The meaning of life is a philosophical question concerning the significance of life or existence in general. It can also be expressed in different forms, such as “Why are we here?“, “What is life all about?”, and “What is the purpose of existence?” It has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific, and theologicalspeculation throughout history. There have been a large number of proposed answers to these questions from many different cultural and ideological backgrounds.
The meaning of life is in the philosophical and religious conceptions of existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness, and borders on many other issues, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose,ethics, good and evil, free will, the existence of a or multiple Gods, conceptions of God, the soul, and theafterlife. Scientific contributions focus primarily on describing related empirical facts about the universe, exploring the context and parameters concerning the ‘how’ of life. Science also studies and can provide recommendations for the pursuit of well-being and a related conception of morality. An alternative, humanisticapproach poses the question “What is the meaning of my life?” The value of the question pertaining to the purpose of life may coincide with the achievement of ultimate reality, or a feeling of oneness, or even a feeling of sacredness.
Perhaps you think I’ve set myself an impossible challenge here?
Not so. The meaning of life is pretty straightforward to state. Your life has whatever meaning you give to it. So the question becomes: what do people say gives their lives meaning? That’s easy enough to measure and psychologists have done exactly that.
Baumeister and Vohs (2002) have synthesised four factors. When people are asked, the more they report each of these four factors being fulfilled, the more meaningful their lives feel:
- Purpose – this could be living happily ever after, going to heaven or even (whisper it) found at work. Whatever it is, meaning in life comes from reaching goals and feeling fulfilled. Even though fulfilment is hard to achieve because the state fades, people need purpose.
- Values – people need a moral structure to work out what is right and what is wrong. There are plenty to choose from: some come from religion, others from philosophy and still others from your friends and family.
- Efficacy – people want to make a difference and have some control over their environment. Without that, the meaning of life is reduced.
- Self-worth – we all want to feel we’re good and worthwhile people. We can do this individually or by hitching ourselves to a worthy cause. Either way we need to be able to view ourselves in a positive light.
So, there you have it: the meaning of life in under 300 words.
Two words of warning. Firstly, it can be difficult to get all these things in the same place, although not impossible. We use family, work, hobbies and other things to fulfil our need for meaning. Secondly, a meaningful life is probably necessary to be happy, but it isn’t sufficient.
What meaning do you give to your life?
Jogja, 19th 2012
No past..no future..no problem..just; this present
kadang, kita ditinggalkan karena menjadi diri sendiri…
karena kita bukan zombie yang harus mengikuti cara orang lain, yang terbaik adalah diri sendiri.
tapi jika ada orang-orang yang pergi karena menginginkan kita menjadi sama dengan kebanyakan orang, maka lihatlah yang tertinggal. itulah yang disebut teman, bukan mereka yang pergi 🙂