If we can find meaning and purpose in everyday life then situations will not define us. Our happiness will not depend upon reaching the next goal. We should always strive to reach a new goal and change our lives in meaningful ways, but if we are relying on a moving target for our happiness we will always be searching and never satisfied.
There is something that is consistently in my life and yours–people.
“When not reading books I would read people, some of whom march onto planes with their life stories literally on their sleeves”.
The Recess Phenomenon
At school we learned to make friends with people in our class, at gym, church, in a club, on our team, or at recess. The people we made friends with were in our circles and once we connected we expanded our circle by one, but kept it tight.
At recess we would play together. By fourth grade the girls learned how to form gossip clicks and how to make grand life schemes to get what they wanted. The boys ran around, not sure they do this now, and got into a little trouble. At the end of recess we all got in line to head back into our classroom.
We learned quickly the recess phenomenon of life. Meet people already within your view of life and develop a tight circle of friendship with those people. Everyone else is an outsider. If people look, smell, dress, or do different things then you they can’t be a part of the circle. It’s the reason why in high school we had the jocks, nerds, popular girls, party girls, cheerleaders, good grades kids, the drop outs, and the nobodies.
Fifty percent of our total waking ours each day are spent working. At least for most of us. That means that many of us will work our entire lives at a 9-5 job. We may develop side projects along the way to supplement our work and bring meaning into our lives. We may bust out of the 9-5 to stay home and raise kids, write a book, start a consulting business, live off of savings, or work in the gig economy, but for many heading to the office will be a life long reality.
Because of this reality finding meaning in our everyday life is crucial to finding happiness and purpose. All we really have is today. Whether we like it or not people are a big part of our day so figuring out how to value and connect with them can give us purpose in our life, new meaning, and an untapped adventure.
Study of People
They are a mirror unto ourselves. Spend time observing people. Watch how they react to life, what they say, what they do, and why they do it. The more you learn about them the more you can learn about yourself and your motives for living. Try it. It can be an eye opening experience.
A way to generate solutions. A study of people can show us what works and what doesn’t work. When I was trying to decide if I should go back to college to get my MBA I spent six months meeting with people that I thought could help me come up with the right answer. Through studying other peoples lives I could see for myself what worked and what didn’t work. I went back and am excited to see how my story turns out.
See needs that you can meet. Focusing on others always brings meaning in our lives. This means getting outside of our circle and connecting with people we don’t know and don’t care about. Let’s be honest. We don’t really care about that quiet guy in the office, or the office tramp. We just want to get out of there. Let’s get to know some new people, see how we can enrich their lives, and maybe even learn what needs we can meet in the world we live in.
To serve as a leader. “Leadership is action, not position” (Collins, 2009). We can wield amazing power in our daily actions. Leaders lead throughout their lives. It’s not based on a position you hold, but the way you live. Impact peoples lives and you will find meaning in yours no matter where you are at.
Bring depth. I led a community nonprofit for seven years. It was an opportunity to befriend and learn from others that were never in my circle at recess. It sparked a fire in my soul that will never be quenched and that is not dependent upon location or situation. A thirst to know others and learn and grow from them. Whether I like or support someone is besides the point. I can grow from every person I meet and gain depth in my life for having spent time with others very different then me.
I still have a tight circle of friends for the purpose of having healthy boundaries in my life. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything and everyone cannot serve as a healthy advisor in my life, but everyone can teach me and help me grow. Everyone can bring meaning and purpose in my life if my goal is to know them, serve them, and learn from them. Try this. You will be surprised at what you learn and how your life will have meaning today.