“My religion is to live and die without regret.” – Milarepa
Something that scares me more than anything else is dying with regret. I don’t want to look back on my younger years wishing I had done something differently or wishing that I hadn’t hurt this or that person. Regret scares me. And the only way to live and die without regret is to find a way to make your life truly meaningful. When your every action, thought and word has meaning you will find that your death (and indeed your life) will be a very peaceful process.
In this post I am going to give you some ideas about how you can discover the secret to making every minute of your life meaningful.
Is your life meaningful?
Take a second to do a little “meditation” with me. I want you to take your hands off the mouse and just spend two minutes imagining your death. Imagine you are laying on your bed with your family around you. Imagine you have only five or six breaths left before you depart to the next world. How do you feel? Do you have regrets? Are you afraid?
Some people get really angry when I talk about death. They send me emails asking me to stop talking about this terribly taboo subject. I find this attitude really sad because death is the one thing we can be sure of in this world. Nothing else is certain, but our death is. No one in the history of the planet has ever avoided death. Everyone has to go through it. So why, then, is everyone afraid of preparing for it?
Don’t be someone who is afraid of death. Do the meditation and really try to imagine what it is going to be like. How do you feel? If you find you are afraid, anxious or regretful then I can guarantee you aren’t living your life the way you intended. You aren’t making every minute meaningful. By looking at death we can get a great insight into our life.
You are probably like me. You want to live and die without regret. So how do we do that? How do we make every minute of our existence count? Here are some ideas.
1. Make your life about others
The most important thing you can ever do is make your life about other people. Our world is so self-centered. We are brought up to believe that we are more important than everyone else and that we need to take care of our own needs and wants before the needs and wants of others. But after a while we realize that we feel kind of empty. That’s when we have the midlife crisis. The crisis occurs because we realize that we have spent our whole lives working to make ourselves happy but we still feel crap.
The great Buddhist master Shantideva said:
“All the suffering in the world comes from wanting happiness for oneself. All the happiness in the world comes from wanting happiness for others.”
It is one of the truest quotes you will ever read. A life spent helping others is a life well spent. And when your time comes to an end there will be no regrets because you have used your time well. You have made a contribution.
2. Don’t procrastinate
A few months ago I wrote an article designed to help you stop procrastinating. I believe that procrastination is one of the worst things a human being can do. If you want to make every minute of your life meaningful you have no time to procrastinate.
Think about the last five years of your life. How fast have they zoomed by? I remember my first day of high school as if it were yesterday and it seems as though I have achieved very little since then. I have spent too much time procrastinating. And this is a cause for regret.
We hear it all the time but we never take it in. Life is short. It will be over in the blink of an eye. And to make matters worse, you have no idea when your life is going to end. You could die of a heart attack in your 80′s or you could die from cancer in a week. You could get hit by a bus. So now ask yourself this: if you knew you had only five years left would you change the way you are living? I bet most of us would.
3. Don’t get angry
Anger, it is said, is the worst of all the negative emotions. The Buddha once remarked that a single moment of anger can destroy 100 years of good deeds. I can see how this can be so. Lots of bad things happen because of anger – violence, rape, wars, etc. And the bad thing about anger is that you always end up regretting it.
Think about the last time you got angry and acted on it. You might have yelled at your partner or a coworker. How did you feel five minutes later? Did you feel vindicated and justified or did you feel heavy and burdened? I am betting it was the latter. Every time I have said or done something in anger I have come to regret it. Life is too short for anger.
Angry people don’t succeed in life. They sabotage their happiness and they end up living very lonely and shallow lives. Take a look at any friend you have that is constantly angry. They are never happy. They are always frowning and they get no joy from life’s simple pleasures. Anger is the worst thing you can do. Don’t become one of those people who finds the worst in every situation. Look for the best.
Life is so short and fleeting. You could die in your sleep tonight. Make sure you live your life in a way that will allow you to pass away with no regrets. Make compassion, love, patience and energy the main pillars of your existence. If you do you will leave behind a wonderful legacy.
So now the question is; are you making every minute of your life meaningful? What is holding you back? Leave a comment and let us know. I would be very interested to see what the main problems are.
Most of us want to lead a happy life. That’s natural, because pleasure is more attractive than pain. But should happiness be the ultimate goal in life – as the Positive Psychology movement proposes?
There is an easy way to find out. All you need to do is to answer a simple question:
What were the three most significant moments of your life?
