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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.

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. For the half my life, assuming I will live till 80 years old, I have been living someone else’s life. The life that my parents wanted. The life that my friends wanted. The life society and circumstances wanted.

    For the next half of the year, I am determine to live MY LIFE.

    I enjoyed and marvel at the process and elightenment of myself. How come I get to find out about my purpose or at least start the search? How come some people like my parents were never given this chance to discover their true purpose? How come some people find their purpose in their later years and some in their earlier years? This is a mystery that I think I want to avoid solving.

    I believe that our purpose, that is for all men, is to do more good and no harm to any life. And we can only truly achieve that when we are aligned to our mission and values. Anything last and we don’t give the best. That means that the universe will not get the best out of us. Mission failed.

    I shudder when I am confronted with this question, asked by God when I am gone from this world: “Did you find YOU in your earthly life?” If the answer is no, than we would not have found our purpose.

    Thank you for this very reflective piece.

  2. Aaron ------

    the meaning of life is hidden in the question itself, life IS the meaning of life.who you are, how you act,what you feel. Do not let other’s tell you who you are, you are who you want to be.

  3. Eric

    Thank you very much Tina for starting this blog! I really loved the main thrust of your article. Life is fundamentally about sacrificing yourself for the good of others. Paradoxically, this is the only way to achieve ultimate joy and meaning.
    My only disagreement with you would be with the following sentence: “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 is a fundamental flaw in this kind of thinking: What if I said to you,”You’re wrong, life has an ultimate meaning, independent of what we think or feel.” you would be forced to reply, “You’re right to say that I’m wrong, because your ideas on the meaning of life are just as true as mine.”
    If you’re right to say that all interpretations are equal, then my interpretation of you being wrong would also be right, which is a contradiction.
    The way to make any sense out of life is to accept the fact that there must be such a thing as a truth statement: A statement that is true in an ultimate sense, regardless of what anyone thinks. (In fact, the above statement is an example of a truth statement).
    If there is a God, then the statement: “There is a God” would be another truth statement. If there is no God, then “There is no God” would be a truth statement, and “There is a God” would be false.
    When you talk about the meaning of life, you can’t say that everyone is right. And didn’t we all already know that anyway? If life had no purpose, and all that mattered was what we thought, why would any of us even bother posting these comments? What we are really doing, coming together and commenting on life like this, is trying to figure out what that one true meaning of life is.
    I am very confused about life right now, so I woln’t pretend to have all the answers to these kinds of deep questions. However, I do believe that all the answers we need to live purposefully can be found the Bible.
    Thank you again Tina for starting this blog! I eagerly look forward to seeing what mind-blowing things other people will add!

  4. Arthur

    So basically the meaning of life,is to give life meaning. The answer was in the question…

  5. jesus

    to find the meaning of life you would first have to brake it down, left/right, good/bad,yes/no,heven/hell….in this day in age society has tried to mix the both in witch to try to make perfection in all reality this can not be done just as love and money dont mix or water and oil or truth and a lie the true meaning of life depends on you. consider yourself in a war within yourself your flesh verses your soul or your mind verses your heart the path you take wether is good or evil depends only on you as a person and if you seek happiness then you must be true to your life not cheat steal or lie you must be caring understanding forgiving loving giving and more but people choice to mix there truths with there lies, there rights with there wrongs witch makes them go in circles its ether one way or another the choice is yours

  6. I completely agree that no single answer can be ubiquitously shared and still be applicable for everyone. But this assumes that there is no universal truth or laws applicable to all humans. This may be the case, but the rest of the human condition is governed by a set of laws including gravity, time, space, wisdom, needs etc. The question is, although we may FIND different meaning in life, is this different to the concept of whether there is actually something out there that can universally offer lasting meaning to all?

    So, even if something “feels” right to us at that point in time, it may not last. Is there something that can withstand time, culture, age, interest, etc, and apply to all people, anywhere, anytime?

    I did an Alpha Course a while ago, and it was a key stepping stone in me finding an answer to what is the meaning of life, and I reckon it’ll help loads of others also.

  7. syuhada

    First of all, I’m sorry for my broken english. But i’d like to share what i feel and believe. Our life in this earth will be so harmony, peaceful and tranquil if we follow the right way. If we cry, we still understand and calm, If we suffer, we still patient and smile. Our life in this earth for me only a test or trial for the individual from God (Allah). Then we will be evaluate in equitable in hereafter (after death). Life after death is the true and everlasting place. The place that will give us everlasting happiness and no doubt if we are in true way when we are in earth.

    Just a little sharing..

  8. Sean

    Hi Tina,

    Just to let you know, I’ve never did this kind of thing of giving feedback to a random article on the internet, but your article is different. Your article was the wake up call i needed in life and I thank you sincerely.

