Why Life Lacks Meaning and Purpose

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Listen to what is being said:

  • I go to bed every night unsure if I have made a difference today.
  • I have no life. I am burned out and exhausted.
  • I am busy all day and feel like I am working on everyone else’s priorities but not my own.
  • If I am honest with myself, I haven’t felt whole-hearted in a very long time.
  • I don’t feel especially needed or capable – at work or home. My boss doesn’t appreciate me, my family doesn’t affirm me.
  • I am not sure what is worse, the regrets I have for the past, or the concerns I have for the future.
  • I feel empty inside. My life lacks meaning and purpose.

What is Most Deeply Personal is Often Universal 

The words above are the expressed paint points of millions of people all around the world. Laborers and professionals. Teachers and executives. Moms and dads.  Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Human beings do not do well trying to function without some sense of accomplishing what matters most.

Ask a group of a thousand people gathered at a workplace engagement convention, “How many of you agree that the vast majority of your colleagues are not fully engaged at work?” and most hands will raise. Ask a group of a thousand parents gathered for a convention on the family, “How many of you desire to experience deeper connections with your kids and a more meaningful life as a family?” and most hands will rise.

It proves what Carl Rogers said, “What is most deeply personal is often universal.”

Breakthrough or Break-With?

I agree with the wisdom of Stephen Covey: The solution to the pain and the problem described above is similar to all significant breakthroughs in human history – it comes with fundamental break-with old ways of thinking. The ‘old way of thinking goes like this: find fulfillment in life by getting more done in less time because productivity is the pathway to meaning.

The higher way of thinking, and more fulfilling way of living, is to define what matters most to you, clarify who matters most to you, and determine that you will schedule your priorities (not just prioritize your schedule), and invest first-place time and energy in the responsibilities and people that matter most. Fulfillment in life is a secondary blessing from intentional living every day, every week, every month, every quarter. This is the best way to pursue purpose and meaning.

Embrace the Highest Calling For Most Fulfilment

Henry David Thoreau, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil and only one striking at the root.” The root of this problem is not our calendars or planning systems. It is not something we are doing that needs to be corrected, but something we have not yet done, not well anyway. The most common problem is that many have not yet taken the time to clarify their values – those beliefs, principles, and virtues that are most deeply core to who you are as a person.

Last week I quoted Gaudium et Spes, I will do so again here: Man cannot find fulfillment in life, except through a sincere gift of self to others. And you cannot fully and fruitfully make a gift of yourself unless you know your values. Defining your values is more an exercise of discovery and discernment than it is clarification. I believe your values are discovered by exploring what God put inside you when you were created. You see, God had something very good in mind when He created you. This goes way beyond having good things planned for you or good things in store for you. YOU are the good He had in mind.

Discovering and living your values means finding out who you are in God and who He created you to be in this world. It is knowing those most deeply seated values that will enable you to make a sincere gift of self. It is those values that will allow you to manifest the character of God in the way He intended you to when He created you. Living those values will lead to deeper fulfillment, purpose, and meaning.

Key Principles for Clarifying and Living Your Values

Principle #1: If you have a long list of tasks and deadlines but do not have a short list of personal values, your life may be driven by the calendar. You probably feel exhausted and somewhat dissatisfied at the end of the day. Even after checking off a lot of tasks on your list, you are uncertain if your time and energy were invested in things that matter most.

Principle #2: Personal values provide a solid foundation for decisions – personally and professionally. Without defining your values, and regularly reviewing them, your life is vulnerable to drift away from what and who matters most to you.

Principle #3: Personal values measure alignment. Every initiative you pursue – at work or home – should align with your values and support your progress in what matters most.

Principle #4: Your values help clarify your ideal presence in the world, your approach to relationships, and the virtues you aspire to live. In the absence of clarifying and living your values, your presence in the world will not be true to what God had in mind when He created you.

Principle #5: The best personal values are expressed in simple words that are meaningful to the individual. Clarifying your values is a discernment process, not a marketing campaign. Use simple language that has meaning for you and does not worry about how your values sound to others.

Principle #6: Personal values are like glue; they hold your life together. They are like a ruler; they measure your days against what matters most to you. They are like a compass; they guide your decisions.

Principle #7: Personal values should have a prominent place in the way you manage your time daily. When you make a decision, make sure it aligns with your values. When you evaluate your previous week, measure it against how you lived your values that week.

The real value of defining your values is igniting your passion, your sense of purpose, your holy desires, and your commitment to self-gift, which is your ultimate vocation in life.

Should we have a list of Work Values and Personal Values?

We often fall into the trap where we think our professional/work values and our values need to be different. Not true! You are one person, you live one integrated life. Your values are your values no matter where you are or who you are with. Personal values can be expressed in a different language at home and work, but the values themselves remain the same.You live one integrated life. Your values are your values no matter where you are or who you are with. Personal values can be expressed in a different language at home and work, but the values themselves remain the same.CLICK TO TWEET

I have seven personal values. I discerned these many years ago. Over the years, the language I use to clarify these values has changed a little, but the essence has remained the same for years. Here are my seven personal values:

  1. Trust – Trust is the one thing that changes everything, at work and home.
  2. Learning – When I stop learning, I stop leading, at work and home.
  3. Service – Either I am a servant or no leader at all, at work and home.
  4. Courage – Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. Courage can manifest in unusual ways such as expressing vulnerability, apologizing when I mess up, and choosing silence when provoked to speak.
  5. Integrated Life – Great leaders are ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things and extraordinary people living very ordinary lives. I am the same person no matter where I am or who I am with. My life is most meaningful when all aspects are balanced within a discerned harmony, aligned to a singular Gospel.
  6. Encouragement – When it comes to believing in themselves, most people are agnostic. Encouraging words are valuable because most of us live without them. I speak into the lives of others to remind them of their dignity, worth, and power to make an impact.
  7. Human Dignity – Nobody is the sum of their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. They are the sum of the Heavenly Father’s love for them, infused with incredible dignity and capable of profound and lasting greatness.

Simple and effective insights to help live the life you are called