Category Archives: Meaning

3 ways to give your life meaning and purpose

Remind yourself of the meaning and purpose of your life by focusing on the past, present and future.
* * * * * * *

It’s hardly very scientific, but I have a sense that over time my differing answers to the question “What’s the point of life?” would in themselves form a pretty good indicator of my mood.

When things are better, I can feel there’s everything to live for. But in the past when they’ve not been so great, I’m disappointed to admit that everything has felt rather pointless.

Perhaps, like me, you do better when you feel you have a role in life, a part to play? Maybe you’d agree that everything is easier to deal with when you believe you’re living a life with meaning and purpose?

Unfortunately low mood can gnaw away at such sentiments, leaving you feeling isolated and unneeded, and it’s at times like this that I think it can help to actively focus on “meaning and purpose” in three ways – past, present and future:

1. Past. Think back to times in your life during which you felt like you were part of something bigger than you may do right now. Perhaps this was when you were at school? Maybe there was a period when you were particularly close to your family? Or was there someone who really depended on you? Remind yourself how this felt, trying to create as detailed a picture as possible of it in your mind. A vivid memory such as this may help you see that things have not always been as they are right now, and they’ll almost certainly get better.

2. Present. The dark lens of sadness can twist your thinking, leaving you feeling that nothing matters, especially yourself. It can create a false world in which you believe you matter to no-one. But I bet that’s not true. I bet there are at least a few of people whose lives are enriched by having you in them. Chances are you’re forgetting them, so why not work on bringing them to the front of your mind? Remind yourself of the difference you’re already making.

3. Future. Would you like to be part of something bigger in the future? Today’s a great time to start making that happen. I was pleased to come across a long list of volunteer opportunities in my local area when I searched on Google the other day, and things could be similar where you are. Maybe you could offer to mentor someone? Or you could help out at your local library. Some or other group could probably use your help, whether it’s making coffee or sticking up posters. The thing is, you absolutely do have it in your power to build more meaning into your life.

On a bad day you’ll probably feel there’s a vast distance between where you are now and having a life with meaning, but you know what they say about a journey of a thousand miles, don’t you?

It begins with a single step.

What makes you shine?

I love this question. Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan is asking her sold-out audiences this as she tours around North America this summer.

She speaks of the importance of shining on through adversity, even appreciating the hard times that life brings us because they can transform us into the strong, beautiful beings we were meant to be. Her songs are filled with inspiration to appreciate life’s struggles, then learn from them and let them go. And always keep on shining.

When I ask myself what makes me shine, what makes my heart sing, I get words coming up like:

– dancing
– helping people thrive
– snuggling with my daughters
– making a really delicious meal to share with someone special
– writing
– building communities

I’d love to hear about what makes you shine, what makes your heart sing?

As inspiration to share and shine unabashedly, one of my favorite quotes ever is by author Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

So why not go out there and be amazing today, in whatever way you like? And please do let us know…

What makes you shine?

How making makes you feel good

Over the past couple of weeks, Alex and I have busily and happily worked on a project that’s really brought home the mood-nudging effects of throwing yourself into a ‘making’ project, even more so when you’re working with someone else.

In our case we were hand-crafting the first batch of our new WellBee cards (see below), but I wonder what it is that you do which brings you similar pleasure? Perhaps it’s some kind of craft, baking, woodworking, or home-decorating?

wellbee-tins_wellbeeWellBees, tinned and ready to fly

It’s invaluable to identify some kind of productive activity that you love doing, and even better to find some reason for scheduling it soon, even if that reason is simply the knowledge that you’ll enjoy it.