  9. For an alternate perspective on the meaning of life see this article:

  10. Great thought provoking article, Tina. Indeed, the meaning of life is what we make of it. And that meaning is likely to change as we go through different stages in life. As for me, the meaning of life at this point is to awaken to my true self. I wish you all the best for the public launch of your new book!

  11. omar

    I have read your post, and well, like most people above me, I agree with everything you said..and I think I really needed to be reminded of this truth. Ever since I was a little boy I wondered what the whole meaning of life was, while most other boys thought about fun and fantastical worlds. I always questioned life and its mysteries..and as I grew older I began to research more and the questions began to duplicate. I do think that life is what you make it, and I really agree that the purpose of life is LOVE! I really do. I am really glad to be reminded of those ideas which I believe in, but seem to forget in the hurry of planning and securing a future that is always uncertain, in the stress of dealing with society, and in the blindness which the media produces. I think I will begin to make this a permanent statement in my mind!!! I have always thought that time is so taken as granted, and when you know it, its almost over, and then what?

  12. Saurabh Sharma

    Great Article Tina!
    Reading the line, “whatever meaning we give it,” I found myself stunned and only because my cynical self was unable to respond negatively to this cliche, yet exceptionally profound statement. Reading through I felt compelled to bring change about my own life. Thank you. I now truly understand that life can only have a meaning once we cease looking for it.

  13. Well done, thanks for your thoughts on this. I had a related experience I wanted to share that I thought you would appreciate, based on your insights. Let me know what you think:

  14. Whether shall we discover the meaning of life or create it? I think we just can build it, so your question will have infinite answer at least equal to humans’ numbers!

  15. Seelan

    Awesome article. Full of fact and truth. You manage to find the words to combine this article. I’m just finding the happiness, still at initial stage. Life is too complicated.

  16. BillT

    Tina, Your article is very thought provoking. You seem very genuine, loving, caring, a great wife and mother. I was looking through the the website about the the meaning of Salvation. And I was pulled to your article.

    I spent a number of years as I moved out from my parents home at 19 yrs. old to find the meaning of life. It’s funny, I was raised to be a good moral young man. I was told their was a Jesus and a Father God, but not a church goer. So I had a respect for the two of them. However, when I started out living my life, I found myself, a man, drawn to girls, Some would say, that is good. :) I had a little party side of me but really wanted to find the right girl and settle down. After many relationships, intimately and emotionally. I found emptiness. All the girls and friends I had were wonderful people, I often stay in contact with old girlfriends, I had a great job, money, cars, people tell me i had the good looks, but I was empty. I would get depressed often, life would come to a stop, (meaning-not much happening, I still would work and do the normal things, even when I was doing well with a girlfriend) So I would find another girl that would dazzle me and I would, what appeared, be back on track having fun, but only for awhile. Why am I saying this? I can only express to you how much better things are in my life, I still struggle at times, but much less than before, and when I struggle, it is something I can get through with great joy. You see the Lord Jesus, I really believe, created us. But I guess for some of you, you might have to ask the question where did we came from. If you ask, What is the meaning of life, then I think it would be fair to ask who made me and whoever made me what did they design for me to do? This is what I pursued when I started getting serious about, what is life.

    You see, when I saw God for who He really is, I realized that first -He must know everything about me, I realized that my dignity lies in Him. When I asked myself, how do I treat others, I started to treating them as I wanted to be treated, with the Lord’s Love. The more I understood His love, the better I got at loving others, and the more loved, the more selfless I became. I also understood it was not what I felt was good, it was what please the Lord. I then understood this was the beginning of what life is. My faith became stronger and stronger, and my purpose for life became evident of who I was called to be. You see I am a follower of Christ. Many people in America call themselves Christians, One who is a Christian is a follower not a fan. Jesus said, “If you believe me, be a listener and doer of my word.” I have been married for 25 years this September, I have 2 boys, a 19 and 21 yr. old, and I have been blessed. Understand, I did not say problem free. When struggles keep coming, I lean on the Lord Jesus’s Word, That is what carries me through. Tina, Again, I want to say you had such beautiful deep words to say. I pray that you do well with your life, and your family is truly blessed by the one who created each of you and new you before the foundations of this earth.

    Blessings to you.

  17. Darren

    The meaning of life is simply for it to be lived…

  18. Beat Bisangwa

    Bill T, I agree with you….after a long search, I found out that even pursuing happiness is temporal…what lasts is what you do for others like Tina says, starting with the author of life. Life is connected to Him and when you find Him, you have found life. We love Him and love humanity. We then serve Him and serve humanity.

