Who are you? Why are you here? How can you live a meaningful life? People have been grappling with these profound questions since time immemorial.
In the last few weeks, I’ve heard from several women of various ages going through different transitions and reflecting on matters of meaning and purpose for their next chapters.
Transitional times can be physiological (like menopause and aging), emotional (like a divorce, kids leaving home, or retirement), or mental (like a major decision). And these times are actually perfect for asking ourselves some of life’s big questions.
In my experience—maybe because of all the transitions—our yearning for a life of depth and significance only grows more potent in the second half.
So, I’m always looking for modern ideas about these age-old questions and how to find clear answers.
Since some of you have expressed an interest, I’ve decided this will be the first article in a series I’m calling Women Doing Life on Purpose (WDLP).
The 4 Pillars of Meaning
The ideas and stories in author Emily Esfahani Smith’s book, The Power of Meaning, were helpful to me as I moved through one of my transitions a few years ago, so I’ll start the series with this. Here’s some of what she discovered in her research:
In talking to many different people about what makes their lives meaningful and reading a lot of philosophy, psychology, and literature about how to live a meaningful life, I began to see patterns emerge. People tended to talk about four different things.
1. Belonging is about nurturing genuine connections with others.
Embrace the joy of shared experiences, meaningful conversations, and acts of kindness. Invest time in building and maintaining relationships that bring out your best.
Seek out communities where you can be your authentic self and feel a sense of belonging.
2. Purpose is about reflecting on our passions, values, and talents to uncover our unique callings.
(By the way, I’ve learned that having more than one calling and more than one purpose at a time is okay.)
Your purposes need not be grandiose or dictated by societal expectations. Instead, they should be a deeply personal and authentic expression of who you are.
You can build purpose into your work, hobbies, relationships, or acts of service. Look for opportunities to make a difference, no matter how small.
3. Storytelling is about crafting our life stories.
Reflect on your past experiences, appreciate the present moment, and envision a future filled with possibilities. (Focusing on possibility is even more vital as we age.)
Welcome the triumphs and challenges as integral parts of your unique narrative. Your story is yours to tell—by sharing it with others, you create connection and find deeper meaning in your own journey.
4. Transcendence is the realm beyond our individual concerns and limitations.
Seek moments of awe and wonder through nature, spirituality, or art and beauty.
Engage in practices such as meditation, prayer, or mindfulness to tap into a sense of peace and interconnectedness.
When people say that their lives have meaning, it’s because three conditions have been satisfied: they evaluate their lives as significant and worthwhile—as part of something bigger; they believe their lives make sense; and they feel their lives are driven by a sense of purpose.
Here’s one thing I know for sure:
No matter where you are in the second half of life, you are not defined by your age. You are defined by the vibrancy of your spirit and the richness of your experiences.
You can always shape your destiny and infuse your life with purpose and meaning. It’s never too late.
In the next issue, I’ll share some stimulating ideas on the difference between purpose, impact, and meaning—and why you should care. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to address.
The Power of Meaning | Bookshop
What's Your Primary Source of Meaning in Life? | Emily Esfahani Smith's Helpful Quiz
3 Tips for Telling Your Meaningful Life Story
We’ve heard it over and over again — that the one thing guaranteed to all of us in life is change. But as we ride through the inevitable ups and downs, how do we make sense of who we are, what we’ve been through and what we’ve learned?
Could Your Life Story Use an Update? | TED Ideas
Are You in an Emotionally Secure Relationship?
Clinical psychologist and writer Nick Wignall teaches that emotional health comes from good habits, not just nice ideas. In the same way that the body relies on healthy habits and exercise to stay fit and strong, emotional health depends on good habits of mind.
Looking at healthy, emotionally secure relationships, you’ll almost always find three things at work.
3 Signs of an Emotionally Secure Relationship | Nick Wignall
Glennon's Podcast: We Can Do Hard Things
We are all doing hard things every single day. Author Glennon Doyle's mission with this podcast is to help each other carry the hard so we can all live a little bit lighter and braver, more free and less alone.
It's honest, informative, and funny, with impressive guests.
We Can Do Hard Things | WCDHT Podcast
Why Walking Is One of the Best Forms of Exercise
Walking is an underrated brain and heart healthy exercise. Regular walks may help with everything from lowering blood pressure to boosting creativity.
Higher step counts are associated with greater health benefits. But there's no evidence that you have to take 10,000 steps a day to reap the benefits of walking.
14 Benefits of Walking | Good Rx
Little Bits of Light
Words to open your heart and SOOTHE YOUR SOUL
Photos by: "anyaberkut" at DepositPhotos (#1) & Linda Wattier (#2)