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We've Been Searching For Meaning All Wrong


We've all been there; enduring a meeting at work where someone is droning on about accounts payable, or data loads, or project specs. To everyone in the room you are still present (because you've mastered the art of "mmhmm" and "that's a good point"), but in reality you have embarked on a profound out-of-body, out-of-orbit experience where you ask yourself the three spiraling questions of existential angst: what in God's name am I doing in this meeting? At this job? With my life?

You promise yourself that this time it's different, you're going to seek a change. You're going to find meaning in your life.

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, we're already on the wrong track with how we worded that sentence.

Life isn’t a scavenger hunt for our purpose.

“Finding” meaning makes it seem like whatever you’re searching for already exists; you just need to locate it. And the one thing we want when trying to pinpoint something is... more information. If we’re not careful, we can become an armchair archaeologist in our own narratives; constantly hoping for something to appear.

But there’s another way.

Words matter. Syntax matters.

Instead of looking for meaning or purpose in life, create it.

“Creating meaning” suggests ownership to the solution. It’s active, it’s vulnerable, it’s testing, it's inventing, it’s what might be.

But What To Create?

Daydreaming about possibilities has its purpose, but the whole book cannot be a prologue, the whole story cannot be a setup. Yes, life must have wonder, but it must have equal parts wounds & wander; some proof of action.

Every time I speculate what will make me happy, I eventually get unhappy, because I’m trying to see my way through infinite rabbit holes instead of diving into one.

“Meaning” somehow magically returns at the back end of “do.”

Change the verbs you live by.

If you stop telling yourself that you need to find meaning in life, you can let go of the narrative that the world is playing a devious game of hide and seek on you. You'll be free to build a game the world has never seen.

You’re accountable for the meaning you create.

Be the painter of your life, not its archaeologist.

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© Bassam Tarazi 2020