The three most significant moments in my life were the birth of my son, the death of my mother, and my promotion to 1. Dan Blackbelt in karate. Non of these three moments could be described as pleasurable. Giving birth is incredibly painful – until you look into your baby’s eyes. The death of my mother was a time of both grief and joy, and the promotion to Blackbelt was the toughest three hours I’ve ever spent in my life.
Although these three key experiences weren’t pleasurable at the time, they gave my life meaning. Now, when I look back, I experience satisfaction and a sense of joy. It’s the joy that comes from living a meaningful life.
Is your life meaningful?
Seven Ways To Make Your Life Meaningful:
1. Follow your aspirations. Sometimes we confuse aspirations with personal goals, but they are completely different. Aspirations are the answer to the question: “What do I want to give the world?” Whereas personal goals are the answer to the question, “What do I want the world to give me?”
2. Be passionate. Whenever you do something that you are passionate about, it gives meaning to life. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance work, relationships, and passion. But a life without being passionate about something can feel empty.
3. Live by your code of ethics. Every person needs a personal ethical code to have a meaningful life. An ethical code is a set of values that you uphold, even if the consequences might be painful for yourself.
4. Cultivate compassionate. Compassion happens when we stop being the center of our concern, and open to the suffering of others. If we focus on ourselves as the center of the universe and our thoughts revolve around how we were, how we will be, or how others see us – our life will ultimately feel meaningless. Compassion is a way of looking beyond our own needs, to those of others.
5. Be kind. Kindness is not just a feeling, it’s an emotion that leads to action. Kindness gives warmth to a life. Each kind interaction triggers a feeling of connection and pleasure. Actually, kind action is something that gives meaning to your life AND makes you feel happy!
6. Be in service to a greater cause. A great way to give depth and meaning to your life is to do volunteer work. Whether you coach a basketball team for streetkids, or help out with the elderly, or raise money to alleviate world poverty, whenever you step in to serve a greater cause, you give your life meaning.
7. Strive for a better future. Striving for a better future can take many forms, but it always entails developing as a human being. If you strive for a better future, you subscribe to life-long learning. New skills make us more effective in the world, both for our own life, as well as for the cause we serve.
So what about happiness? How do meaning and happiness intersect? My take is that happiness is the by-product of a meaningful life. On its own – as a life goal – happiness can feel shallow. But once you focus on leading a meaningful life, you will feel fulfilled and experience not only fleeting sensations of happiness, but a lasting sense of joy.
What’s your take on this?
Is happiness a worthy life goal? What are your tips for a meaningful life?
10 Ways to Make Life More Meaningful
More and more it seems like life can be so hectic. It’s as if we purposely overload ourselves with more things than we could possibly ever accomplish. Sometimes as I’m going to sleep I think about all the things I need to get done and when I’m awake during the day I think about all the things that need to get done. Take a shower, make coffee, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, go to work, etc… It’s almost as if at the end of the day I can truly ask myself, “where did the day go?” Enough of these and I can ask myself the same questions in weeks, months, or even years!
So when I feel like these questions are coming up, I do some brief exercises that help bring me to the present moment and remind myself that I’m living.
1. For 5 minutes: Whatever you are doing, just do it slightly slower. At work we are all given tasks to do. One time per day, for 5 minutes do that task a little bit slower. Do not do the task in slow motion, or take breaks from the task, simply do it a little bit slower.
2. Take 5 minutes at lunch to notice what you’re eating. You can actually do this at an meal, or anytime you eat. You are going to notice what your food looks like, how it smells, feels, and tastes. As you pick up your food, notice the texture of it, is it bumpy, smooth, wet? Notice what you smell. As you take it in your mouth notice how it feels in your mouth, notice the tastes that are coming out of it, how your teeth break it down. As you swallow it, notice it going down your throat. Do the same with the drink.
3. Take 3 minutes to just sit and notice your breath. Sit in a place of your choice, could be behind your desk, or anywhere. Close your eyes. For 3 minutes simply pay attention to your breath. For these 3 minutes your breath gets your undivided attention. If you notice yourself thinking about something, even the thought “why am I doing this stupid exercise”, just notice that you’re thinking that and then gently bring your attention back to your breath.
4. Wash the Dishes. If you’re not used to doing dishes, there will be many benefits to this one. As you begin to wash the dishes, notice the texture of the plate and the warmth of the water on your hands. Inhale and notice if there is any scent. Listen to hear the rush of the water or any other sounds that are happening around you. Not only will you be able to practice being in the moment, but many of your family and friends will be thrilled with you.
