….Do we derive meaning from our work, or from spending time with our families, or by building a sense of community? Do we find meaning by donating our time or money; or by fulfilling our personal dreams and goals? Is finding meaning about discovering our purpose and passion, or is it a combination of everything? Are we born with a sense of our purpose, or do we discover it along the way? How do we give our lives meaning?
We’ve asked our community of coaches how they find meaning in their lives, and what they do to keep it.
A while back and after losing my job and with too much time on my hands, I felt lost and alone. Someone said to me, “You need three things in life: 1. someone to love 2. something to hope for 3. a purpose.” I didn’t have a purpose for so long, and I can see now how essential having a sense of purpose is for my mental health. Now that I found my purpose in Coaching others, I don’t want to ever let it go. I know that over time my purpose will change, I always want to keep my eyes and heart open to what lights me up and fulfills me. As Marie Kondo says, “What if every decision you make, every goal you set and every aspect of your life was guided by what sparks joy?”
I find a lot of meaning in connecting with dear friends and sharing our deepest wishes, fears and inner worlds with one another. I also get a lot of meaning out of seeing my 23 year old daughter thrive in her life. I used to get a ton of meaning out of dreaming up and launching companies, but once I had my daughter, I realized, life is much more meaningful when I devote myself to the love, care and cultivation of another human being. I now get a lot of meaning out of coaching young women who don’t have the resources to work with a coach. I know through our continued relationship that I will support them in finding their voice and in creating the life that they dream of! I also get a ton of meaning when I hear from former clients who are now thriving in their lives and share that our coaching work together was a pivotal part of their process.
This is such a good question; like, what’s the meaning of life? It’s profound and in order to distill it down for me, I came up with the following: doing, giving and receiving.
Doing what I love brings me joy and fulfillment. I don’t think it matters if you do what you love for business, for pleasure, or for both; the important thing is to know what brings you joy and to incorporate enough of that into your daily life. For me, doing what brings me joy means spending time with family and friends, having a creative outlet (making things, going to museums for inspiration), spending time in nature, cultivating a practice of living with integrity and practicing gratitude and compassion.
Giving something of ourselves to another satisfies a basic human need for the giver as well as the receiver. Whether we are giving a smile to someone on the street who looks like they have seen better days, or giving our time, money, or conversation to someone who could use it; being a “giver” brings meaning and fulfillment to our lives. I read somewhere that if you are feeling miserable and lost and can muster up the strength, give your time by volunteering at a soup kitchen, or somewhere that can use your help. Chances are, that you will walk out feeling better than when you walked in.
As humans, we need to love and to be loved. Receiving can be tough sometimes when we aren’t feeling deserving, but it is important to be able to receive graciously. I have to work on that skill from time to time. I receive love from my partner, my family, friends, my pets and from nature.
Sarah E. Spencer:
When I think about what gives me meaning, I could list a zillion things in different categories – wellness, professional, connecting with people, home, travel. As I thought about this question, two central and consistent intentions take focus.
The first intention is the practice of gratitude. An example of gratitude for me is taking ten seconds to thank the newspaper carrier when I see her early in the twilight, or thanking the concert employee working the door on a subzero evening. It can include customizing communication, for example a handwritten note for those who would love to receive one, or a text or DM for those who rarely check their post box or inbox. On the receiving side, I say thank you as it is offered, without previous responses of ‘it was nothing.’ Thank you.
“Yin” energy is the second area that brings meaning. For me, yin energy draws on creative energy, currently engaged with Quilting. I love the connection between my hands and making meaning, how quilts acknowledge the change of seasons, and how they unite evening sewing with female ancestors.
As I grow, the answer to this question seems like it would change, but ultimately now when I reflect back, I find that the concept around meaning has not changed. What gives my life meaning is purpose. What defines my Purpose is an ever growing sense of Self Awareness.
When I graduated from college my purpose was to find work in an environment where I was happy and where I felt like I was adding value. It meant doing something professionally that used my strengths in communication, sales and people management. It also meant working at things I cared about, which, for me, is the environment and a sustainable planet. When I got married and had kids, my children moved to the front and center of my purpose. My purpose was to raise children who felt loved, had resilience to tackle life’s challenges, and would become caring and contributing members to our communities. Now that my sons are grown, I find that my purpose is to wrap around the entirety of these two things, my family and my professional contribution. This boils down to a strong sense of Self Awareness, knowing what is important to me, leveraging my strengths and understanding where I can add the most value in creating positive change in my circle of influence. This is what gives my life profound and deep meaning.
Brandi Richard Thompson:
My life has meaning because I can serve. It is important to use my talents and gifts in the service of others. Finding the coaching profession allowed me to see how my talents can be used to enrich the lives of others.
Watching my parents give to others through their church, work, and numerous nonprofit organizations, showed me so many ways that we can show up positively in the lives of others. Sometimes, just a kind word helped to brighten someone’s day or inspire them. I can’t count how many times people have stopped me throughout my life to let me know how my parents had individually or collectively been a blessing to them.
The first time I heard this quote from Marian Wright Edelman, I understood the service ethos of my family. “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” It is through service that I find meaning and joy. As a coach, I get to experience joy every day.