourful and inspiring playground for excitement and adventure that it truly is. A quick and easy way to set your thought patterns to ‘gratitude’? Write down some simple affirmations that begin, “I am so happy and grateful for/that…” and take a couple of minutes to say them out loud each day. You’ll be amazed at the life enhancing properties this simple practice can offer.

Practice Kindness

Everybody deserves your kindness. Yes, even your cantankerous boss, the person who didn’t move over to let you merge onto the highway, and the guy at the party with the questionable political views. Because life can be challenging. You don’t have any idea what the other person has gone through in their childhood. What losses they have suffered in their lives. What difficulties that may be facing right at this very moment. Kindness costs nothing. When we are calm and kind, and really listen to what the other person has to say, rather than just waiting for our turn to speak, we transcend the noise of everyday life and we become more attuned to the people and the world around us. When we are kind, we open others up to our own point of view, rather then turning them away and putting up walls. Smile. Hold that door. Laugh off that perceived affront. Life is short and we share it with everyone. Make your interactions ones that leave others feeling valued, respected and appreciated. The universe will return this energy to you in spades.