5. Take a Bath or Shower. Preferably a bath if you have one, but even with a shower, you can take your moment in the shower or bath to feel the warmth of the water or feel how your body is immersed in the water. How does your skin feel? Do you notice any smells? Is your hair wet. Just be in the moment and notice all your senses….breathe.
6. Make Love Slightly Slower for a few moments. As you are making love to your significant other, take a moment to purposely move slightly slower. As you do this begin to mentally feel over all parts of your body. How your skin feels when touching his/hers, how are you breathing? Are you sweating? Is there a scent in the air. Take a moment and really be there making love.
7. Smell a flower for an extra breath. This one I love. Often times I will be passing by a flower and if I remember to smell it, I take an extra inhalation to really get the full experience of the scent. You will be surprised how much that extra inhalation makes a difference in the experience.
8. Be Silly. I’m serious;). Being silly allows your creative juices to flow and your creative juices is what life is all about. Letting your self be silly can also be very relaxing and create joyful situations that are full of meaning.
9. Write a letter to someone close to you… telling them how much you appreciate them. This is not a new idea by any stretch yet it is always worth mentioning since it is so meaningful. A letter that that person will always cherish.
10. Remind yourself that you are a miracle. This may be the most important. How they heck did any of us get here? When we break it down to nanotechnology and quantum physics, scientists are stumped to figure out the great mystery of us physically being here and interacting and creating symbols and concepts and communicating.
It’s boggling. That’s why our moments on this earth are so precious and it is a wonderful gift to attempt to cultivate those moments in life that you consider to be sacred.
4 Factors that Make Life Meaningful
“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” – Hans Christian Anderson
A meaningful life bestows us with a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. One does not just stumble upon a meaningful life… it is created through diligent work, habits, and chosen direction. While it takes effort and drive to create a meaningful life, the result is inner contentment and satisfaction that cannot be measured.
When our lives feel devoid of meaning, there is often an accompanying sense of emptiness, listlessness, and lack of motivation. The willingness to create a life rich with meaning is a choice that only you can make. You must make the personal decision if you are willing to commit yourself to building a life that you can feel proud of and rewarded by.
Research by Baumeister and Vohs (2002) suggests four factors that, upon fulfillment, lead to an increased sense of meaning in life:
(1) Purpose: Finding one’s purpose is a personal process that can only be discovered through tapping into your underlying motivations and drives. Examine the things, events, and people in your life that provide you with a sense of meaning and fulfillment. Perhaps the work that you do gives you a great sense of satisfaction, or maybe your relationship or family provide you with a strong sense of identity and meaning. Whatever your purpose is, you can choose to discover it through identifying your true values and actively directing your intentions, thoughts, and behaviors to live according to those values.
(2) Values: Values provide us with a sort of “moral compass” that directs our thoughts and behaviors. When something feels “not quite right” to us, it is often because some part of what is occurring violates a deeply held value. We often develop our values based in our cultural beliefs/identities, religions, philosophies, and families. Consider the origin of your most treasured values and actively work towards making sure your thoughts and deeds are aligned with those values. Recognize that we all make mistakes from time to time… thinking, saying, or doing things that violate our values. This does not make you “bad” when this happens. The important thing is that you recognize this dissonance and correct any missteps.
(3) Efficacy: When you feel a strong self of self-efficacy (i.e., believing in your own competence), you feel an increased sense of control over your life and a stronger sense of meaning. Research by Baumeister and Vohs (2002) indicates that the meaning of life is significantly reduced with a weak sense of self-efficacy. Reflect upon the situations from the past and present when you have felt competent and able to carry out a task in a way that made you feel proud. What was it about that situation that made you feel especially competent and confident? How can you build on those experiences and actively seek out new experiences and situations where you can further cultivate and refine your natural abilities?
(4) Self-worth: Within all of us is a deep desire to feel like good and worthwhile individuals. Without this sense of self-worth, meaning in life is significantly diminished. You can strengthen your own sense of self-worth through examining what thoughts and behaviors you choose and how they serve to make you feel more or less worthwhile. When most of us engage in a behavior that we feel ashamed of, the result is a weakened sense of self-worth. For many people, attaching themselves to a worthy cause that they believe in and that is aligned with their most cherished values is an excellent way to increase self-worth. No matter what, recognize that there is an intrinsic worth to the value of all human beings, including those who feel the least “worthy” of all.
You get the idea… try it out.
A Little Black Pen