I heard someone recently use the phrase, “it was a period of ‘soul searching’ in my life.”

It struck me then….right then, that my entire life seems to have been a period of “soul searching.”

Why?

Because as I’ve fleeted from one idea to the next, from one project to the next, I’ve been searching — searching for something but not really understanding what.

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For the longest time I thought I was searching for what I was doing with my life — my ideas and the projects that came from these ideas.

And truth is, some days my ideas and projects were just a joy! And I thought there was meaning in what I was doing. I’d want to tell as many people as possible about them.

Then some days nothing worked. It hurt. I wanted to hide.

Other days were just uncomfortable where all I could do was hold on as life spun.

I see now that what I was searching for was meaning. Not just the what, and not just the why but, …WHY!

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It has taken me a long time to really understand this. And I’m certain there is more to be discovered.

So I’m here to say that the mistake I made comes when we look for meaning outside of ourselves. We try and find meaning in what we do, or who we are with, and who we think we are.

But those that seek meaning outside of themselves find only emptiness (and do not mean shunyata). This was Satre‘s final “discovery” and it sounds as bad as the philosophy it is.

True, a meaningful life does not come from something external to yourself. There is nothing “out there” that provides you or me with meaning.

Some will think, Clarke that is BS. My life has meaning. My kids give it meaning. Love gives me meaning.

To which I say, nope. You’re wrong.

It is not your kids that give your life meaning but something in you, and in relation to your kids, that gives you the feeling of purpose and therefore meaning. That is to say, it is not the kids doing this to you.

Same for love — if by love you mean something external to yourself. If you think that love is something someone gives you, you are on a course set to a destination called, disappointment.

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So we, you and I, need to stop looking outside of ourselves for meaning. It is not there. But where Satre stopped we must continue if we are to have a meaningful life.

All of that is to say that meaning is an inner thing.

We need to bring meaning to the world. To our work. To our relationships. To how we love. Indeed to how we live.

Only then will you and I find meaning in what we do.

My life’s journey has been about first seeing this, understanding this, and integrating this very idea.

It’s tough.. I’m still trying.

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