How To Search For The Meaning Of Life

If we don't know where we're going, any actions we are taking could be putting us in the wrong direction. Join Zachary Phillips as he outlines the starting points for your search for life's meaning.
Zachary Phillips is a poet, author, mental health advocate & coach.
Zachary Phillips is a poet, author, mental health advocate & coach.

Zachary Phillips outlines the essentials of growing the stability and clarity to start the search for the meaning of life. This articles was originally recorded as a talk, which you can listen to in full below or here.

  1. How To Search For The Meaning Of Life Zachary Phillips 8:01

On The Search For The Meaning Of Life

In order to best to progress through life, it would be ideal to work out what the meaning of life is, or what the goal of life is, or whether or not there is even such a thing to obtain. Because if we don’t know where we’re going, any actions we are taking could be putting us in the wrong direction. Therefore, it seems like it is the best action to first determine that goal.

Unfortunately, this search will likely take time, a lot of time. In order to best facilitate that search, certain things need to be taken care of.

Attaining A Functional State Of Being

We need to ensure that our basic survival needs are met, that we have the food, air, water, and shelter necessary to survive. Beyond the basic necessities of survival, we need to have the time and opportunities to make that search. Our first priority, therefore, must be to get functional, get ourselves in order, make sure that we are in a place that we are able to commit ourselves to the search.

From there, we need to ensure that our brain is in the right state to undertake the search and maintain requirements of survival. This could be done through exercise, meditation and education, to ensure that we’re in an optimal state. This leads us to looking at removing or at least limiting intoxicants and toxic people from our lives.

Read more: Justin Michael Williams explores four toxic and self-sabotaging behavior patterns that keep people from growing.

If we are impaired, we won’t know when we have struck gold on an answer. If the meaning “enlightenment” or “attainment” is predicated on a chemical or the presence of someone else, or if it isn’t self-sustaining, then it clearly isn’t the true, or at least the full answer.

Now we are looking at a state where we need to maintain functionality, need to survive, need to ensure a healthy life. This includes removing stresses from our life, as well as acting morally, so that our actions cause as little interpersonal conflict as possible, as such conflicts would detract from our ability to undertake our search.

Growing Willpower Is Fundamental

The question becomes, how can we live such a life? Clearly the answer is to instill personal discipline and to grow our willpower. We need to have the ability to commit to our search when distractions abound, to be able to say no when comfort, addiction, temptation and laziness strike. We have to instill a life of discipline, or at least one that has the routines instilled that enable us to keep our mind, body and financial situations in a functional state. This could be done through morning routines, paid coaches or guides, or with the support of likeminded people. These structures will set us up, enabling us to be in a place to search for meaning. Willpower goes hand in hand with discipline.

Read more: Explore how to set up a healthy morning routine that makes you fell less stressed and anxious and more joyful and determined for the day.

How To Grow Willpower

Willpower will give us the ability to say no to the bad things, and yes to the good. But how do we grow our will?

Read more: No – as we grow up, those two little letters become harder and harder to articulate. This article explores how to say no and not feel bad about it.

By challenging ourselves to grow, by pushing through pain, by setting goals and acting towards them, by facing setbacks, regrouping and going again. These goals can be set in a sporting arena, work, art or any other part of life. We just need to be careful not to let these goals take over as a life focus. Attainment or not, their purpose is to instill will. Will to maintain our life, and thus enabling us to better our search.

The First Steps On Your Search To The Meaning Of Life

Now the question becomes, how are we going to know when we are on the right path? How and where can we start that search?

Our time is limited, so it’s important that we act with the correct focus. Start by reading and consuming the thoughts of great people, putting their thoughts into your brain and comparing them with your experience of reality. Look towards the philosophers, the leaders, the religious icons, and all of them, not just the ones you’ve grown up following. Listen to those who’ve come before you. Observe the young and older alike. Talk and engage with them. Let their wisdom into your mind.

We need to meditate, to focus and attach, to see things truly. You need to be able to step back, detach, to see the paradigms that we’ve been raised on that aren’t necessarily correct. It’s just by chance that we were born into this place, into this time, with the gender and the ethnicities that we have. Had any of these dimensions been different, our underlying thoughts, teachings, religions, and world views would, of course, also be different.

We need to investigate the feelings that the event triggered and accept them. Similarly, when life goes well, we need to accept it with equal detachment. Sure, winning feels good, but unless you’ve determined that winning or feeling good is the sole point of life, the single-minded pursuit of winning may itself be a distraction from the search.

Read more: Learn about the reactivity as well as different ways of identifying emotional triggers.

Leave Time For Silence

Finally, there’s something to be said about embracing the silence of your mind. There’s a risk of perpetually consuming more and more information. Of course, consuming information is necessary to our search, but there’s an upper limit, both in terms of time and content.

If you leave yourself no time to think, no silence for your own thoughts to fill, your search will – at best – be distracted and – at worst – misguided. Therefore, it’s advisable to leave yourself with extended periods of silence in which to think, and in which to contemplate.

It’s from that place of silence that your search can start. Now, I invite you to sit with me in silence. Set a timer and just observe what comes. Your search for meaning begins now.

For more inspiration on your search, you might want to listen to and practice with these audios by Zachary:

  1. I Am Constant Change Zachary Phillips 5:45
  2. 10 Minutes Of Mindfulness Meditation Zachary Phillips 11:37

Meditation. Free.