What is the meaning of life? Like a shadow, this question follows us through our lives, even if we never turn around to see it. We all want to feel like our lives count for something. We want to know that all this was not just a cosmic accident.
For most of our lives, we are so busy looking after others that searching for a sense of meaning in our lives is a distant goal. Then, in our 60s, as our social circumstances change, many of the questions that we first encountered in our youth start to resurface.
The good news is that finding a sense of purpose is possible at any age. But, first, we need to reword the question.
If you are looking for the meaning of life, in a cosmic sense, this article is probably not for you. Since the beginning of time, religious leaders and philosophers have argued about whether God exists and, if he does, why he created us. Is there truth to be found in religion? Yes. But, Truth? No-one knows.
We cannot answer the question “what is the meaning of life?” if we are looking for someone else’s meaning, even, or perhaps especially, if the “someone else” is a God. The only question that we can hope to answer is “what is the meaning of my life?” Even this question can take a lifetime to answer – but, it is definitely worth the attempt.
Adding the word “my” to “What is the meaning of (my) life?” simplifies the problem, but, it doesn’t solve it. At most, putting the focus on ourselves gives us a chance to answer the question.
In order to find our purpose in life, we need to dig below the surface and ask ourselves even more specific questions. We need to understand our values, talents and potential. We need to ask ourselves 3 questions:
“What is important to me?”
“What am I truly good at?”
“What is my potential?”
For many people, this question is the most difficult of the three. For most of our lives, we look to others to tell us what is important. When we are children, our parents provide structure and guidance. When we are adults, we are influenced by our friends, partners and colleagues, not to mention the media. But, how many of us have stopped to think – really think – about our values?
Force yourself to ask this question on multiple levels. What are the biggest problems you see in the world? What are their causes? Who are the most important people in your life? What are your dreams and aspirations for them? What are your values? How well is your current lifestyle aligned with these values?
These questions will not be resolved in a day. They may not even be resolved in a lifetime. So, return to them again and again. Make the search for meaning the story of your life.
Finding meaning in our lives requires us to look beyond our values and assess our talents. In doing so, we will find ways to make the world a better place, while enriching our own lives.
We all have unique talents and traits. How would you describe what you are really good at? Are you a strong communicator? Do you love to teach others? Are you creative, analytical, caring or disciplined? Are there specific sports or activities that feel natural to you?
Don’t let society’s value judgments prevent you from following your dreams. The more unique your talents are, the more likely they are to lead you to the meaning of your life.
The first two questions ask you who you are. The last question focuses on what you can become. Each of us has the potential to achieve greatness, in our own way.
Life after 60 is full of choices. Do you want to follow the path that you have always known? Or will you chart a new course? Will you accept your life “as it is?” Or, will you chase your potential, knowing that you will never reach it? Will the search for your own potential lead you to find perfection in the journey?
What do you want to accomplish in the decades ahead? What kind of person do you want to become? What milestones do you want to reach? What would make you proud of yourself?
Ultimately, there is no answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” You can only answer the question, “What is the meaning of my life?” Even this question is just a placeholder. The answer will not come like a lightning bolt of inspiration. The answer will be the gentle rumble of thunder that echoes with the story of a life well lived.
Do you agree or disagree that the question, “What is the meaning of life?” is impossible to answer and that we should focus on the question, “What is the meaning of my life?” instead? What is the meaning of your life? Please join the conversation.
Here is a short video that I recorded about finding meaning in your life after 60.