According to Saint Exupery in The Halo (2006), “Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something moulded.” The meaning of life has a no specific definition; it depends on how each individual give meaning to their lives. It is a natural thing for an individual to curiously know about their life since their birth till death. Moreover, human beings are also curious to find out why they were put in this earth that is why babies keep touching everything in order to experience all their surroundings from the very beginning (Taylor, 2000).
In this essay, the concept of meaning will be significantly analysed. Firstly, by defining the meaning which will secondly be followed by discussing the different types of needs an individual must meet to experience the meaning of life. Thirdly, the types of things that enhance and curb the experience of the meaning of life will be highlighted. Lastly, various practical steps will be described to enhance the experience of the meaning of life. This essay will be intertwined with personal reflections and aspirations that have enhanced the meaning of life for the writer. What is the meaning of ‘meaning’?
According to Eagleton (2007), everyone adds their own meaning to life. The meaning of life is never universal or complex. The meaning of life is very simple and people experience it when they understand the universe, themselves, their identity and their goal in life (Bennet, 2005). Subjectivists state that the meaning differs with individuals’ psychological and mental states and their desires and goals.
For example one individual can find meaning of life in music or art while other may find it in attaining goals or in religion (REF). In addition to this, (REF) states that life only becomes meaningful when all the needs and wants are fulfilled and when the individual is content and satisfied with themselves. Super naturalistic views:
On the other hand, spiritual beings consider their lives to be consequential and significant when they can reach the pious pathway God has set (REF). The God-centred view points out that the definitive meaning of life is holistically attained. Moreover, an individual will only figure out the meaning of life when they are not attached to the worldly desires (REF). Personal reflection:
Personally, the meaning of life for me is constantly being in search for my identity and accomplishing the goals I have set in life. I explore my identity through my art work as it helps me express my feelings and emotions about everything. My art work makes me realize who I am as a person and what people interpret me as a person through my paintings.
What types of needs must be met for a person to experience meaning in life? Searching the meaning of life is a motivational force in an individual however; the degree of motivation to which they search the meaning of life differs in all individuals (REF). Despite individuals having different degrees of motivation, there are some needs and conditions that must be met for the individuals to experience the meaning of life. Individuals do not necessarily have to meet the same needs and conditions to experience the meaning of life.
Some individuals are inspired by other individuals like great artists, inventors and thinkers, some individuals need sense of belonging, some need to experience certain events to make sense of life while others need to attain autonomy and self efficacy to experience the meaning of life. In short, individuals can discover the meaning of life through social work, experiencing something or someone or reactions towards unavoidable circumstances (REF). For example, an individual who is very emotional needs to experience the need of belonging in order to experience the meaning of life.
They need to have many friends and a good relationship with their family in order to satisfy their need of belonging; this helps the individual to live a happy and full life. However, if they do not feel the sense of belonging, they have no hope hence do not have anything to look forward to and see no point of living. Conversely, not all individuals need to meet the need of belonging to experience the meaning of life. Some may have to experience the need of autonomy and self efficacy. These types of individuals usually have certain goals and tasks in life which they believe they can attain thus that would help them experience the meaning of life.
For example, an individual whose goal is to become a doctor tries to attain that goal by being a hard worker and devoting all his time to attain their goal. They would experience the meaning of life when they achieve the title of the doctor as it would help them conquer a place in the community and gain some prestige. In addition to this, if an individual fails to attain this need might gain a very low self esteem which would then impact on the choices they makes in life. They would become very dependent on others and would not be able to cope with that leading them to suffer from various health issues.
What types of things enhance the experience of meaning in life?
The meaning of life can be enhanced by sustaining life, accepting a teaching, giving life or creating wisdom (REF). For example things that would enhance the meaning of life for mothers, doctors and nurses is when they deliver as links in a biological chain by giving life from one generation to the other. Young artists are inspired and enhance their meaning of life when they authorize and respect and accept their teacher’s work (REF). Personally, as an artist, the meaning of life for me is enhanced when I can appreciate the work of different artists and what they are trying to express in their paintings.
Art work makes me understand the different feelings individuals go though and how they express it through drawings. It also makes me see different viewpoints of life and experiences people are going through. Despite all individuals having different needs to discover the meaning of life, there are certain things that all individuals require to enhance the meaning of life like: Hope
High self esteem.
What types of things curb the experience of meaning in life?
Many individuals curb their experiences of the meaning in life due to: No inspiration or goals and failure: If an individual constantly fails and has no potential and inspiration of achieving his goals may feel ineffective and hopeless. They may start feeling that they have no purpose in life and life is completely meaningless for them.
Loss of loved ones: loss of a loved one through death or divorce may affect an individual mentally and emotionally. They may feel the are not loved and do not belong anywhere as their loved one does not exist anymore. The loss brings suffering and misery which makes an individual believe that like if meaningless. Lastly, experiences like these pushes an individual to have a low self esteem and become reserved (REF).
If individuals are not open, emotionless or afraid to be seen as themselves due to low self esteem cannot enhance their meaning of life and hence would curb this experience. As an artist, my goal is to become an art teacher and help other children to express their feelings through painting if they cannot through words. However, I have a clear goal and always have been inspired by my father to attain this goal. If I had a low self esteem and did not believe in myself, I would have no hope hence that would curb the search of meaning of life as I would feel I am worthless
Practical steps to enhance the experience of a meaningful life
As mentioned above, many individuals curb their experiences of the meaning in life due to low self esteem, no inspiration, no goals and being reserved. However, they can enhance their experience firstly by accepting and believing in themselves. This would help them make a contribution to life and share their best. According to (REF) self-destructive behaviour can be conquered by increasing self-efficacy and self-esteem. This can be done through counselling so that they can start believing in themselves. Individuals who need the sense of belonging to experience the meaning of life should try and fit in and socialize with people they are close to and have good relationships with them all.
Furthermore, individuals who are trying to attain a specific goal should always reward themselves every time they are a step closer towards the goal. This would keep them motivated and not lose hope. Personally, I enhance my experience by acknowledging the great artists and how they are an inspiration to other young artists. Conclusion
Finally as mentioned there is no specific meaning of life. All individuals need to meet different types of needs such as the need of belonging, experiencing life threatening incidents, need of autonomy and self efficacy to experience the meaning of life. An individual’s perception, values, needs and feelings centre him and help in organizing the world around him. Feelings help in expressing oneself. If an individual has a great skill in expressing himself, he can change the larger world.
Great artists found expressions in their art work which helped them change the world that came after them. The creations around us are the different individuals trying to express themselves and their experiences of the meaning of life. All the inhibitors that we posses such as low self esteem and inner struggles should be resolved to make life more creative and enhance the meaning of life.