“The Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert talk about the two “hungers”. There is the Great Hunger and there is the Little Hunger. The Little Hunger wants food for the belly; but the Great Hunger, the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning…”
– Laurens van der Post
When your life has meaning, you feel content in a way that goes beyond your current energy and emotional state. Happy or sad, exhausted or refreshed, you are at ease because you know that you make a difference.
Where Does Meaning Come From?
Some people feel that they are born for a specific reason, even if they can’t currently define what their purpose is or don’t know how to make the most of their purpose in life.
If you’re not one of those people, you’re not alone. More importantly, you don’t have to wait until the universe reveals a plan for you.
Dr. Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor. In the depths of the torment that he experienced and witnessed during his imprisonment, he realized that living a meaningful life was a choice—something that could happen regardless of the good or bad of any situation.
He saw the worst behavior humankind could dole out, and in the same place, acts of kindness despite great personal risk. Each time, the person chose who they were going to be and how they were going to behave, regardless of the consequences.
As a result, Dr. Frankl reasoned that each person chooses their path.
Choosing Your Meaning
Meaning is personal. And deciding what yours is can feel intimidating or overwhelming. However, when you realize that your meaning can change as you gain life experience and learn more about yourself, you can relax and enjoy the options available.
Your meaning can overlap with your career, but it doesn’t have to. If you decide that your meaning is to make a positive difference in the lives of others, you can do that through numerous routes that might include being a teacher, doctor, volunteer, or simply being kind to everyone you interact with each day.
One of the best ways to discover what’s truly important to you is to imagine your funeral or memorial service. What would you like to hear people say about you—how you made them feel, what you did for them, why they admired you, what they’ll always remember you for, etc.
Next, ask yourself if you’re currently living your life in a way that reflects those things. If so, you already know your meaning and are living it. If not, it’s time to get to work.
The next time something feels off, or you think, “Is this all there is?” instead of chasing happiness, try building more meaning into your life.