Lately I seem to be having similar conversations with all sorts of folks. Some are 76 years old and others are 26. Some have kids and others don’t. Some are single others aren’t. Some I know and others I’ve just met. Invariably they are spoke about the desire to do something that matters. But during the many conversations, I felt like there was more we needed to explore but was unable to articulate it.
However, after listening to Emily Esfahani Smith speak about meaningfulness on The One You Feed, I discovered a way of speaking about the search for purpose.
Start with this question. What makes you happy?
For me it’s a great meal. Like the amazing kimchi soup my wife makes or the Filet Mignon Tournedos Rossini at the Wildflower Grill. The great meal triggers a feeling like life can’t get any better. Happiness has an internal focus.
Now ask yourself, what gives your life meaning?
For me it is caring for the dog (Poppy) my wife and I triumphantly scooped up from the Edmonton Humane Society and few months ago. The act of caring for the dog reinforces my connection to something beyond myself. It forces me to recognize purpose or value in my life that exists beyond my internal needs like family, God, nature, work, or a dog that need a home. Meaningfulness is derived external to the self.
Additionally, Smith makes clear that meaning is not achievable through an intellectual exercise. We can’t think our way to meaning. Rescuing a dog from the Edmonton Humane Society holds meaning. Thinking about rescuing the dog is a plan to create meaning at some point in the future.
Finally, take a look at the career choices you see people in your network making and ask yourself, what is the driving force behind their decision?
Near the end of the conversation Smith reveals that she believes people are making career choices based on more than money. She articulates it as a societal shift from Material Want to Meaning Want. The transition from the quest for money/things to the quest for knowledge/purpose.
What drives your choices?