I was raised in a culture where your success was defined by how much your parents could brag about you to their friends, colleagues and even other family members. I quickly realized I did not care about being a trophy. So, I set off on my own path. Go me! In my journey of searching for self-fulfillment, I realized that although I was happy, I was also clueless and living a life that did not truly feel meaningful to me. Hear me out — I had a job I was pleased with, I had healthy relationships with friends and my partner, and I felt happy. Or so I thought …
After some big, big feelings and some pretty low lows (no worries, worked through that in therapy), I discovered I was existing and not living. I was existing by doing things that I thought were important and would bring me joy — but they weren’t true to what I wanted. I was doing a lot, but truthfully, nothing felt meaningful to me. I had no idea what I actually wanted or needed.
Hustle culture has created quite an impact on us — we’re constantly chasing the next big thing, whether it’s a promotion with a fancy new title or more money that can buy us a shiny new toy. In chasing the next big thing, we essentially lose sight of what we genuinely want and the things that truly matter. The things we chase naturally feel important in the moment, as they lead us to that ecstatic sense of accomplishment and gratification. It’s a wonderful feeling that we want to experience again and again — so we begin the cycle once more and keep reaching for the next step, the next big thing. We may soon start to realize that everything feels important, but nothing feels meaningful.
So, how do we find meaning?
There are a number of things you can do, most of which consist of loads of self reflection and honesty with yourself. First, reflect on your personal values. YOUR personal values — not what you feel you should value, or what those closest to you value, or even what society tells you to value.
Second, think about a time you felt joy. Not happiness, but joy. Happiness is an emotion; joy is a feeling. Happiness is something that often comes from external factors, whereas joy comes from within. Hold on to that feeling and reflect on what led you there. It’s not about recreating that feeling, but more so identifying the factors that led you to experiencing joy.
Lastly, pay attention to your emotions, acknowledge them, and respond to them. If you’re experiencing emotional discomfort, pay attention to your body and mind, and acknowledge where the discomfort is coming from rather than tuning it out in an attempt to “push through.”
Practicing mindfulness, engaging in body scans, and honoring YOUR values are all things that can help you differentiate between things that seem important and things that are truly meaningful to you. Focus on your joy — it's priceless and can’t be taken away from you.