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What Is The Meaning Of Life?

Photo by Simon Pais

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of life and the impermanent nature of it all. Observing how we do what we do, the struggles we put ourselves through, the drama, the pain and the suffering.

While thoughts about life, death and purpose drift in and out of my consciousness on a regular basis, the seed of this post was planted, when Pooja sent me a link to “The Last Post” by Derek Miller.

I was just getting on a flight when I opened that link on my phone, and by the time I had finished reading it, tears were streaming down. I spent the rest of that flight, and weekend reflecting on the meaning of life.

What is the point of life, when we come to the end?” I wondered.

I mean, when I look around, I see a lot of struggling—in my own life and in the lives of others. It seems like, even though there’s an abundance of goodness in our lives, the prevalent theme seems to be this struggle to find balance, peace and happiness.

What is the meaning of it all? What is the purpose of life?” I asked silently in the privacy of my thoughts.

I pondered this as I sat uncomfortably in the middle seat, squished between my husband on my right—who was napping in the aisle seat—and an annoying guy to my left—who was playing a distracting driving game, in which his iPad was used as the steering wheel, causing him to move wildly about his seat.

I looked away towards the empty space along the aisle to my right, so that my distracting neighbor was no longer in my peripheral. I reflected on my own experiences—particularly my own “blind” chase towards a more promising tomorrow.

Personal Reflections

All this chasing for what?” I asked myself.

I race and I chase, all so that I can make more money, have more success, be more attractive, and hopefully be happier in some distant future when I’ve hit some superficial and randomly selected target.

But will that day ever arrive? You and I both know how this game goes: the wanting for more never ends; and happiness will always (unless we intervene) appear to be just a reach away, in “some day” land, when we’ve finished this project or have reached that goal.

We stride through life as if we will live forever. We treat time as a cheap commodity that we blindly waste. We become consumed by negativity. We hide behind victim stories.

We get stuck in jobs and relationships that we dislike. We distract ourselves with the noise of media and other people’s opinions. We compete over beauty, status and owning stuff. We buy into the empty promises of cosmetics and luxury products—all of which are illusions fabricated by marketers.

Unable to forgive, we hold on to the pain and we blame people, things, and circumstances for our unhappiness. We surround ourselves with anxiety, stress and depression. Failing to recognize that these “dis-eases” and uncomfortable emotions are our soul’s way of saying, “Wake up! It’s time for a change, baby. This isn’t working.”

We give up our dreams, our art, our purpose, and trade our lives in exchange for money so that we can make a living. While making money to sustain our needs is inevitable, in the making of a living we sometimes forget our unique gifts, we temporarily lose touch with the enormity of our inner being, and we distance ourselves from the confidence of our unique expressions.

In a race to survive, we become mentally paralyzed—like a dove whose wings have been clipped and soon forgets that she can fly.

It’s all so exhausting.

It’s overwhelming.

There’s no end to the madness of chasing.

So many of us rush though life in this way, oblivious to the preciousness of whom we are and unaware of the beauty, wealth, abundance, love & opportunities that surrounds us.

And before we know it, the sands of our hourglass run out, and we face the end of our brief existence on this planet—unfulfilled and regretful for all that we’ve missed.

I know this may sound harsh, and it is. Viewing how we live in its blunt, naked candor can feel rough around the edges. Truth stings. At the same time, we can use this emotionally charged observation to our advantage—to inspire us and to move us such that we begin to live differently.

Derek Miller’s last Blog post is a gift for us. He reminds us of the impermanency of our human existence, and the preciousness of the time we have as living, breathing, creative beings.

It’s time to restructure (at least for me and my family) our lives. It’s time to restructure how we live, how we prioritize, how we contribute, and how we can live more fully in the precious moments we are blessed with.

Just now, as I type this, my husband came home after having taken our son to the park so that I could write this post. He opened my office door, and said, “Go see mama.” My son (18 months old) ran into my office with a smile so big that I was instantly love struck. The love my little boy radiated filled up the room.

Little Ryan charged into my arms at full speed. His little legs wrapped around my waist. His little hands draped around my neck. We hugged. I picked him up and said, “Oh, I love you booboo. Thank you for the hug.

