Finding Meaning

finding meaning in lifeI read an article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend in which the author asked the question “What have you learned about what it means to be human?”

We’re all shaped by our past and our experiences.  We make sense of the world in different ways and find purpose in life through different means.

I know that my truth might be quite different than your truth.  But more often, I find that my truth is quite similar to yours, although my method of arriving there was different and unique to my experience.

Faith, spirituality and religion can have a significant impact on how you find meaning and make sense of the world.  But whether you find meaning in science, God, nature or your relationships to others, the ability to find that meaning is essential to making sense of the world we live in.

In DBT finding meaning is one the skills taught to help people survive crisis and overwhelming emotional pain.  The experience of crisis and trauma-- whether you’ve witnessed destruction or experienced personal trauma such as bereavement, illness, injury or violence-- can violate your basic assumptions about the world and how it operates.

Getting at your truth, through human experience, science, passion, knowledge or faith can give you a sense of purpose and help you make understandable a sometimes unpredictable and chaotic world.  Meaning can improve your sense of security and reduce the vulnerability that we all feel when we’re faced with uncertain and unreliable circumstances. Searching for and finding meaning can improve your ability to manage stress, trauma and crisis.

Finding meaning is both personal and vital to enduring difficult times.  So I wonder, what have you learned about what it means to be human?  Can you speak from your own personal experiences?  What have you found to be your truth, in the face of difficulty, crisis or disaster?

Do you find meaning in caring for others, being kind and compassionate?  Searching for answers and knowledge?  Being present in the moment and appreciating what life has to offer?  Being truthful and honest? Loving others?  Searching for happiness?  Searching for peace?  Enduring pain?  Understanding that there must be darkness in order to understand light? Or something else altogether?

Use the comment section below.  I would love to hear your stories and learn from how you have discovered purpose and meaning in life.

8 Replies to “Finding Meaning”

  1. For me, finding meaning was part of a serious and focused excavation process that required total dedication to noticing what would move my heart with the rationale of my head in a harmonious way.

    After being successful in corporate America, for over a decade, I realized the status, money and acknowledgement I was receiving was really creating a void, an emptiness, in my being that seemed to be getting larger,especially, as I continued to stay focused on the mindset of successful performance and acquisition.

    Once I began to notice what ignited my heart and was aligned with values of my conscience, I realized that the meaning I was searching for was empowering others to find their own path of meaning so they could eventually pursue it. It was the foundation of my coaching practice, fifteen years ago and subsequently, a few years later, the creation of the ADD Coach Academy. My work as a coach, educator and trainer of ADHD coaches globally, continues to support my own definition of meaning and provides my spirit with the daily fulfillment I need to nourish my soul.

    I still enthusiastically continue to follow my meaningful purpose of empowering others. My focus of service and support of the human spirit is my main source of meaning. Christy, thanks for igniting my desire to articulate my response to your evocative message.

  2. Thank you, Christy, for an excellent article. I did not realize that DBT had much to say about finding meaning. I thought that finding meaning in the realm of psychotherapy was a concept more popular in existential-humanistic or positive psychology. Our residential addiction treatment program is based on the work of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy but perhaps there’s room for DBT as well since what you wrote seems very compatible.

  3. I’ve been struggling with finding meaning ever since my nervous break-down. Before then, I believed that making the world a better place for its inhabitants was the key to a meaningful life. (The diversity of views in what constitutes ‘better’ is what gives the world its richness.)

    To a large extent, I still believe this. The trouble is that I am no longer able to make the contributions that I did. I am slowly coming to believe that working to make ones’ self a better, more balanced person is a perfectly adequate contribution to making the world a better place.

    The world, nature, humanity are all so deeply interconnected that improvements that seem to benefit only one person actually have a ripple effect. If I can get myself to a place of greater peace and less reactivity, then I can add to the joy and compassion in those around me. Otherwise, I simply add to the tension and stress.

    People who are feeling less stressed are kinder and more thoughtful to those around them. They are more able to make the right choices rather than the easy ones. Self-improvement ripples outward.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. When you’re not able to contribute to the world in a way that was once important to you, it’s difficult to figure out how to still find and feel meaning. I appreciate your thoughts on the ripple effect of finding peace within ourselves.

  4. Just wanted to second Christy Matta comment .. ITs difficult to find peace when you can’t do what is really important to you .. It seems like you are struck in the middle & don’t know where to go .. i m going through this phase currently..

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