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How to Escape the Rat Race And Live the Life You Actually Desire…

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“What is the meaning of life?” is one of the most fundamental and ultimate questions that has captivated the greatest minds of humankind for centuries. To live with meaning seems to be the ultimate goal.

The answers, as varied as they come, go back to the very, very beginning of things—to our existence, to the reasons why humans were “created,” to our quest for self-improvement, and, of course, to religion.

There is hardly a shortage of interpretations of what the “good life” is about, what makes us happy and fulfilled, and what we can do to get to this coveted state.

If you talk to a scientist—say, a physicist and biologist—about the purpose of our being, they will likely tell you the fascinating story of the Big Bang, the origins of the universe’s existence, and the evolution of the species to where we are today.

But evolution is not what really drives us and makes us want to keep living and persisting through life’s adversities, is it? It is a whole lot more than this. It is what makes us human—our minds, our sense of self-awareness, our ambitions, dreams, and goals.

So, when you want to find the meaning of life, you should read the works of Viktor Frankl and Albert Camus and actually think along the lines of your values, progress, community, family, and, yes—reproduction.

Historical Perspectives on Living Life With a Meaning

Before we unpack these elements of meaning, let’s take a step back and see what wise men through history believed a life of purpose to be.

The Greeks

The ancient Greeks believed in the concept of eudaimonia, which translates as “happiness” “good life” or “welfare.” All the great Greek philosophers—Socrates, Thales, Plato, Aristotle—believed that the good life means to live in a state of eudaimonia.

“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.” – Thales

The interpretations of what it means vary. Some used to think that purpose can be found in acquiring virtues (as self-control, courage, wisdom).

Aristotle, for instance, believed that eudaimonia required not only a good character but taking actions and achieving excellence. Epicurus—another prominent Greek—understood human life as one of pleasure and freedom from pain and suffering.

Cynicism

The famous Greek school of thought believed that the meaning of life is living a life of Virtue that agrees with Nature. The happy life is the simple one, they taught—free from possessions, rejecting the desires for wealth, possessions, fame, or sex.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” -Epictetus

Rather, people should undergo rigorous training and live in way that is most natural to them.

Stoicism

The Stoic school of thought, founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C., considered the good life to be “living in agreement with nature.” Stoicism advocates separating good and evil and doing good while staying calm, focusing on what’s important and under our control, not wasting thoughts on what we can’t change.

Theism

Theists believed in the existence of a deity, a God, who created the universe. Our life’s purpose, then, is aligned with God’s purpose in creating the universe, and it is God that gives our lives meaning, purpose, and values. This relates to modern-day religious studies and how and why we search for meaning beyond what is readily seen or understood.

Existentialism

According to this 20th-century philosophy, supported by famous minds such as Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Friedrich Nietzsche, all human beings have free will.

“The intuition of free will gives us the truth.” – Corliss Lamont

It’s believed that each person gives meaning to their own life, not society or religion. Therefore, everyone’s purpose is unique and subjective to their circumstances and understanding.

Simply put, your life’s meaning is what you decide it to be.

What Creates Meaning of Your Life?

Based on the above brief walk through history, it seems that the interpretation of what infuses our existence with meaning and purpose somewhat varies depending on the historical period and the school of thought.

But undeniably, there are still some commonalities and recurring ideas. Our reason for emerging as something greater than ourselves—such as serving God’s will or contributing to society. At the same time, it’s all nuanced because it’s refracted through our individual prisms.

Still, the things that may be good candidates for meaning-creators in our lives can be separated into a few main categories:

Social

As human beings are social creatures, we have an innate need to connect to others, to be part of a group, to sense that we belong and that we have someone who cares about us.

According to the longest study on happiness and life satisfaction, which spanned over 75 years, the good life lies in the quality of our relationships. “Time with others,” Prof. Waldinger, who led the research tells us, “protects us from the bruises of life’s ups and downs.”

But it’s not only our friendships that make life worth living. It’s our families, children, and siblings. It’s all the people who we feel love and affection for and who, in turn, give us theirs.

Achievement

Although tying our worth solely to the outcome of our endeavors can create an unstable sense of self-esteem, we still want the net of our successes to outnumber that our failings. We want to sense that we are moving forward, progressing, and realizing our goals.

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Studies have found that achievements bring greater meaning to our everyday lives.

And it’s not the lure of the limelight or the desire for kudos that will make our existence worthwhile. It’s the recognition of our efforts, the appreciation, the acknowledgment that counts. In other words, we want our actions to matter and make a difference.

You can find a simple answer about what personal success looks like in this video from The Lifehack Show:

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