6 Areas that contribute to a meaningful life..

In an earlier article, I shared my thoughts on purpose and “how we would like to be remembered and lead our lives.”

Purpose provides context and meaning that helps us with our life’s direction, our aspirations and our goals.

But what does it mean in real terms? What happens next?

For starters, life and time is finite. It does not exist in endless supply and we do not know how much of it we have – the only certainty is the present and what we do with it.

All available science suggests that paying attention to a few key areas allows us to live a more balanced and meaningful life.

Broadly speaking these are:
1. Faith and Spirituality
2. Family and Friends
3. Fitness and Health
4. Finance and Material needs
5. Learning and Mental pursuits
6. Vocation and Contribution

It’s important that we consider all six of these areas in order to lead a full life. If we ignore any one completely, even the greatest success in another may not be truly fulfilling.

For what real joy can a man have, even all the wealth in the world, if he has gained it at the expense of his soul, or his integrity, or having no one to share it with, or ill health…

How we pursue each of these six areas depends on us and what we value. But taking time to clarify our values, purpose and priorities is critical.

Once done, discipline is required to adhere to our values and align what we do to them. To never allow the urgent to distract us from the important.

Otherwise we live a reactive life…rather than lead, we follow. Whims and passing pleasures dictate our decisions. We move from one crisis to another like a rudderless ship.

FAITH & SPIRITUALITY

We know that all of us, whatever our faith journey, even if we do not believe in a higher being, experience some yearning for meaning – whether we call this spirituality or religion or meditation. Call it our true north.

FAMILY & FRIENDS

We also understand from research that 70% of our happiness comes from family and friends (Murray and Peacock 1996). Yet, we often ignore the ones that mean the most to us. I’ve argued for over a decade for quality time at work and quantity time at home.
Unless we work on real friendships (not those on social media) we risk loneliness – a real killer today. So serious that not having enough friends can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Julianne Holt-Lunstad).

HEALTH & FITNESS

Good health often rates #1 in our aspirational goals but we often do little to achieve it. There are no hacks or short cuts here – but it can be simple: Eat Well and Move! We need to eat a balanced amount of food as close to the natural source (or the least processed – because our bodies were not designed for processed and artificial foods). And we need to move! Walk, run, swim, cycle, dance, team sport. Our sedentary lifestyles are dangerous. We need to avoid atrophy of our body and mind – moving helps both.

FINANCE & MATERIAL NEEDS

Lack of money can be a serious distraction in our lives, as can an abundance of it. Having enough, however, allows us to pay attention to more important matters.
Subscribing to a lifestyle of excess can spin us into a vicious cycle. Recent trends in minimalism suggest what has been known for ages – that true happiness does not come from riches but from a simple, meaningful life.

LIFELONG LEARNING

We have an in-built appetite to learn and adapt. Deep learning, reflection and self-awareness is critical not just to our survival but to our well-being. The greatest attack on this today is our addiction to technology and social media. In a very short period, we’ve transformed (and not in a good way) our ability to exchange ideas, experience deep learning, or even have creative thought.

VOCATION & CONTRIBUTION

Finally, our life and how we live it, reaches its highest level when we pursue a meaningful contribution. When we have an opportunity to have a positive impact. Ideally, this is part of our job, but often we may have to seek it outside work – perhaps as a volunteer, on a board of a non-profit, or just coaching the local football team.

Of course, it is impossible to balance all of the above, all of the time.

We must decide what matters most. And know that everything comes at a cost. For the cost of anything is how much life we are willing to exchange for it.

The greatest price we pay is indeed the opportunity cost. What else could we be doing with our time, money and energy?

Not only must we decide what we value the most and dedicate ourselves to it, we must also understand our strengths and our weaknesses in this regard – and ensure we focus only on where we have the greatest impact.

What is it that only I can do? Where do I have disproportionately positive results? Work on those, and delegate the rest. Always remembering to keep all six areas in mind in everything we do!