Now that you have moved toward establishing a sense of PURPOSE and DIRECTION, the final step toward making your life complete is to establish a sense of MEANING. Have you ever asked yourself, What is the meaning of life? The purpose of Step #5 is to help you answer this question by providing the tools necessary to make sense of your life; to understand the significance of the life lessons, people and circumstances that have come with your particular path. Subsequently, Step 5 is primarily about meaning and sustainability. A sense of MEANING is the 3rd component of the Third Theme of Primessentialism, and sustainability is about how to advance confidently from one crossroads in life to the next. When you couple this sense of meaning with a sense of purpose and direction, you gain the insight and understanding that makes your life whole or complete – which is the Fourth Theme of Primessentialism. When I say, complete, I don’t mean that there is nothing left to add to your life, I mean there is nothing essential that is missing in your life.
As you continue to expand your personal growth, spiritual development and physical well-being and have established a sense of purpose, direction and meaning, all your basic and higher needs will be met, and your life will be complete. Anything above or beyond these needs might be desirable to attain, achieve or accumulate, but these are not essential for making your life complete.
When I use the word, “expand,” I mean that the Flash Point Process is a continually evolving process, not a destination. Ideally, you will continue to add to your personal growth, spiritual development and physical well-being all the days of your life. Step 4 was about bringing into being a sense of direction by recognizing the path or course of action that would provide the life lessons and relationships experiences necessary to meet your needs. However, in order to gain the insight necessary to make sense of your experience, it’s not enough to merely recognize this path. The primary objective of Step 5 is to encourage you to love and embrace all the ideas, life lessons, relationships, experiences and solutions that come with your particular path in order to understand what they have come to teach you. I’ve learned that, when I view any life lesson or experience as meaningless, what I am really saying is that I have yet to grasp the significance of that experience; what it has come to teach me.
There are thousands of books written to address the question, What’s the meaning of life? You would think that such a universal question wouldn’t be that difficult to answer. Quite the contrary, the before-mentioned Barna Group Poll revealed that 86% of the American population have no sense of meaning in their lives. I think that some of the reasons this question is difficult to answer is because meaning varies from person to person and can change over time and under different circumstances. In addition, what was meaningful to you in your youth might not be meaningful to you as an adult.
I say this because meaning is not an inherent quality of some relationship, thing, experience or event, because the meaning of anything is simply the value or significance the individual assigns to it. For example, the American dollar bill is just a piece of cotton paper with a material worth of less than two cents, but the value we have assigned it is one dollar. One last example: two different people can hear the same lecture or sermon – to one it is very meaningful, but to the other it is meaningless, depending on the value they assign to it. It’s not the purpose of this course of instruction to assign a specific meaning to your life experience. This is something only you can establish. However, it can provide you with the tools to determine for yourself the significance of the relationships, experiences and life lessons that come with your path. Pardon the pun, but the word meaning has many different meanings. For the purposes of the Flash Point Process, I use Merriam-Webster’s definition: “What is intended to be; the significance of something.”
Establishing a sense of MEANING is the 3rd and final Prerequisite for making your life complete. Without meaning, you won’t understand the significance of the lessons and experiences that have come with your path or why this particular lesson or experience needs to be in your life. There can be no certainty without this understanding because without this insight, life becomes confusing, frustrating and meaningless, and a meaningless life will never be complete.
Why is meaning so critical to Living Deliberately? I would suggest that it is only through meaning that we can internalize, interpret, evaluate and make sense of the life lessons, relationships and experiences that comes with our paths. When life makes sense, there is peace, certainty, hope and contentment. When life doesn’t make sense there is fear, disillusionment, uncertainty and discontent. In addition, it is through meaning that we find ways to meet our needs and solve our problems, because when you understand what something means, the solution will be more self-evident.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl observed that man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in life and “…a firm sense of meaning is essential for optimal human development.” In this book, he recounts his experience in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. When the allies liberated the camp toward the end of the war, Frankl observed that many of the men who survived were those who had a specific reason to continue living. They had a reason for staying alive, a sense of meaning in their life, e.g., a family to go home to, a book to write, a career to which to return, etc. Those prisoners, whose lives were void of meaning tended to give up hope, stopped struggling to survive and didn’t live to see their camp liberated. You will probably never find yourself captive in a concentration camp, but without a sense of meaning, life can become so senseless that you give up, and become captive to fear, uncertainty, depression and hopelessness.