Making the WellBee cards, which are going in the mail today to the first wave of new ‘keepers’, was incredibly enjoyable. Every single step of their fairly complex production was carried out by our own fair hands (rather glue-encrusted in my case) with fantastic help from our two girls, Samantha and Megan.

sam-and-meg_wellbeeSamantha and Megan packing WellBees

WellBee enables you to measure your level of well-being, and then track it over time. As you’ll read on the page below, it does this by asking you to rate yourself every day in twelve different dimensions – such as Loved, Cheerful and Tired – which define your overall level of well-being. Each of these dimensions is represented by a hexagonal playing card, and the cards – along with a 48-inch-long graph enabling you to track yourself for 365 days – are housed in a snazzy steel tin (hexagonal again).

alex_wellbeeAlex hand-folding the four-foot graphs

Learn more about WellBee

We’ve worked in our garage in Redwood City, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each set of WellBee cards has involved around 100 individual hand-made cuts with, I’m pleased to say, no fingers lost. Gluing with spraymount was best carried out in the backyard, using an old ironing board as a stand-up desk. And we spent a full day at our local print shop, ensuring that all the component parts were impeccably reproduced.

jon-outside_wellbeeJon at the old ironing board

Perhaps best of all, using our own prototype WellBee cards every morning allowed us to see the beneficial well-being effects of working together on this manufacturing project – but it has also enabled us to identify small ‘hiccups’ which we’ve been able to address. When it showed that one or other of us was tired, we took a break. When my level of anxiety rose a bit, Alex suggested that I took half an hour to make a list of everything we needed to do, which was calming and settling.

Setting up the WellBee home-manufacturing process means we’re now able to offer  more hand-made sets for sale. Those who’ve already seen them have loved them, so if you’d like your own set, we’ll be only too happy (as evidenced by our graphs) to get back to our cutting and gluing. Here’s how to order one now:

How to get your WellBee cards

Finally, please do put some thought into the activities that bring you pleasure, then get out that calendar.

Experience flow

Time may well fly when you’re having fun but boy does it move at a snail’s pace when you’re not. You know, I think we first discover this as kids, when the most enjoyable days probably came and went in the blink of an eye. But on rainy days when there was nothing to do and nobody to do it with, the hands of the clock often seemed glued in place.

Cruel, wasn’t it? Good days felt annoyingly short, while the bad ones seemed to go on forever.

Perhaps like me you’ve experienced a similar kind of feeling, when your disposition is anything but sunny? All too vividly I’m afraid I recall days, weeks even, when my mood was low and time dragged its heels like a stubborn donkey. Thankfully though, I’ve had periods which felt completely the opposite. I hope you have, too.

When things go well, when the blue bird of happiness perches contentedly on your shoulder, time marches on at an altogether brisker pace.

Albert Einstein, who knew a fair bit about time and – it seems – attractive women said: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

Fair enough. But best of all is that dreamy feeling you get when you’re doing something you love, and time seems to cease having any meaning at all. It might occur when you’re making something – baking a cake, painting a picture or planing a piece of wood. It could be when you’re ‘lost’ in beautiful music or a great book. Or perhaps you’ll experience it when you’re deep in happy conversation with an old friend.

It’s a phenomenon psychologists refer to as ‘flow’, which put simply means being completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Almost always it’s a good feeling to have. Importantly, though, the emphasis is on ‘doing’. The truth is, you’re unlikely to experience a state of flow when you’re slumped on the sofa.

So can you use this to your advantage the next time you’re going through a rough patch? You know, I think you can, although it may take a few minutes to work out exactly how.

Here’s what I think you can do. Try and think back to the last few occasions on which you entered this magical state of flow. What were you doing? Where were you? Were you with someone else, or alone?

Then when your mood is low, quite simply aim to engage in a similar activity, in a similar way.

Getting started may not be easy, as your fed-up head will likely try to trick you into believing you’re too tired, too depressed, or too demotivated to bake, paint or plane – or whatever it is that’s your particular thing – but once you’ve got over the initial hurdles, you’re really quite likely to become engaged. You might even enjoy it. It could even help elevate your mood.

Why not give it a try? And if it’s baking that’s your flow-bringer, and it’s alright with you, I’ll pop round for a slice of cake at three o’clock.