In that moment, I understood…

Perhaps, the only thing that matters is love.
Perhaps, all the chasing we do is just misdirected energy.
Perhaps, all the stress is unnecessary.
Perhaps, we are making life a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
Perhaps, it’s possible (and necessary) to forgive and to let go of our painful past.

Perhaps, there’s an easier route to happiness—by focusing on doing good work, contributing value to society, sharing joyful experiences with people we like, and remembering to slow down to savor the moments.

The Meaning of Life

So what is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life?

I don’t think any single answer can be ubiquitously shared and be applicable for everyone. So I’ll answer for myself, from my current state of understanding.

I think the meaning of life is what ever meaning we give it—and we can literally give it any meaning that “feels right” to us. There’s a blank canvas in front of you. You are the artist of your life, and you are free to paint any picture that pleases you—and change it at any time for that matter.

What “feels right” to you? What do you want your life to mean? What do you want your life to be about?

I think the purpose of life is to discover what makes you happy, and then go do more of it. The most interesting answer I’ve heard to “What is the purpose of life?” came from my husband. He said:

The purpose of life is to do what makes you come a live. When you stop, you die.

For me, the answer is simple: (in addition to my family) learning and sharing about empowering topics—like all the content on his site—is on the top of that list.

So, what makes you come alive?

Parting Words on Life Meaning

I wrote and re-wrote this article over the past 4 weeks–cutting more than half the content down to the essentials. The point of this article can be summarized by the following:

Life is short.

Life is precious.

What are you dreaming about? Go do it. Go make it happen. Go do it despite fear and doubt and the opinions of others. Go do it, because it makes you happy. Go do it, because it makes you come alive.

Who are you holding a grudge against? Decide to forgive them, today, right now. Decide that you will heal, and decide to tell a different story. Give yourself permission to be free, because you are.

Where do you want to visit? Start planning for it, even if you don’t yet have the money. Keep moving in that direction, and I promise you that you will find a way.

Who do you love? When you’re with them, give them your full attention. Create the time and space to connect with them. Put love at the top of your list.

In the end, love is all that matters. Love for our selves, for other people, for our work, for all the unique experiences of life.

Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Let’s make it simple again, by focusing on what matters.

–Tina
June 13, 2011 Seattle, USA

Discover You Now (NEW)

My first in-depth writing is done.

The digital guide is Discover You Now. The guide was originally intended to be an expanded edition of the article “Life on Purpose: 15 questions to discover your personal mission”. The guide will walk you through the exact process I personally use to:

  • Find your life purpose
  • Create your personal mission statement
  • Discover your deepest values
  • Overcome your fears
  • Discover how to make a living with your passions
  • Achieve any goal
  • Complete any project

Additionally, the guide will come with over $100 worth of bonuses. Read more about it here.

If you’ve connected with any of my writing, you will enjoy this. Plus, you have 60 days to try it and if you are not satisfied, I’ll give you a full refund.

You can grab a copy of this digital workshop by clicking on the pink button below (or click here to learn more about it):


Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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119 thoughts on What Is The Meaning Of Life?

  1. Oh Tina, I so needed your words today. I’ve been straining so much in the face of some challenges and uncertainties this week. We just need to let go and live each moment, don’t we? A life that you could completely figure out, that you could categorize and fit neatly into a box wouldn’t be much of a life, would it? And yet if we can just let go of the endless spinning of our mind and hug a child, plant a flower, do meaningful work and enjoy beauty, is that not richness and meaning? Is that not enough? The answer is most certainly yes.

  2. This is something that I continually ask myself, but struggle with exactly how to do anything about. I grow more and more frustrated because it seems like the more I do, the more unattached from things I feel. This post has opened my eyes a bit. I too read Derek Miller’s last post and it definitely touched me. Hopefully I can find my way on a path to realizing my true purpose, rather than going in what seems like these endless loops and huge circles.

  3. Hi Tina! Derek’s last post touched me, as well. What an incredible grace he showed in the end of life.
    I’m a big ‘F’, as in, isFj from Meyer Briggs. I don’t think we can really take much action on that, but what I have noticed is I’m more aware of what drives me. And it’s so totally feelings, I redirect my decisions multiple times a day based on feelings alone. Are there drawbacks to this? Of course, but more importantly I’ve decided to not fight it and live my life based on feeling, on what ‘feels right’ like you mention above.
    Always so refreshing to stop by TSN! Have a great rest of the week.
    Best,
    Amanda

  4. Very thoughtful post, Tina. I believe there are two, often overlapping, life purposes for each of us. One is the general purpose of life that includes things like learning and serving and becoming a better person: kinder, more patient, loving, compassionate, courageous, grateful and humble.

