We live in an age where people have difficulty finding meaning in their lives. I believe this is partly because people no longer identify themselves by their family, nationality or religion. Without knowing where we belong we have difficulty understanding our own worth.
Today we think of our worth as defined by our education, our work or our wealth. And even these markers come with many conflicting ideas about what they mean.
Higher education is not for everyone and even when we achieve it, we don’t always work in the field that we studied because we may not find work in those fields or family obligations (especially for women) make it difficult. So, we may not think we have much to offer despite years of effort.
Though we are constantly fed images and stories in the news, advertisements and social media about very wealthy people having a good time, we get the conflicting message that having money itself is evil or that wanting it is evil.
The truth is that very few of us will have the kind of money as the people we see in the celebrity news stories. The purpose of these stories is to feed our curiosity about what it would be like to be among the super-rich. When we click on these stories we are helping to pay for the salaries of the people whose work is to write the daily drama of those few rich celebrities who enjoy being in the spotlight. And that’s fine – a job is a job – but, do these stories make you feel less satisfied with your own life? Why? Your life is every bit as valuable – and as interesting – as someone who has more money than you make.
And then we are told by society that if we can’t be rich and famous, there is another way to happiness. And that way is through finding “work that makes a difference.”
There is nothing wrong with doing work that provides a service to others, but does it make it more “meaningful” than other work? Can’t all work have meaning? Sadly, many people pass up opportunities for good jobs because they think the job is not going to give them anything beyond a paycheck.
Given the reality that most of us must work to support ourselves and others, why not find some satisfaction in doing it well? There are people to interact with in every kind of job, no matter how lowly it seems. Don’t their lives matter, too? Be helpful. Be kind. Do right by everyone you meet. There is meaning in all your actions, even when you get no compensation for them.
The things you do every day add up over time. Days turn into months and months into years. It takes time to accomplish anything worthwhile. This is what life is – a struggle to get up each day and start over again and again while the world tells us that nothing we do matters. (And here is a secret – even the rich and famous must struggle with that same thought, too.)
Don’t worry about why you’re not super-rich. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. If it does, it will bring trials of its own. Money is not an indicator of happiness, satisfaction or meaning in life.
Don’t compare your life with others. It leads to dissatisfaction in your own life – causing you to miss the wonder of your own life. Try to find the good in what you do.
Don’t wait to find “meaningful” work to feel validated. What you do is important to those you interact with. Meaning is found all around you. It is in you and the people you encounter every day.
You are someone TODAY, not SOMEDAY.