The Meaning of Life: Are You Just Clocking Time?

clock+faces+1+001You could count the days, if you only knew how many there were.

And as you get older, though you still don’t know exactly how many there will be, the days of your life seem all the more countable.

That’s what I was thinking about when I finished reading a detective novel last week.

Though I enjoyed reading it, after I put it down, I couldn’t shake the sense that while I was reading, I was just clocking time…

Letting the minutes go by.

What Makes Life Meaningful?

“What,” I asked myself, “gives me a sense of passing the time in a more meaningful way?”

And the more I thought about it, the clearer the answer became.

Life feels most meaningful to me when I’m helping someone else.

I don’t have to change the world or stage a revolution or become famous or make a fortune. I just have to make sure that at least some of the time — enough time to matter — I’m helping someone.

Now that sounds simple.

Even simplistic.

But the more I thought about it, the more helpful that realization was.

Consider This…

I’ve just committed to writing the fourth edition of my first book.

That’s going to require a lot of work.

In fact, the burden of having to do it already feels heavy though it’s not due for several months.

But when I think about writing the new edition as a way in which I can help people, all of a sudden, what had seemed like a huge chore feels like an exciting opportunity!

Helping Others Gives My Life Meaning

From the perspective of helping people, the task of writing the new edition (or any task, really) isn’t just to crank out a product to market.

Instead, in that new edition, I have a genuine chance to figure out how to make the book super helpful to the people who are going to read it.

While I will continue to read novels and go to movies and do other things that are just “clocking time,” I want to remember that the meaning and satisfaction in life comes more from helping other people than anything else.

That’s when I’m at my best.

When are you at your best?

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What Gives Your Life Meaning?

Have you thought recently about what gives your life the most meaning? This exercise might help you figure it out.

Make a short list of the times when you feel at your best. Look for the consistent thread in your list–something that pertains to most of the items on the list. That may give you insight into what creates the most meaning and significance in your life. Is it helping others? Or spending time with family? Something else? The answer will help you greet each day with a new zest.

What do you think gives your life meaning?

Share the first thing that comes to mind in the comments below.

  • Heidi

    philanthropy – leveraging relationships and resources for social good

    sailing – I am completely centered and focused on something other than self, I am one with the wind, ocean and boat, and all senses are finely tuned

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      I love the idea of sailing as giving meaning to life. My father was an avid sailor. I think his time on his sail boat was just as you have described it. He died at 76 while he was sailing his boat. A perfect way for him to leave. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Heidi.

  • Ca girl

    Hi, I feel the same way. My job was to help people everyday but now that Im not working, I find that I dont feel productive or feel good about my day since I cant help people. I have to find meaning jn life again by doing what I do best and be able to be productive again. I just hope I can work again.

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Hi Ca girl. I’m sorry you don’t have work. But I encourage you to walk and enjoy the remarkable world around you. Say hello to people. Be a force for gentle good in the world just with your presence. Sometimes remarkable things are in front of you, and you just haven’t seen them yet.