Is our life insignificant, or does it have meaning? In other words, is there a reason for our existence, or are we just toiling away until our eventual demise?
Are we just another one of the nameless millions that are born and die in this world, unnoticed? Passing through without having made a real difference, on a global level, or in the lives of others, or even really mattering in our own lives?
The thing is, our lives can have meaning if we choose to give them meaning. But how do we do that?
Timeless words of wisdom are great guides. That’s one of the reasons why we all love quotes so much! Here are some of my favorite quotes that help us think about how to live with meaning.
“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” — Joseph Campbell
“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” — Ellen Johnson
This is a great quote because it’s the perfect way to measure your dreams. It doesn’t matter at all what anyone else thinks of them, but you can be sure that if you’re bored by your own dreams you’re doing something wrong! You’re the only one who needs to feel challenged by them, and you’re the only one who can tell if this particular dream has what it takes to push you in just the ways it takes for you to grow into who you’re here to become. That brand of fear is the measuring stick for personal growth.
“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
In the end, this is what it all means to me. I believe this is one big school of life, and becoming what we’re capable of becoming IS the meaning. But to be what we are is no small feat in itself. Being what we are takes more courage than many of us are able to muster in our entire lifetimes. It takes more honesty, vulnerability and directness than we’re sure we have. This is a lifetime of work in itself. It’s not just the growing into who we might become, it’s the capability to be honest and shameless enough to be who we truly are that’s important, and that means our life really matters because it is recognized – not covered up by lies – pretending who we are because we think we’re not good enough as we are.
“Beyond work and love, I would add two other ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we are born with. However blessed we are by fate with different abilities and strengths, we should try to develop them to the fullest, rather than allow them to atrophy and decay. … Second, we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. As individuals, we can make a difference, whether it is to probe the secrets of Nature, to clean up the environment and work for peace and social justice, or to nurture the inquisitive, vibrant spirit of the young by being a mentor and a guide.” — Michio Kaku
Be who you are. Give what you can. I’ve noticed that it’s the pain that drags us down and gets in the way of allowing us to fulfill this. You might think that this is a really obvious statement, but whether that pain comes in the form of divorce or losing a child or feeling too tired because you work too many hours or eat too much sugar, or have your own childhood scars, it’s this stuff that gets in the way of the everyday choices that would allow us to do better. How can we all move the needle just one little bit so we’re giving more?
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ” — Howard Thurman
This one is so huge for me. HUGE. Because giving is getting if you do it right. And yes, I did say it. You can give wrong. (I’m tempted to pull this quote out and write a separate blog post on this one I feel so strongly about it, but I won’t. I may write a post on it at another time though.)
Giving isn’t supposed to be draining, and yet so many of us set it up like that for ourselves. Like, “ugh, I have to go and do that?” I want you to really think about that quote. What would make you come alive?
I’ll tell you something – my business – Wishingwell Life Coaching – was named because of the idea that you can give a little something (like a coin into a wishing well) and get something massive back – like your wish come true. I do think that when you give in alignment with what makes you come alive your world opens up. It’s not just about giving stuff. It’s not just about charity, giving your time, or volunteering. But think about what you really want to be doing with yourself. What would make you come alive? Then go and do that. Please. Because the world needs people who have come alive. Right now.
“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.”— Alan Sachs
And if you listen to my call-to-action above, you might be one of the lucky few who really live. Otherwise, like everyone else, you will die, but will you get the chance to live?
These are some of the most powerful quotes on meaning that I love. What do you think? What are some of your favorites and why do you find them so compelling?