    The other purpose is much more personal and often hidden. It requires us to think deeply, explore broadly and maybe even pray fervently to discover and create the meaning and purpose we personally were meant to play. To one it might be the nurture of a handicapped daughter. To another, it might be to save life as a brain surgeon. To yet another, it could be to coach Little League baseball. Each purpose will be different based on the talents and interests and passions of the individual.

    The challenge is to either discover what we were meant to do or create meaning by doing something meaningful to us. Either way, the joy of a life lived with purpose and meaning will add immeasurably to our happiness.

  5. Hi Tina: This is something that I needed to read to day as I work through my v busy sched chasing all my dreams that sometimes I forget what really matters.

    Thank you.

  6. Mark

    It is interesting how posts like these get into my life just when thinking a lot about the topic :-)

    Still, is that all there is to life? To increase the amount of serotonin or other chemicals in our brain? If we find a medical way to do that, have we completed our purpose?

    If we are free to choose any purpose, what do we base this decision on, the one that determines all others? What is something makes one person happy but another unhappy?

    If you have the answers, I’m looking forward :-) You’re off to a good start with this post!

  7. Beautiful Tina. Life is indeed art and we are artists, here to ‘be’ and to ‘spread’ joy and love. Thank you for a wonderful article. Very apt and poignant. Here’s to enjoying this moment, being grateful for all that there is, and to be happy and at peace. Much peace and joy to you and your family :)

  8. Jake

    I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. The meaning to life is what you make of it. All i know is that we have to live! We have no choice but to breathe, eat, run, talk swim, be sad or be happy. There is no neutral. We as humans are hardwired into this world and what we do is up to us. The afterlife is a mystery but i know it exists. Find what you love most and what means to you and bask in that for a long as you live. Then you can look back and never regret a things, because all you did was enjoy life to the fullest. In any aspect that deems true for you!

  10. Hi Tina,

    I cried as I read your post.
    My best friend died 2 days ago, and was buried the next day.
    I’ve never seen any human being as kind as her, she was beautiful, she was a joy to be around with and she was only 33. I didn’t get a chance to say proper goodbye and that hurts

    As I saw her body in the casket I thought about life, and what’s it all about. And I wondered the same thing, why bother living like crazy when this is all you get in the end.

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece of work, something that I really need at this time to ponder upon. I pray that somehow all of us will find our own happiness and something worthwhile to be done with the little time that we have in this thing called life.

  11. Great reminder,thanks Tina, It is always easy to get caught in the rat race and a life of mindless chasing… it is the way we are taught, brought up and conditioned by education, family and society. So much so that we lost ourselves and forgot who we truly are and what are our real priorities in life. Let’s all be reminded that happiness is a choice, it is now, not tomorrow, not next year, not when we are a millionaire, or when we get the next promotion etc. Let’s be grateful and purposeful in our midst of being true and the best of ourselves, and to serve others.

  12. Hi, Tina,

    Great post, esentially, about being present and being grateful for the lives we are living.

    I’ve faced a life-threatening diagnosis, 11 years ago. I can tell you, it’s quite a clarifying experience.

    I wrote about receiving that ‘Life Threatening Becomes Life Changing’ on my blog. http://thepowertolive.com/252/life-threatening-becomes-life-changing/

    Given my personal experience, I’d like to respond to your ‘perhaps’…

    Perhaps, the only thing that matters is love.
    You are SO right! The Dalai Lama said, ‘Love IS the answer. It doesn’t matter what the question is.’

    11 yrs. post-diagnosis, I’m still a believer in this. Alas, I’m still human, so I continue to practice getting this right, like everyone else.

    Perhaps, all the chasing we do is just misdirected energy.
    Again, dead, on. Our folly is our busy-ness. We’d all do well to live with active intention, paying attention to what really matters.

    Perhaps, all the stress is unnecessary.
    It’s, sadly, self-inflicted. Stress and worry are investing time and energy into something that usually never comes to pass.

