Adding meaning to your life

Each new year’s dawning seems like a nudge to check one’s personal compass. Are you headed in the direction you want to be going? Has life seemed just a frenzied dash through the to-do list? Or maybe your past year was dominated by feelings of frustration or futility.

Perhaps you yearn for a sense of meaning. You are not alone. It turns out that a feeling of purposefulness is important to well-being and the ability to thrive.

Many people think that a life with purpose requires holding and achieving lofty goals. Not so! We don’t have to aspire to know “the meaning of life.” We simply need to know the meaning in our life, very specifically.

New research shows that consciously tying your daily activities to your personal values results in living with a greater sense of meaning or purpose.

So, ask yourself: What do I value? How is that reflected in my daily activities?

Maybe your caregiving tasks this week include taking dad to the doctor. Perhaps arranging for in-home care and arguing with the insurance company about reimbursements. Or even cleaning up after a bathroom mishap. Hardly the stuff of transcendence!

But flip that around. Why do you do these things? The values behind these mundane, or even frustrating, tasks might be

  • wanting to give back for care received in your childhood
  • that families stick together and look out for each other
  • a sense of fairness, sharing the load so one sibling is not shouldering it all

Now consciously link your activities to your values and use this technique to support your well-being. In the midst of an unpleasant caregiving task, remind yourself of its resonance with your personal values. Holding that thought may help you get through a challenging episode and live with a greater sense of fulfillment.