Social psychologist Roy Baumeister wrote the book, the Meaning of Life.
Baumeister argues that meaning in life is not some grand plan that you grow into. Instead, meaning is stitched together by what you do in life, the hobbies you have, your work pursuits, your children, etc. These pursuits integrate to create meaning in your life.
Meaning is a complex web and different from happiness, which is more a fleeting feeling. You can have a meaningful life and still not be very happy. However, it would be hard to find someone who is happy but feels they have a meaningless life. Meaning in life is necessary to find happiness.
Baumeister suggests the following 4 Needs Necessary to Construct a meaningful life:
- Purpose: Does what you do today motivate you because of its connection to future outcomes? Including goals and future outcomes
- Values: This is what you evaluate as important and worthwhile and spending time on this
- Efficacy, the belief that you can make a difference
- Self-worth, The belief that you are a good person
The belief that you can make a difference- has to do with giving, effort, and sacrifice. The more you put into something the more meaning you get out of it. Thus, anyone who leads an easy life, with little effort or work, may also lack meaning.
If you want a meaningful life, be clear on what you value, set goals and be absorbed in activities that align with those values. Know that you can impact others through your work and believe that you are a good person.