A sobering question that we would all do well to ask ourselves as we continue to strive toward success is this: “What must I have achieved in life, so that when I look back on my life in the last few moments on earth, I’m completely satisfied?”
Yes, this is a deep question, to say the least. But, in my opinion, life really is about deep questions. In sincerely addressing this question, you’ll undoubtedly start to find more clarity about your purpose and life-mission. You may be wondering, “How does one begin to answer a question like this?”
I would suggest that you begin by listing your five most important values. These are the five values that you want to be the guide of your life day to day, and they are also the “eulogy values” you want your life to have represented when you’re no longer living. Every ship needs a rudder, and without these core values firmly in place, you’ll be in danger of being a rudderless ship with no clear direction.
For example, my five most important values are:
These are the values that I do my very best to use daily to guide my decisions and keep me on track (or in some cases get me back on track). I think we all have a unique set of values that can guide us to understand what we want to achieve during our lifetimes.
Inner character and unique personal values aren’t born overnight, but are built slowly, through a course of purposeful and progressive choices. As the legendary John Wooden said, “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” – Roy E. Disney
Bringing Purpose and Virtue Back into Your Life
While the accolades on your resume might earn you a top seat at a prestigious organization, they will do little or no good for your soul’s purpose. That is to say, unless these accolades help you serve a deeply personal mission that’s in harmony with your core values, your overall impact will not be optimized.
If you can detach yourself from all the noise and clarify your unique core values, you’ll be able to tap into your true purpose and potential. Doing this means you won’t have to live in inner conflict or travel paths that you may later regret. You’ll be able to recognize your weaknesses for what they are, and find ways to overcome them.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll be able to realize your dreams without the inner tension of conflicting goals because you’ll be working from a space of maximum potential, where everything you place as a high priority goal has a purpose that is in-line with your personal mission.
What Does This All Mean?
Researchers have confirmed that striving for a meaningful life is one of the main factors associated with psychological well-being. But, of course, this begs the question, what exactly are we talking about when we use the word “meaning”? Generally speaking, when people talk about “meaning” in the workplace, for example, they’re discussing enjoyment of the daily tasks, alignment of the work with their personal values and getting fulfillment with the outcomes of the work.
“Define your priorities, know your values and believe in your purpose. Only then can you effectively share yourself with others.” – Les Brown
In general, it appears that four main factors have been tightly associated with “meaning.”
- The first factor is enthusiasm. Research shows that enthusiasm is independently linked with life satisfaction, personal growth, positive emotions, purpose in life, meaning, and achievement.
- The second factor linked to meaning is connection. In fact, social relationships, especially with those closest to us, are the most frequently reported sources of meaning in life. In everyday life, high performers also heavily value being around inspiring people who push them to grow more than, say, people who are just fun to be around.
- The third association with meaning is related to satisfaction. Essentially, if what we’re doing creates a sense of personal satisfaction, we tend to feel that life is more meaningful. In addition, when our efforts correspond to one of our passions, this leads to personal growth, and/or making a positive contribution to the lives of others, as we tend to feel these efforts are satisfying.
- Fourth, and perhaps most important to the concept of meaning, is coherence. The idea is that our efforts bring meaning if they “make sense” in the context of our lives. We want to know that our work is in alignment with something important and significant, and that it is serving some larger purpose. Coherence is particularly crucial to high achievers.
The key takeaway about meaning is that to perform at high levels, we must each focus in on cutting down on distraction and busyness, and focus on ramping up our efforts to finding and doing work that is most meaningful to us.