Last time we explored the broad categories that we can divide our life into. These were Social, Physical, and Mental. We saw examples for each of these areas and covered the importance of setting objectives in each of which are pursued with concentrated, deliberate action.
Now we will explore a high level overview of these 3 areas starting with Social.
What is it?
Big Idea: Connection with “external” or bigger-picture entities.
Basically: Believing in something bigger than yourself.
“External” is used with caution here because that is dependent on how you define it. One could argue that we are all connected and thus there is no “external”. My use of it here is the perceived external from one’s own body and mind. This does not necessarily need to be a tangible thing such as people, it can be more abstract such as one’s job or the notion of volunteering. It is simply something bigger than yourself, this promotes awe and helps to remove ego.
This includes anything where the cause of an interaction could be explained by saying something like “I’m engaging with this external entity because I believe there is purpose or meaning in the existence of things outside of my own self.” Such as volunteering at the humane society because you believe animals should be treated with care and shown compassion.
- Spiritual exploration
- Friendly interactions with others
- Selfless acts, such as volunteering
Why is it Important?
Big Idea: Increased connection leads to increased meaning in one’s life.
Basically: Meaning of life is chosen by you. Believing in something bigger gives meaning
Suffering ceases to be suffering once you apply meaning to the struggle. This meaning can come in various degrees depending on how connected you are to some external aspect of life (e.g. family, work, or religious entities). Those who not just survive but thrive under the most intense circumstances are those who have derived meaning from the unfortunate situation (e.g. holocaust survivors). It is these individuals who have something of great value to share with others through an experience that not many encounter, let alone develop meaning in it. The ability to derive this meaning comes strongly from how connected the individual is to some external thing.
A single strong connection to something is enough to have the ability to derive meaning. This is NOT something that can be faked. It should be something that is so entrenched in your subconscious that you find yourself acting in favor of this thing unconsciously. For example, waking up in the morning with the strong feeling of drive rushing over you as the thought of the external aspect comes into your mind. It can be best described as a feeling of “tug”, a cause that you embody so deeply that you feel pulled towards acting in line with it. The mere thought causes a bubbling of desire for action. Kids often show this for the play that they engage in, society then beats “play” out of them and teaches kids that you should be serious and if you “play” then you are unprofessional and not an adult.
Any struggle can be overcame and persevered through applying the proper meaning to the situation. This is strongly related to the idea of a “perspective switch” where a single piece of information causes how you look at a situation or person in a completely new light causing the feeling of deep understanding. You could be seeing the struggle in a dark setting where everything seems daunting but all of a sudden a rush of energy and drive comes over you as you remember the purpose behind the struggle and light begins to be seen through the tunnel, a deep notion of “I can do this” fills you. Bringing to mind this meaning can be difficult in times of struggle (one often forgets all the “pick-me-up” one-liners), this is where practice and mental strategy comes in (e.g. slowing one’s mind and heart rate down), but these are tactics and topics for the mental realm.
How do I Develop it?
Big Idea: Spend more time thinking about a specific thing of interest.
Basically: Think deeper. Depth over breadth.
Meaning is something that is very personal and has very deep interconnections between many things in one’s life. This is due to the source of the meaning largely coming from one’s experience, of which is an extremely complex web of interleaving and compounding experiences where the ordering and intensity and state of mind of the individual all tie in to how a new experience is “encoded” (i.e. more than just remembered or stored in memory; what is stored also involves emotions, feelings, and interpretation in a very complex relationship).
Just like anything where such a complex web of ingrained conceptual thoughts and feelings are formed (e.g. intuition and abstraction), time and deliberate thought must be applied. This is, in a large part, due to the very nature of the brain being a mass complex network of connections (where, like a network of walking trails, new paths are formed and built on over time as more and more attention is given to them). If you want to increase the intensity of connection you feel to bigger picture entities (i.e. external concepts, people, etc.), you must increase the connections within the brain associated with such ideas. You increase the number of and intensity of these connections through applying more attention to them in a deliberate and concentrated manner. This is all to say that if you want to increase the feeling of connection and therefore increase the ability to apply more meaning (ultimately being able to better persevere through struggle and feel a greater purpose in life) then you must spend more time deliberately thinking.
Deliberate thinking is thinking that is objective based and highly focused. It is accompanied by a strong degree of intensity and interest. You can stimulate such thinking by asking the “big questions” in a recursive manner (i.e. one question leads to another, which leads to another, and so on). “Big questions” are any question that is aimed at understanding something bigger than yourself, or trying to hunt for a fundamental cause of a thing. “Why” is a wonderful question to stimulate this deeper thinking. For example, asking “why do I wake up in the morning” could be answered by something like “to go to work” which can lead to the question of “why do I go to work”, “to make money”, “why make money” ,”to support my family”, “why do I want to support my family”, “I love them”, “why do I love them”, “what does love mean”, “what would I do or feel if I were to lose them”, “do I feel obligated to love them”, “how have I shown that I don’t love them”… This process simply involves hunting for meaning in something you do by digging deep with questions.