    Perhaps, we are making life a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
    It’s about the people, and the connections we make with those we love and/or care about. That’s what it all boils down to.

    Perhaps, it’s possible (and necessary) to forgive and to let go of our painful past.
    Forgiving someone else is about releasing YOU from the pain.

    You’re not condoning their behavior, or saying it’s acceptable. You’re taking a poweful stand by saying, ‘I’m releasing this situation and the power it has over my Life. I refuse to allow you to control or influence me.’

    I’m wishing you the best in your quest for balance & simplicity, Tina!

  13. Great post! Restructuring our lives to live and be less busy is achievable – first you need to decide, then to push aside the doubt (disbelief) of others.

  14. aisle

    tina,your an amazing blogger..u touched the life of mine and my friend..we keeps in touch always and share things about life and happenings..but this blog of yours made us realized so many things…i so love it..life changing..i wish people will realized more about life while they are young.i wish people will enjoy the life given to them and realized of how grateful of the blessings they have.people now are super blinded of worldly things and life.i had post this blog of yours in my facebook page.i hope my friends and our Christian community will be moved by your blog.im loving my life now and i will try to enjoy as much as i can.God bless you more and may he create you a prolific blogger perhaps why dont you write a book..thank u for inspiring us…

  15. While we are on the earth just learn to live and to give, I think that is life, sharing is the most important for we to have a life.

  16. Hi Tina,

    I found your website a couple of years ago and have visited periodically. Like you, I have been on a journey of self discovery for a few years. Your posts and articles have inspired me and helped me to find within myself the courage to step out and live the life that I was meant to live.

    I thank you for sharing your dreams to write and for making it a reality. It is my dream as well. I appreciate your eloquent words of encouragement. You have inspired me to just write for the love of writing and see where it takes me. Sometimes it takes someone else doing it, to inspire others to do it as well. You have done that with this website and I am grateful.

  17. Hi Tina,

    Sounds to me like you are thinking way too hard about this “Life” stuff. The more you analyze, the more intricate and complex the world is going to get for you. Less thinking, more flowing. Keep in mind that over the next 5 years, you will consider this post childish as you will have inevitably grown, taking on a wiser perspective of life. Wash, Rinse and Repeat until the day God takes your life away. Hope that simplifies things.

    Best Regards,

    -Adam

  18. Tina,

    I also think about this topic a lot and have come to many of the same conclusions. At the end of the day, life is about happiness. What makes us happy is deeply personal and different for everyone.

    Its a constant struggle to balance being content (happy) with wanting to better yourself and accomplish something meaningful. The latter could eventually make you happy, but requires you to be in a state of discontent with your life or the world (unhappy). To me, its the ultimate paradox that I’m still trying to figure out.

    If we continue to seek out what we think will make us happy and do what we want, will we ever succeed in finding complete satisfaction? Is it better to be content with your circumstances in life?

    I haven’t completely resolved this, but I try to 1) savor the present, 2) be content with who I am, 3) know what matters to me, 4) decide what to do in life based on what matters to me, and 5) put my all into THAT without being attached to the outcome of my efforts.

    This seems to be working for me so far. Thanks for your thoughtful post :)

  19. na

    your barely post anymore. :( this use to be the best blog ever and you were very helpful to so many.

    • We’ll be back online very soon.. thank you for being patient and understanding. I’m doing the best I can to balance my work and family, and I am getting help to keep this blog going.

      –Tina

  20. Amazing post, Tina!

    “Life has no meaning at all. Only the meaning you give it yourself. ”

    I love it.

    “The purpose of life is to do what makes you come a live. When you stop, you die.”

    I love it.

    It is a great reminder, wrapped in a beautiful post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  21. “The purpose of life is to do what makes you come a live. When you stop, you die.”

    Philosophers say that, “the only purpose of life is to make the self realize that there is no other purpose to it”. And, poets, writers put it in a more palatable way: “The journey (of life) itself is the destination”.

    A related post on “What is life” from a more scientific perspective is here:
    http://salahuddin-knowledgehobbyist.blogspot.com/2010/04/topic-of-day-is-what-is-life-whats.html

    Another post about “Science and Faith” is here:
    http://salahuddin-knowledgehobbyist.blogspot.com/2011/05/science-and-belieffaith.html

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