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what makes a life meaningful

A Meaningful Life

A friend of mine was feeling blue. She asked a group of friends*:

I’m going to have a forty-something birthday soon and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything significant in my life. Do you guys feel like this?

meaningful life

I thought about it and replied:

Yeah, I feel this way sometimes. But the longer I live the more I feel that meaning comes less from the occasional big thing and more from the countless small moments. Am I consistently kind? Do I tend to leave a place or person better off than when I found them — even if just a little? Am I a person of integrity? From the long view, I think these things make for an accomplished and significant life.

What do you think makes for an accomplished and significant life? Are you living one?

* Published with permission of my friend.

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Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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12 Responses

  1. I only struggle with feeling unaccomplished when I begin to measure myself by those around me. When I’m wise enough to be faithful with what I have in the here-and-now, I’m thankful for the opportunity to make the unique investments I can (however minuscule they seem in comparison to the investments of others).

  2. Everyone feels like that every once in a while… but for me, it’s a trap. I agree with Nicole’s comment. When I was a performer, I knew loads of people who are now well-known. If I let it get me down, the stuff right in front of me would be going by unnoticed. I try to find the humor and joy in as much as possible every day and stay in constant contact with myself and my dreams otherwise I’m just building a life of anger and regret. My husband and I know a lot of people who have completely self-destructed by doing that.

  3. Deep thoughts for a Monday morning. I really like your answer, Lori, and I agree. And it makes me feel better when looking back over my own life, to realize it’s not always the big, flashy things that make up an accomplished life.

  4. It’s a big question. I often answer it by reminding myself that I am a small blip in history. Anything I accomplish is likely just a tiny dot, important to me and maybe another generation or two. And beyond that, no matter how hard I work, how much I do, my existence fades away and is forgotten except in the sense of records kept. So… sort of puts the whole idea of feeling good or bad about what you accomplish into perspective.

  5. Trying so hard to live this type of life. Failing a lot along the way, but I want to live in a world where kindness and honesty are embraced. Where success is measure not by material objects, but by those you’ve touched.

    Maybe the secret is the small acts?

  6. I can find myself slipping into that feeling from time to time. So I ask myself if I’ve made a difference in my life, or even recently, to anyone. If I’m acting with the best of intentions. If I have integrity and show kindness. (I’ve just re-read your post and we have chosen the same things.) But I no longer feel it is important to achieve something “significant” in life.

    Or maybe I’ve redefined “significant.” Survival is significant. Feeling I’m a better person now than I was 15 years ago is significant.

  7. I agree with you. I feel lucky because I love what I do and what I do impacts others’ lives, now and years from now. I feel accomplished for small things, like the way I love and the friend I am, the way I help others, the way I try to take care of myself. That said, turning forty in just over a month makes me feel a little like I’ve fallen short on some things, but I think switching it to “what kind of life do I lead” instead of “how have I ended up on the news or in publication” can help you be more sane when examining the worth of your life at milestone moments. What a great thought to examine, and very timely for me, personally.

  8. a) Talk to me when I am 40. I don’t want to feel 40 before I turn 40. And I never want to feel may age, no matter what my age is.

    b) An accomplished life is when one feels like they are doing what they were born to do, and in the process of self-fulfillment help others around them. I can say that my life is eventful but currently I feel like a blink-and-you-miss thing.

  9. I feel like this too sometimes. Especially during the months when I live from one moment to the next, barely treading water, never mind creating a big picture. But I try to remind myself that meaning doesn’t, and hasn’t ever, happened with a capital M. (So say the existentialists. 😉

  10. Like Mel, I am a minor blip in the cosmos. My accomplishments, however minor or major they may be, are of little real significance. So, I try to be a good person, and to do nice things for others. I try to be satisfied with the person I am, knowing that if an opportunity to do something interesting/significant presents itself, I will probably take it.

  11. Sometimes I feel the way your friend does. That whole “Is this it??” feeling. But the older I get, the more I feel the way you do. Not everyone gets to do big & grand & splashy & important things with their life that affect masses of people — and that’s OK. If I can make a difference in some small way to the people around me, and especially the people I love, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

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