Your Path to Meaning
Meaning exists everywhere, however uncovering this meaning is not easy and it often requires an investment of both time and effort. While we are all equally capable of finding meaning in what we do, it is important to note that everyone has different natural tendencies that predispose us to find meaning with greater ease in some areas. It is in those areas where we naturally find a deeper meaning, and therefore passion, that I believe we are inherently suited for. By following our natural predispositions and curiosities, we take the opportunity to enjoy a challenging yet meaningful life because it is the challenge of our own choosing.
What does this mean?
Let us use words as an example. They each represent and mean something that is far deeper than the lines of ink that you see on a piece of paper.
Meaning: What is meant by a word, text, concept or action.
When you see the ink on paper that has this spells out “meaning” you immediately grasp a complex concept that is much bigger than just random lines of ink on paper. You will inherently understand the definition of the word, within the context of the sentence, paragraph, and essay. This single word, “meaning,” carries weight behind it that we absorb all at once without a second thought. Every word carries weight behind it—there are some words that have sparked revolutions, brought down governments and societies, putting new ones in their place.
Democracy for example. Or more recently, BLM.
I mention this to highlight just how much meaning lives in lines of ink on paper.
If this is the case, and there is a world of meaning behind ink on paper, then surely there must be that much, if not more, meaning in everything we do and interact with—in everything we know.
We, human beings, are little meaning making machines. We go around and use the world as a set of tools to navigate the dangerous yet exciting playground that is life. Things that help us develop and progress on this playground are valuable to us and therefore have an inherent meaning to us. Albeit a deep and complicated one that we are very emotionally tied to because it is correlated with our ability to successfully navigate the world and survive or thrive.
I find that during and after meditation, I see a much deeper meaning in all things around me. A meaning that I feel so intensely to be real. However, when I get caught up in my day I find myself settling into a state of being where I am in many ways oblivious to this deeper meaning, which is, in moderation, a good thing.
I believe if we were to see this deeper meaning in everything around us at all times we would have a very difficult time navigating the world. When you perceive meaning in everything, and I really mean everything—the sound of birds chirping, the sun on your face, the feeling of your feet on the ground, the crunch of a bagel—you will see an intense beauty. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say you see the emotion that you normally associate with whatever object more intensely, whether it’s beauty, excitement, or sadness. When you see more meaning in every moment, you give more attention to every moment. This slows down your ability to move through the world dramatically because you take your time to really appreciate and process everything.
The less we are able to focus on, the more effective we are in moving towards what we do focus on.
Therefore, to be able to prioritize some things over others (what we prioritize tends to be what is valuable to us, therefore what has meaning to us) so that we can move towards them (usually goals), our brains create little hierarchies consisting of everything we interact with based on the value it provides. The more value, the more meaning, the higher the placement on the hierarchy. Our brains do this exceptionally well—we are consciously aware of only 50,000 bits per second while our brains process 11,000,000 bits per second. That is 0.45% of everything happening on a moment to moment basis that we actually pay attention to.
We are built to find and create hierarchies of meaning. The more effective we are at doing this, the more efficiently we move towards our goals, and the better we feel.
However, effectively moving towards your goals and feeling good about them is based on the assumption that we have chosen the correct hierarchy of meaning to prioritize and climb. More specifically, some people might organize themselves to prioritize money as being at the top of their meaning hierarchy and devote their lives to the pursuit of wealth, only to get there and realize something is missing. They have not found a deeper meaning.
It is only if we are able to establish the correct hierarchy of meaning for ourselves that we will discover a deeper meaning that exists in life as well as the passion, beauty, and challenge that come along with it.
If you choose a wrong hierarchy of meaning, you will chase a goal that will not bring you a deeper fulfilment—although it might for someone else. If you climb a hierarchy of meaning that is suboptimal for you, you will move towards it inefficiently when compared to goals that resonate with you.
Meaning exists in everything around us and is waiting to be discovered. We live in a society where we are told by family, friends, teachers, and culture where and how to find a meaningful life. It is of the utmost importance to pay attention to what you as an individual naturally gravitate towards, because that is where you will discover a deeper meaning. This demands that you pay attention to what gives you energy and what makes you feel alive. Through this, you will give yourself an opportunity to have a meaningful life.
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