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  • Writer's pictureAmy Clark

A Meaningful Life or a Happy One?

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

With spring allegedly at our our doorstep, along with the promise of the "new" for all of us, we asked the ladies in our Circles about whether or not they feel they lead meaningful or happy lives and which one is more important to them.

In an interview from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook, and author Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning, Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness, "choosing a meaningful life is most important as human beings have a need for meaning. We're creatures that seek meaning, make meaning, and yearn for meaning."

The route to meaning lies in connecting and contributing to something bigger than yourself-and not in gratifying yourself and focusing on what you yourself, need and want, as the happiness industry encourages us to do.

Research shows that being fixated on happiness can actually make people feel lonely and unhappy --and that the happy life is associated with being a "taker". Leading a meaningful life leads to a deeper sense of contentment and peace, and it's linked to being a "giver".

In her book, Esfahani notes the four pillars she believes lead to a meaningful life:

1. Belonging--being understood, recognized and affirmed by community

2. Purpose--having long term goals in life that reflect our values and serve the greater good

3. Storytelling--pulling particularly relevant experiences in our lives into a coherent narrative that defines our identity

4. Transcendence--having experiences that fill us with awe or wonder

The ladies in our Circles were split down the middle about whether they'd choose a meaningful or happy life as a priority. Of course, how one defines those parameters is very personal. Some understood "meaningful" with ego, measuring meaning with levels of success. Others understood and measured "meaning" with their hearts.

Those who agree that finding meaning comes first, believe you need meaning before you can find happiness. "There are no guarantees for happiness and it's a choice to be happy." Here is what they believe gives them meaning in their lives:

*Impacting others, making a difference, changing the status quo

*Volunteering and serving

*Finding inspiration for action

*Raising healthy children

*Believing in a higher power and connection to source

*Belonging to communities in areas of interest


*Pointing yourself in the direction of what makes you happy and joyful

*Giving yourself what you didn't get growing up from your family of origin

*Making connections with others

*Self discovery

*Practicing gratitude

*Attaining one's goals

*Feeling content

*Feeling self worth

*Enjoying the journey without judgement

*Being in the present moment

*Being in the absence of fear and panic

For those who believe that happiness is the number one choice, here are the things that make them happy and bring them meaning:

*Laughing and finding humour

*Being with friends

*Connecting with others

*Having meaningful conversations

*Taking walks in the fresh air and nature

*Cuddling with our dogs

*Being a mom

*Being with family and knowing your family is happy


*Feeling loved

*Feeling needed

*Having good health

*Listening to good music

*Eating good food


*Good sex

*Gardening and planting seeds


*Finding a good ski line

If you compare these lists you see there are some definite similarities! There was no discussion of pressure from the "happiness industry" to sway the ladies' decisions. Maybe that's a generational thing? The women in our Circles tend to be from 40-80 years of age.

The real question is what resonates for you and why? Do you feel like you're happy and lead a meaningful life? Let us know your thoughts below!

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