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Finding Meaning

The Meaning of Life and How to Live Forever

When Victor Frankl was in Auschwitz he noticed that it was not the fittest people who survived the torment of the camps, it was those with purpose. Some were religious, others had a family member to get home to and he had a mission – to show the world the psychological value of finding meaning in life.

Victor thought that there are three ways of finding meaning in life:

  •       By creating a work or doing a deed (creating, achieving or living in service of a higher purpose or goal)
  •       By experiencing something or encountering someone (bearing witness to amazing things, and connecting with others and/or spirituality).
  •       By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering (being a role model for others during tough times).

In the run up to a World Cup, the Welsh rugby squad probably go through tough training sessions, bruising warm up games with regimented down time. But I imagine it is some of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. We can suffer for a cause that we think is important. It is not necessarily “fun” or happy, but it is the stuff that makes life feel important

That’s all well and good, but how do I find my meaning?

Acceptance and commitment therapy is an approach that was born out of mindfulness. They place a lot of stock in ‘meaning’. Luckily for us, they have produced a huge amount of materials, quizzes and activities designed to help us find which valued life directions we want to move towards. There are several here:

https://workingwithact.com/2011/11/01/finding-true-north-how-to-clarify-values-part-2/

My three most valued life directions are:

  •       Being creative, curious and playful
  •       Having strong connections with family, friends and community
  •       Doing work that is valued by others

 

If I am driving through heavy rain and I’m stuck in traffic it might be rubbish, but I can still find meaning in that suffering knowing that the course I’m driving to is valued and helpful to my community.

So how can I use this to live forever?

Yes, you read that right. There is a town in Japan called Okinawa in which the average lifespan is 90 and 66% of the residents are over 100. Their octogenarians (meaning a person who is between 80-89, not a person who only eats calamari) have drawn the attention of the world’s scientists for their characteristically good physical and mental wellbeing. Clinical Psychologist Dr Hector Garcia believes this is due to their cultural prioritisation of Ikagai – meaning living with purpose.

It also emphasises mindful experience and making time for now. Rather than finding meaning through experiencing the seven wonders of the world, instead finding meaning through the five wonders of our senses.

Ikagai asks the following questions:

  •       What are you doing that you love?
  •       What does the world need from you?
  •       What do you get paid to do?
  •       What are you good at?

Ikagai is where each of those four pillars meet. While our western minds might see this list and be intimidated, thinking we don’t get paid greatly, and can’t do anything to save the world; Ikagai, being Japanese is characteristically humble. It emphasises finding the little things that we love, and slowing down when we’re doing them. It emphasises helping the world through helping those closest to you. It emphasises comfort over riches and encourages us to concentrate on skills that we are comfortable with rather than pushing ourselves so hard we don’t enjoy ourselves.

The eight rules of Ikagai –

  1. Stay active
  2. Stop hurrying
  3. Don’t fill your stomach
  4. Connect with friends
  5. Get in shape
  6. Smile
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Give thanks

So give that a go, and I guarantee you live forever. And if it doesn’t work… well I guess you lived a really lovely life for nothing! 

By Josh Elton

Valleys Steps Course Practitioner