People in pursuit of a rich and fulfilling life need to know the powerful differences between happiness and meaning and how to bring both of them into their worlds.
The biggest difference between the two is that happiness tends to revolve around what you GET from life and meaning tends to revolve around what you GIVE to life and the people in your world.
They are both amazing and are both necessary for a rich and fulfilling life, but it is really important to know that happiness without meaning can lead to a relatively shallow, self absorbed existence where you go after things that make you feel good at the expense of things that challenge and stretch you and make you a better person.
Sometimes the things that make life meaningful don’t add to your happiness in the moment. Taking care of others and giving of what you have won’t always make you happy. But it sure as hell is a recipe for creating a life you are proud of. A life filled with richness and meaning and satisfaction.
The big take away from this conversation is to know that there is more to life than being happy. Some people would be shocked to hear that. After all, it’s an obsession of ours. Feeling happy. You are constantly told to do what makes you happy and to follow your bliss.
But what room does that leave for people whose work is incredibly important but not necessarily the joy creating activity that some people want to focus on all the time. People in the armed forces, nurses, god any parent ever who has gotten up in the small hours of the morning to care for their child and soothe them back to sleep — they know the difference between happiness and meaning.
Knowing the difference means being able to push your way through times that don’t bring you joy but which you know are powerfully important to who you are and who you want to be.
Right now, I want to give you a simple and effective recipe for bringing a deep sense of meaning to your life.
The first is to GIVE. Contribution is right at the heart of what it means to live a meaningful life. Giving isn’t a competition, so it doesn’t matter how much you give, but that you actually do give to things that matter to you. Consider volunteering, mentoring or salary sacrificing for one of your organisation’s favourite charities.
The second is to CHALLENGE yourself! Commit to something that will stretch you and call the best out of you and see it through. It could be a challenge to become physically fit, or to always be there for your family when they need you. It could be a challenge to save and be disciplined in your spending. Whatever the challenge know that the celebration that comes will be in direct proportion to the goal you set yourself. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the celebration and the bigger the sense of satisfaction and meaning you’ll take from it.
Finally - REAL CONNECTIONS are meaningful. Some people don’t know the difference between followers and friends. So put the phone down, pick yourself up and go and spend time in the company of people you love. If you don’t have any, find a social club that meet up to do something you love and commit to going. True friendships happen over time. The more you invest into them, the more meaning you will take from them. At work what this looks like is being willing to invest into the relationships that you have with people in the office. Stop seeing them as colleagues and more like friends that you are spending 8-10 hours with every single day.
No one here needs a lesson in happiness - you know what brings you alive, and if you haven’t done that thing for a while, stop wasting time and go and do it. Time is ticking and this is YOUR LIFE. Enjoy it.
But whatever you do, bring depth to your life as well, by cultivating a powerful sense of meaning as well.