Written by: Madeeha Syed
“There is a purpose that all human beings have when they come into this world,” said a certain Ms L during a social event. Not in the mood to act the role of a social butterfly, she moved to a quiet corner of the room. “I question myself every single day, what have I done that has made my existence worthwhile?” she continued, “there comes a point when you realise that this,” she points to the party—the décor, food, people etc—,“this doesn’t really matter.”
Ms L is a 50-something accomplished woman. Her children are married, she is a grandmother and she likes to keep herself occupied through volunteer work, gardening, reading and socialising. For most, she represents the idea of ‘having it all’ in her life. She is the epitome of the idea ‘what you see is what you get’. On the outside she is well-adjusted, balanced, happy, and social and this is precisely what she is on the inside. Ms L has lived long enough to know how to draw a meaning from life and through her numerous activities she is doing exactly that.
The question of finding significance and satisfaction is something that, surprisingly, a lot of people ask themselves at several points in their lives. A recently conducted survey shows that different people find fulfillment in different ways. According to the controversial author of The vagina monologues, Eve Ensler, the key to happiness is to give as much as you can. Altruism, or giving, in order to better serve human kind, is also what helps certain individuals find meaning in their lives. It convinces people that they are a part of something greater than themselves and helps them rise above their selfish way of thinking.
While some people are satisfied by helping others, some—similar to Ms L—find fulfillment in their relationship with people. Such individuals nurture their bonds with the people surrounding them and that contributes to their sense of contentment, whereas, others may find meaning in religion. “When I’m feeling troubled, I pray,” Ms L once mentioned, “and it gives me peace of mind because I mentally let go of everything I am holding on to in my life and I know that I can’t help what happens next.”
On the other hand, secular individuals feel that, for them, making their lives mean something comes from what they do and their daily actitivies as opposed to drawing faith and sustenance from something that, in their eyes, is non-existent. Interestingly enough, there are also people who believe that the idea of finding meaning in one’s life is, in fact, quite meaningless!
For anyone attempting to delve deeper into the meaning behind their existence and for people attempting to better their lives, the words of psychotherapist Khalid Sohail, are crucial. He says that there are three things that help individuals find ‘meaning’. One includes tapping into your hidden gifts—taking up a fulfilling hobby or pursuing a passion that was previously ignored. The second is to maintain a strong support system of close friends and family. Nurturing your relationship with people you feel you can connect helps you nourish your life and create unbreakable bonds.
And the third is on the lines of Ensler’s advice which is to do voluntary work. Life has always worked as a two-way street. Give back to the community that has helped you become who you are. As respected television journalist, Tom Brokaw says, “It’s easy to make a buck, it’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”