Life can appear to be filled with humdrum chores and responsibilities, a seemingly endless stream of potentially boring tasks to perform. Surveys have shown that nearly sixty percent of our time is filled with tasks such as paperwork, emails, finances, shopping, housework and business meetings. For some professions and lifestyles, it can be even higher than sixty percent.
It’s no wonder that we all have times when we wonder what is the point of life. Is there a meaning behind it all? There can be no definitive answer; some of us find meaning through religion and spirituality, and many of us just get busy with day-to-day life and forget about this question for long periods of time. The meaning of life, if there is any meaning, is an intensely personal concept. Some of us find it in working for charities and good causes or caring for our children. Some find it in work, some in music and art. Others from caring for pets, loving partners or through sports, hobbies, meditation or yoga. Our paths are all different, our perception differs and what fulfills and satisfies will, therefore, vary hugely.
For those of us who continue to seek a meaningful life, solace can often be found in a mundane and normal flow of an ordinary, dignified life. A simple life lived well with goodness and kindness. We don’t have to be extraordinary or make huge changes to our existing lives to find meaning and satisfaction. Quite often we’re already doing everything right. We just haven’t realized or appreciated it. So how do we find meaning in our day to day lives? How can we live with purpose? Here are a few tips on finding meaning in the mundane, how to realize and appreciate the life you already have, and to see that it is already filled with enormous meaning.
1/ Slow down.
We can do everything in our lives better and with mindful intent if we just slow down. When we move more slowly, we tune into what we are doing, we notice small details such as the smell of the ink and paper in the office, the rainbow of colors on the bubbles as we do the dishes or the birdsong in the distance when walking the dog. Brushing your teeth can become a riot of minty flavor and tingly cold water that you haven’t truly appreciated since childhood, a few quiet minutes where you can slow down, breathe and relax.
2/ We only have one life – stop waiting.
We’re all guilty of thinking we’ll do something later. Whether it be later today, later this year or later in life, we all have a habit of delaying. The problem with this approach is that we get into the routine of only ever doing what we have to do and never doing what we want to do. If there are things that you think you will do when you have time, when you retire perhaps, why not start now? You may say you simply can’t make time but that is rarely true.
Most of us spend large amounts of hours watching television and surfing the internet. If you start tracking your time, seeing how long you spend in front of the TV or on social media, you will see that you can carve out more time for the things you want to do before you die. Get started on that bucket list, even if it’s just ten minutes here and ten minutes there doing or planning a life-long dream. Over a year, those minutes will add up to hours and you’ll be accomplishing something you always wanted to do, instead of waiting.
3/ Live each day as if it were your last.
This has become a cliché but at its root, it isn’t bad advice. If you imagine that what you do today will be your legacy, that how you interact with each person will be yours and their last memory, then you may find yourself being more meaningful and choosing your words and actions with more intent, more care, and more self-awareness.
4/ Wean yourself off social media and stop comparing.
Social media gives a false sense of what it is to lead a meaningful life. It gives us the impression that experiences, good deeds, diligence, hard work or charitable contributions don’t count if no one sees them. If you don’t share a photo or a video and get a certain number of likes or retweets then it didn’t really count. This is, of course, a ridiculous conclusion but nevertheless one that many people make unconsciously.
Gradually train yourself to change this perspective. Feel the reward and satisfaction within you, not from the screen of your phone or laptop. And stop comparing yourself to what other people profess to do in their lives through images and words on a little electronic screen. You’re living your life, not theirs, and you can lead an authentic, meaningful life without the need of sharing online or competing with anyone else.
5/ Be inspired by others.
Although it is prudent to not take too much notice of others when finding your path towards a more meaningful life, we can still be inspired by the most authentic and humble people around us. Maybe your neighbor has a quiet dignified manner that you appreciate, always helpful and kind without being intrusive. Perhaps the older lady across the road inspires you with her knowledge and acceptance of others. Maybe you admire the single mum in your village who works two jobs while raising her children. There are so many ways to be inspired by others, everyday heroes who don’t command a strong online presence or a league of PR people, who don’t just contribute to their community for praise or publicity but who show us all how to live a meaningful life through true altruism, even when the cameras aren’t rolling.
6/ Enjoy the silence. Appreciate the noise.
Some of us get bored so easily that we seek out sound and distractions constantly. If things get quiet we reach for the TV, radio, our smartphone, anything to fill the void. Teach yourself to enjoy the absence of sound and distraction. Allow yourself to sit and simply breathe, just for a few minutes at first, then building up until you cultivate the self-sufficiency to enjoy the silence and feel nourished by the tranquility.
Conversely, some of us become stressed when faced with too much noise such as dogs barking, machinery, traffic and children screaming. If it’s really too loud then pop in some earplugs, but other than that then learn to embrace it. Noise is part of a vibrant and interesting life. We need variety; we need sound and we need silence. Learn to appreciate them both.
7/ Learn to love repetition.
Repetitive tasks are part of life and for some of us, they are our bread and butter. If you do a lot of housework or you work in a factory or an office, the chances are that your work is a series of similar repeated actions. Learning to love this rather than sinking into frustrated boredom can be key to finding meaning in your everyday life. Again, the key can be to look at the detail. If it’s a task you have completed thousands of times before, you probably don’t even bother looking or listening, noticing textures and smells. You have the power to change that; concentrate on what you’re doing as if it is the first time you’ve ever done it, the first time you’ve ever seen it. Absorbing yourself completely in the present moment rather than day-dreaming or worrying about something else has the power to transport you to a relaxing place of meaning, a mindful space in flow with the universe.
When all is said and done, it is not what we do, it is the way in which we approach every second of our existence. If we learn to find meaning in the mundane and in work that we find boring, we can surely find meaning and happiness anywhere and in everything. And that is a skill that is infinitely transferable and can give meaning to every moment of our lives.
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