This last example brings up an important point about pondering the big questions. Spending more time thinking mean to go deep into the big questions and their implications, this can lead to some potentially uncomfortable questions that you have avoided (perhaps due to fear of the answer). It is VITAL that you do not shy away from these questions and instead dive deeper into them, the answers you find and the questions that genuine curiosity may lead you to has the potential to uncover such profound insights into your own life that meaning naturally flows from them. This sort of deep thinking is by no means comfortable, but you are in complete control, progressively go deeper. It can help to build up the habit of “leaning in” rather than “leaning out”, which is to say when you raise a question or think of an answer that scares you to some degree (i.e. there is some resistance to it), GREAT, that is 100%, DEFINITELY, the direction you need to go further into. Lean into that question or answer and explore why there is resistance there. This is a no-frills approach to actual long-lasting change. This is a direct approach and therefore the fastest, long-lasting, and most rewarding. This is best done on your own so that there is no crutch of another person to make you feel something else (e.g. good when you need to feel the dark emotions that have been buried), having another individual around can nullify the whole practice by making it too easy to have an excuse to ignore or shy away from the very feelings you should dive deeper into.
There are 2 very useful tactics and practices that can help with this process.
These both are life changing habits as they stand due to their nature of self-reflection and exploring your existence in various ways with minimal distraction (which is very valuable nowadays).
When pondering some bigger picture it can help to write down or “journal” on the questions and answers that arrive, the act of writing will aid in the engagement with the ideas and ultimately lead to a deeper intuition and understanding (and therefore the increased likelihood of the discovery of meaning).
Meditation here is more “physically-still mindfulness”, meaning you’re not doing anything physically and you are engaging in a process of being mindful. Mindfulness is simply the awareness of your current experience (no matter how pleasant or unpleasant). Mindfulness is a more broad term than meditation, mindfulness can be engaged in while doing anything as long as it is being done deliberately (i.e. mindfully). Meditation is useful for this practice of developing connection and therefore meaning in life due to the necessary piece to this development of uncovering the fundamental pain, drives, and causes behind feelings that may have been buried for some time. You may discover mental habits of immediately suppressing an uncomfortable thought or feeling that if you just deliberately allowed it to rise and feel it then you could make a logical connection between the original cause of that feeling and some aspect of your current behavior which can provide meaning in and of itself.
To put it simply, journaling is used to remove the initial layers covering up deeper thoughts or feelings whereas meditation is used to “sit” with those feelings or thoughts and explore the sensations within.
Journal to go deeper, meditate to explore that depth.
Journaling and meditation are vital for this deep exploration due to their nature of demanding active engagement (i.e. deliberate action) which is a vital component to successfully building a deep intuition for some thing (i.e. connection with some bigger picture entity) which naturally lead to the derivation of meaning.
Next time we will see how interpretations can made or break up in the Physical realm.
Stay tuned! Evolve.
Big Idea: Deriving individualized meaning is at the heart of all success and fulfillment
Basically: You define the meaning of life. More meaning = more resilience = more success
The social realm is all about connection. This connection is to anything bigger than oneself, or in other words, anything external to or outside of one’s experience. With this increased connection comes the feeling of purpose and the deep development of meaning behind one’s actions. More meaning to one’s life leads to a greater feeling of belonging and satisfaction. Connection and meaning can compound off of eachother in this manner. Ultimately those who feel more connected to a bigger picture idea and therefore have derived more meaning to their life are far more likely to contribute something unique and profound to the external world. Meaning makes people “come alive”. You can develop a deeper connection with the external world through spending more time thinking in a concentrated and deliberate manner. Journaling can be used to help raise and ponder (both) questions and answers as a means to dig deeper to the fundamental level where an intuition is formed. Meditation is then used shortly after journaling to “sit” with and feel the depths that journaling has brought you to. It is vital that this process of pondering the big questions in life is paired with deliberate action and a “leaning in” mentally such that you approach any discomfort or struggle during this exploration with a sense of curiosity and openness.
Your Call to Action
Thank you for reading!
I want to hear from you. What do you think about the insights shared on connection and meaning? How can it be applied? In what ways can it be improved to be more reachable to a broader audience? Share in the comments section below!
Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.
I am always looking to improve my reach and the impact that I have with my writing, please provide your feedback in the comments below.
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