By Karen Carnabucci, Expanded Consciousness, June 29, 2015
There is a path to a meaningful life.
Too often, however, we are stalled at the boulders that are blocking this path. We feel stuck, yearning for that something “out there” that will bring us joy, connection satisfaction.
So we look for satisfaction in the wrong places— in the refrigerator, at the shopping mall, in the martini glass, at the television screen, on the Internet and in the back of the cupboard where we keep the cookies.
The truth is:
Facebook is fun, but it does not satisfy deeply. Busyness overtakes time for rejuvenation and genuine relaxation. Cookies are tasty, but too many of them will produce new problems.
Increasing numbers of people are finding out that financial success, a dream house and personal recognition, while certainly making life more comfortable, are ultimately empty and sometimes even lonely when other parts of their lives are not satisfying.
So, back to the path to that meaningful life – how do we find it?
First, we must identify what a meaningful life is. Although we might imagine as many definitions as grains of sand on the beach, here are the basics:
- Belonging — feeling connected a group of people. These groups may include family, friends or other kinds of groups. The operative word, however, is belonging.
- Experiencing love, as the receiver and the giver. Although romantic love is often celebrated as the only kind of love worth discussing, it is the feeling of deep caring and connection that bonds one person to another.
- Able to manage the distress and disappointments that life brings. Life is not always easy, and everyone feels suffering and pain sometimes. When we are able to identify and accept the struggles and put them into context in the larger picture of our lives, we give meaning to our experiences.
- Feeling purpose and joy in the activities of daily life, including work, friends, family, self care and self expression.
Although you are unique and your definitions of a meaningful life are as unique as those grains of sand, here are six steps that will make a difference:
Make your personal growth a priority.
Successful people are successful because they have been able to consistently work toward specific goals. The dream house, the comfortable income and the job promotion arrive because people pay attention to pursuing these needs. Personal growth – looking inward as well as outward – is a worthy goal.
Paying attention to our inner world involves taking responsibility for ourselves. It gives us opportunity to find balance, and therefore greater satisfaction to our lives.
Pay attention to your experience.
Experience is our greatest teacher. Yet we learn to push away our experience — whatever it may be — because it is connected to our feelings. When our feelings are painful, unsettling or annoying, it’s understandable that we would want to avoid pain. However, the avoidance of feelings on a regular basis results in hiding away parts of ourselves that make us richly human. Pay attention to dreams – internal musings as well as actual sleep dreams – as well as responses that you have in your daily world that may startle or surprise you.
It is having our experiences — feeling every bit in each of the senses — that we learn about ourselves, values, shortcomings, inner wisdom and goals. When experiences are difficult, we are challenged not only to discover new strengths within ourselves to address them but also to find resources in our outer world to help. As we learn to pay attention not only to the big dramatic feelings but also to the tiny nuances of feeling that quietly await discovery, we can identify our needs and make thoughtful decisions.
Decide what you really want.
This is not as easy as it sounds. We’re constantly on the receiving end of bombardment from advertisers, parents, neighbors, advice givers, professionals, ministers and others telling us how to live the “right” kind of life. We’re exposed to the cultural trance where mega-advertising suggests that what is outside– detergents, toothpastes, cars, clothes, iPods and the like –will offer personal fulfillment. Instead, notice what you are yearning for – it may take some time to get under the bombarding messages.
Once we identify what we really want, we can take steps, even small ones, to find the path to get there. We may prune away unnecessary activities to explore how we can meet the yearning, transforming it from a silent dream to an active process. In simplifying, we are called to face our patterns, including those that may be self defeating, those we may need to release. It’s unlikely, for instance, that a person who wants to have a stable and loving relationship will find that partner in the local bar at closing time.
Find companions on the journey.
Distractions are everywhere. It’s easy to get swept off the path, and having people in your life who support your process of growth will keep you focused. Friends, family, support groups, a place of worship, mentors, professional helpers and others serve as encouragers. Tend to relationships nourish your direction so you can travel together; the road will be less lonely and all will benefit from this journey. Find inspirational readings, movies, books and places to inspire you. Keep a journal to record thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Courage allows us to keep moving forward, even when the road seems challenging to navigate. Courage allows us to take reasonable risks and to create something new that has the opportunity to give us what we want.
About the author
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an alternative psychotherapist, consultant, author and educator who employs traditional, contemporary and alternative models to work with people to solve problems, make decisions, expand creativity and find inner peace., She is the author of Show and Tell Psychodrama: Skills for Therapists, Coaches, Teachers Leaders and co-author of Integrating Psychodrama and Systemic Constellation Work: New Directions for Action Methods, Mind-Body Therapies and Energy Healing and Healing Eating Disorders with Psychodrama and Other Action Methods: Beyond the Silence and the Fury. For more information, see www.lakehousecenter.com.
Read more at http://expandedconsciousness.com/2015/06/25/6-steps-meaningful-life/#6JjpMgsLQdFZO3sf.99