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Since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation spawned the work ethic, many believe that the job gives meaning, purpose, and structure to their lives. More than 50 percent of American workers today “get a sense of identity” from their job.
But as technology improves and more industries become automated, there's a good chance we'll have less work. With less work, it is important to answer the question of meaning in life and from where will it come.
Meaning may be found in self-transcendence (or devoting one’s efforts and energies to something beyond oneself).
Though there are many ways to become part of something bigger, two of the most powerful ways are pursuing mastery and performing acts of kindness.
Aristotle wrote that the fundamental part of a meaningful life is found in mastery, be it art, intellect, or athletics. Pursuing excellence is not always pleasant and requires exertion, not constant entertainment.
A study found that people who continually developed themselves scored higher on assessments of life satisfaction and self-esteem than those who did not.
Research shows when people pursue an activity for the sake of the activity itself - and not for any external reward, like money or fame - they tend to report long-term well-being and fulfillment.
The key to a meaningful life seems to be thinking less about ourselves and instead to focus on others by performing acts of kindness, like volunteering, mentoring, coaching or writing someone a letter of gratitude.
Research conducted shows that those who were more altruistic reported increases in meaning versus those who did not.
To live a significant, worthwhile life, one has to do something beyond oneself. The two ways to transcend oneself outside of work are:
"When people say that their lives have meaning, they evaluate their lives as significant and worthwhile, as part of something bigger."
Pursuing long-term progress in anything that you consider worthwhile and losing yourself in it, without the greed or need of any external reward like money or fame, is the key to long-term well-being and fulfillment.
It may be running, sculpting, cooking, or playing the piano. If you are honoring the craft and you're not there for some ego fulfillment, it will lead you to a meaningful life.
Helping others, being kind, and doing social volunteering activities like mentoring coaching, or even a small act of gratitude is a way to achieve meaning and fulfillment in life.
Being kind makes us feel rooted and connected to the people around us, while enabling the community dynamics that enhancing our social well-being.
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