It’s perhaps obvious that having meaning in your life is important. Without meaning life is….well, just not worthwhile. But more than only making you feel good, meaning gives you the power to cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

When you have deep meaning in life, you are better able to keep perspective and still experience joy and happiness even when things are really tough.

I have found however, that people sometimes get confused between “purpose” and “meaning” in life. “Purpose” is complicated and often involves deep questions, such as is there a deity out there who cares about me and what am I supposed to do with my life? Some people have a life quest to find their purpose in life!

“Meaning” in life on the other hand, is fortunately much simpler. You seek your purpose in life, whereas you create meaning by what you do.

So what should you do to create and enhance meaning in your life?

That’s a question that fascinated me when I was researching resilience. I found that there are three types or categories of meaning that comes from significant people, causes and faith/spirituality. Let’s look at each of them:

  • Significant people: are most often your close family, parents, siblings and children, but also significant others who had a marked impact on your development as you grew up. We often feel grateful to these significant people and obligated, in a good way, to do our very best in life for them and not let them down.
  • Significant causes: are those instances when we willingly give our time, which is actually much more precious than our money, to something other than ourselves. Examples range from helping feed the homeless to cleaning up a local park.
  • Significant faith/spirituality: many people identify with a formal faith and find meaning trying to live their lives in alignment with the commitments of their religions doctrines. Others prefer to view themselves as spiritual rather than religious, and try to live according to a humanistic worldview. From the perspective of resilience however, the type of faith is less important than actually having a belief that life has some meaning.

In summary, significant people, causes and faith/spirituality creates connection and passion that gives joy and happiness in good times, and strength and the reason to persevere during tough times.

Here are eight ideas of how to enhance your meaning at work and home:

Try the following to enhance meaning at work:

1. Tell stories about how ordinary people went out of their way to meet customer needs

2. Point out the inherent value of your organisation’s products and services

3. Highlight the organisation’s involvement in community and charity activities

4. Tell stories about how the values the organisation have been used in making tough decisions

Try the following to enhance meaning at home:

5. Create family scrapbooks and photo albums to remember good times and important relationships

6. Schedule annual family get-togethers if your family is geographically widespread

7. Create mementos, such as Christmas tree decorations, celebrating important events, such as the lives of the baby, graduation, or building a night shelter

8. Have regular family meals together, such as on a specific day of the week, which involves as many members and generations as possible

Meaning gives joy and fulfilment as well as giving the strength to persevere when times become really difficult. So the challenge is: what are you doing to keep your meaning in life strong?