    I also think life is a science, in a sense that it is run on principles. If you apply them they work for you. You don’t, they won’t work eg life is a responsibility; life is relationship; life is an awesome opportunity to explore and value to life…..etc etc

    It runs on principles like: “give and it will be given back to you……”

    “do to others what you would like others to do to you…” “…….sow and you will reap…..”

    Let’s keep on the journal to discover ….and enjoy the fun as we move on….

    Life is so meaningful when treated with dignity and honor with God the creator as a reference point!

  19. Nicely said. Understanding the meaning of life can be as unique as the person doing the understanding.

    As the theme of your post suggests, its a process of self discovery, which hopefully leads to some value to humanity on the whole.

    I tackled the same question on my blog and came up with similar answers using different ideas, you may find value in it.

    – Eric

  20. The meaning of life?

    Our actions are modeled after the foundations of the Universe. In many ways everything inanimate shares qualities that are related to living organisms.

    Deists are intellectuals. Deism is the belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation. God created the Universe with or without full knowledge of all related consequences and henceforth does not intervene; no contradictions.

    Jefferson was a rationalist. He believed that Jesus was a pure and ethical teacher of morals. To that end, Jefferson took a razor to the New Testament and removed passages he thought to have been inserted by the authors of the gospels (those attempting to create God spells and spiritual crafts; whom he called the “commentators”), and he pasted what remained together as “The Jefferson Bible”.

    This is a social treatous and not a religious work. The Jefferson Bible is Christianity without the contridiction imposed by hocus-pocus and self-serving swindlers.

    What is more interesting is that during the time of Jesus there were many honored historians; not a single honored historian of the time ever wrote a single word about Jesus. The first occurence was hundreds of years later around the birth of Islam; coincidence?

    The only holidays that a Deist would embrace are those based upon “Thankfulness”. Not thankfulness to some supernatural being that changes its mind whenever it suits the religious leader (theism – believer of self interest and greed). Expecting a happy eternal afterlife is the ultimate greed/sin.

    I think it is interesting that the Bible warns of sooth-sayers that would corrupt the souls of beleivers, and then their own religious leaders are promoting ultimate greed to ensure beleivers have no hope of being qualified for having an eternal afterlife.

    As corrupt as it has become, in the United States the only popular holidays celebrated by Deists (remove religious affiliation) are Thanksgiving, Independence Day, & days signifying season. Being truely Thankful without greed being seeded in the mind.

    Pagans identify a spirit associated with “things” like the Sun, Winds, ancient people…

    Deists are NOT Pagans. There may be spirits, but it has nothing to do with the formation of the Universe. A scientist in a parallel Universe could have easily created this Universe and be consistent to Deism.

    How can I make this statement about Deism?

    All of the Founders of the United States were Deists. Thomas Jefferson once wrote “Organized Religion is the bane of humanity”.

    Life repeats whether you want it to or not. On what foundations do you want to live life? The purpose of life is to be a constructive part of the Universe.

    If you believe God created the Universe, then what does it mean for you to do anything destructive?

  21. Lionel B

    If you believe God created the Universe, then what does it mean for you to do anything destructive?……It means that you go to Hell and join Hitler and Tojo, unless you are reacting to someone else starting a war. My late Grandfather fought in the Boer War; my late Father fought in WW1; as did my late Uncle Lionel – he was gassed three times and died as a consequence; my late Brother fought in WW2; when serving in the Royal Navy, I fought in the first Korean war. Although we beat the jerries a few times, they now rule us in the obnoxious EU!

  22. alaagib

    you great woman i think . do you know that you saved my remaining life its woderful article that refelect your lovely soul thanx

  23. Daa freedom

    Hi Tina,
    Your post is so hot and inspiring that a I found it so difficult to read it all alone. I have shared with my family and friends. I have just discovered myself and I am sure hundreds I have been able to reach will also experience new thinking(s). Thanks.

  24. Mahi

    Life is all about strugle but with hapiness on face sometime it takes you toward some special persons but sometime it hurts you but life is a gift for us from our God we should thank God for giving us every next day to laugh to feel hapiness to strugle for achieving success to care for our loved ones and to dream etc.
    Feel every moment of life eiher its hapniness or sadness because every moment of life gives us experience to survive in this world and makes us strong

  25. Alan

    I think Stephen Hawkings touched on this very subject well. I cannot recall verbatum what he said, but the message was clear. We all strive for a meaning to our lives. We are the only animal on earth that does. All others just live their life. We need to have meaning to our lives, but what if there is no meaning? No rationale to the start to the universe, no rationale to the end. It simply…
    We each settle for an interpretation of the meaning of life; the truly blessed will believe in a greater purpose and that purpose will carry them forward their whole lives….good luck to them I say and mean it. Others will embrace life, love and all that comes with it and good luck to them too. Maybe Spock had it right? All I say is much love to all of you.

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