Meaning in everyday life

meaning in everyday lifeHello Readers!

This month I was invited to participate as a guest writer in the “Making More Meaning” blog by Stephanie. I love her idea to invite several reflections from fellow bloggers on how we find meaning and I am honored to write on this topic.

The minimalists have led the way in our understanding that collecting more possessions is not what gives our lives meaning. I got a reference a few weeks ago to the book “Stuffocation: Living More with Less” from Lisa at the Simple Life Experiment podcast. James Wallman makes a compelling case for an experiential approach over materialism in the way we live our lives, and traces the history of this change in perspective.

Wallman helped me see how collecting things to show one’s status may have arisen from and evolutionary fitness marker display, which helps me have more empathy with this human impulse. At the same time, we have an ecological imperative to evolve away from this way of living, given worldwide population growth. Left unchecked, the manufacture, packaging and waste generated in making more “stuff” could lead to massive problems in the earth’s ecosystems.

Cocoa helping with work
My dear Cocoa loved to help me when I worked at home. She tried find meaning in my work as well, but she often found it lacking and preferred cuddles.

I consider how I personally find meaning daily life. During my 20’s and early 30’s, my career was sometimes more about earning income to pay my bills, while I found true meaning in my volunteer activities. I am fortunate today to work for a company that has a meaningful mission to me: “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.” When focus on the patients we serve, and stay committed to the mission, I find a great deal of meaning in the clinical research that my team does every day in Latin America.

On the other hand, when a focus on short-term profit clouds leadership judgment on what is best for the long-term health of our department, it is much more difficult to be propelled by the mission. I believe people can profit from their work and add value to the world simultaneously. There is nothing wrong with making a fair profit. We can re-invest profit into further innovations. Profit and start-up capital are often required to develop new solutions for patients in a sustainable way.

Finding meaning and purpose is about making a contribution that aligns with our values and allows us to use our strengths and talents often. I like Brene Brown’s definition of spirituality (from her work in Rising Strong) to explain how meaning, purpose and spirituality intersect for me. She sees spirituality as something not reliant on religion, theology or dogma, but rather a belief in our interconnected-ness and in a loving force that is greater than ourselves. It is in this way we complete our connection to spirit, living as interconnected beings. We fully acknowledge everything we do has effects on other people, on animals, and on other life on our planet.

Newlyweds meximinnesotana and dear hubby, Sept 2017 near Isla Holbox, Mexico

We must do some inner work on ourselves, to be sure that our intentions are not coming from a place of needing to “prove our worthiness” to anyone. We are inherently worthy of love and belonging, just by being born. But the gratitude that flows from this realization gives us generosity of spirit that feeds our energy and our commitment.

We are also wired to be in relationships with people, animals and other living organisms. Research shows that we benefit from being in nature, though there is some controversy on whether it is nature itself, or being in community with others that really boosts our well-being. Healthy relationships have been shown to decrease your chances of dying prematurely by 50%. Support offered by caring friends can buffer the effects of stress. In older adults, loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.

Note that it is about quality and not quantity of your relationships. Even if you have 500+ facebook friends, this does not substitute for 2-3 close friends (or family) in your life that you know you can truly count on when you need support. As an introvert, I know that it takes a lot of energy to maintain many relationships, and so I cultivate them selectively, and in a deeper way.

Is it possible that the “meaning” of friendship gets diluted if you have too many friends? 

I will leave you to ponder that one, while I get back to some work I must complete this week. I would love your thoughts or comments.

willy and calvin
Though my husband and I chose not to have human children, our fur babies add meaning and happiness to our lives. Willy and Calvin, our “boneheads” as hubby likes to call them, fight but also express mutual admiration. Who can tell me that love is not the ultimate in finding and creating meaning in our lives? 😉











17 thoughts on “Meaning in everyday life

  1. Cristy, I so enjoyed this post. I love your focus on relationships being essential to creating meaning in our lives, and quality over quantity in those relationships. I couldn’t agree more. I’m an introvert too and I’m someone who craves meaningful connection with a select number of people. For me, it’s so much more rewarding to feel very close to a few loved ones rather than having a huge number of “throwaway” friends and acquaintances. I do think that the meaning of friendship can become diluted if you have too many friends. I see a number of people in my life who thrive from having a big social network, and while I certainly don’t think that’s a bad thing since they’re clearly happy that way, I wonder how long each of those connections will really endure. If we meet someone once at a social event, friend them on social media then only really have contact through likes and comments, I’m not sure that constitutes a friend. In fact I think social media itself has probably played its own role in redefining what ‘being friends’ means in the digital age.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Stuffocation, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa,
      As I have downsized my own participation on social media, I am realizing I have more time to cultivate personal relationships that were otherwise more distant. I know this is a very personal decision, and I would never impose my preference on others. My professional network has become quite large, even at the company where I work. And while my Linked In profile is rather large, those true colleagues that are kindred spirits are a handful, but I seek to spend more time with those whenever possible.

      I truly appreciate the reference! I will likely pass it along to others as well to keep it in circulation and share the message. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for such a thought provoking post! I often wonder if I have “too many” friends, even with my limited social circle. I find it difficult to keep up with all of them, and the older I get, the more difficult it is to all plan common time to see each other. I think I’ve settled at the right amount, and as we grow and mature we all understand that visits get fewer and further apart. It’s nice to be able to pick right back off where we left off!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Stephanie. For sure, I have a few friends (particularly from college) where we rarely see each other, but the relationship still feels close. However, some proximity to close friends and family and “in real life” connections that are beyond an online presence are super important to me, and yet do not need to be a large quantity.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Cristy, I loved your post. This is a terrific series that Steph has developed and your contribution was very thoughtful. I read Wallman’s ‘Stuffocation’ recently and was very struck by it. Lxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think maybe part of the issue is just that different people have varying definitions of what a “friend” is…in person, online, an acquaintance, someone you know from work, parents of your children’s friends, siblings, a person with whom you share personal thoughts and feelings, etc. We’re each entitled to our own understanding of what makes a “friend,” but should remember that some of them may have a much different outlook. I tend to look at it as different “levels” of friendship and don’t feel that the number of friends a person has should lessen their importance or meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Becky. There are definitely different levels. But I think it is difficult to maintain the same commitments to all of them beyond a handful of those precious few that would be there for us in a crisis no matter what. I do like having a network of “loose ties” in addition to my close friendships, but there are very different expectations of those relationships.

      Liked by 1 person

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