So, Why Are We Here?
Four Ways to Make Each Day More Meaningful
Ayo Oppenheimer Abitbol - 27 September 2021
We’ve all been there - the daily grind. Wake up, wash up, work, work some more, stop to eat, scroll through our phones, go to sleep and do it all over again.
But what’s the point? Why are we here? And what’s the meaning behind it all?
To infuse a bit more meaning and purpose into our daily lives, we share four things that you can do to make each day more meaningful as inspired by renowned author, professor and psychotherapist Victor Frankl.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl observes that for an increasing percentage of the population, modern life is simply devoid of meaning. More and more people subscribe to a nihilistic viewpoint that essentially claims that there is no greater value or meaning to existence.
In an attempt to find a greater purpose or to just figure out what to do with ourselves, we often turn to self-indulgent pleasures, which can lead to addictive behaviors as expressed through emotional eating, excessive drinking and compulsive drug use among other things. Frankl therefore urges us to understand that mankind’s search for meaning is the very thing that can keep us connected to life and allow us to live a fulfilling life.
So, how do we do that? According to Frankl, the key ways to live a meaningful life are:
- Through creation and achievement
- Through transcendent experience
- Through making suffering meaningful
Let’s unpack those before continuing to our fourth point.
Creation and Achievement - This category is comprised of all the things that we do: our passion projects, our awards and accomplishments, our work output, learning a new language or instrument, gaining new skill sets and so on. Especially in Western society, we spend a lot of time in ‘accomplishing mode’, so of the three categories, this most falls into our comfort zone and is the most within our control.
Transcendent Experience - We experience this category when we connect to, experience or dedicate ourselves to something beyond, well, ourselves. This might take the form of experiencing love, witnessing a sunset, immersing in a yoga practice or connecting with greater humanity. These are the small and sweet moments that fill us to where we almost transcend to something greater.This genre is often more passive, more about receiving, more practising patience and more unfolding. As you might imagine, these experiences are just as important as the first category, but perhaps receive less ‘air time’ in the West.
Meaningful Suffering - This is the category that is less fun. It’s the one that we don’t choose, but that sometimes chooses us. Buddhist teachings aside, most humans agree that living includes an element of pain or suffering, whether it’s facing an illness, dealing with a job loss or experiencing the end of a relationship.We don’t like these circumstances and we absolutely can do whatever possible to alleviate suffering. However, in times when that is not possible, Frankl urges us to find meaning through the suffering or at least through how we choose to react to it. As an example of making the suffering meaningful, Victor Frankl writes of a patient who was severely depressed at the loss of his wife, but was able to reframe his experience that - by surviving his wife - he spared her the loneliness of needing to mourn and survive without him. He was able to bear his pain because it suddenly had a purpose. An example of choosing our reaction to suffering is an unemployed person who, upon losing his job, suddenly felt fairly depressed without identity or value. He was encouraged to volunteer with the elderly and all of a sudden through choosing and directing his reaction to pain, he was able to find meaning and channel his time toward something positive and greater. Of everything that Frankl shared, what blew me away the most is the fourth and final nugget that I’ll share here today. Many of us fixate on finding some grand meaning to life that, if we discover at all, may only truly be revealed at the end of our lives looking back on the pieces of the puzzle.
Shifting from a Macro Lens to a Micro Lens - Declaring a grand purpose to our lives may work for some people, but it doesn’t for most and it can leave you feeling less-than. Rather than speculating on a grandiose singular meaning, we can instead shift our focus to the following way more accessible and relatable question: What is my purpose or function right now in this moment?It could be writing this blog post. Or feeding your children. Watering a plant. Or eating and nourishing your body. Enjoying a moment of relaxation or fulfilling a task in your daily work. By bringing our focus and the potential for meaning down to the specific, concrete and manageable level, we are able to access meaning and purpose daily in ways that otherwise might be impossible.
When I first joined YuLife and received a library of books including Man’s Search for Meaning, I’m not sure that they or I realized just how much of what we do aligns with man and woman’s search for meaning. But it’s remarkable how aligned we are.
The YuLife app uses gamification and behavioral psychology to motivate users toward healthier behaviors, increasing our step count by 19% and squarely falling into the category of creation and achievement.
We socialize our user experience, fostering valuable human connection and interaction through leaderboards, duels and group challenges, thereby tapping into the category of connection and transcendence.
And finally, the YuLife offerings build our sense of mindfulness through incentive-based guided meditations that allow us to focus on each moment and live our purpose through the smallest and most seemingly insignificant of actions.
Who knew that a gamified health and wellness platform could infuse our daily lives with more meaning?
I wonder what Victor Frankl would think. I, for one, am excited to be a part of a team bringing more meaning, more joy and more connection to those around us.
YuLife offers companies of all sizes an easy way to safeguard their employees, retain their top talent and realize a culture of health and wellbeing that so many workplaces aspire to.
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Ayo is a strategic account planner at YuLife. Ayo previously worked in management consulting and leads a wellness community, where she teaches yoga. Ayo joined the YuLife team in July 2021.