Ever wondered about the meaning of life? Why am I here? What is my purpose? I’ve spent a lot of time over many years thinking about these things. Six months ago I worked it out.
Having led teams in banking, pharmaceuticals, NFP’s, tourism, run my own businesses, worked as a tour leader, bar-hand, farm-hand, photographer and more; I’ve been searching for ultimate workforce fulfillment. I have pursued work satisfaction across industries, roles, continents and in over 30 different jobs. What am I searching for in work? Why have I failed to feel fulfilled?
Six months ago I stood outside, exhausted after a challenging day at work. Above me was one of the clearest nights I had seen in a while. I was on a dirt road, surrounded by sheep, cows, rolling hills, beautiful paddocks, I could hear frogs croaking down at a pond not far away, the air was cool, crisp and clean, it was beautiful, idyllic. I had been working hard, very hard, trying to get my head around a complex problem in a toxic environment. I told myself that if I could solve this challenge I would be fulfilled, I could be satisfied with myself.
What a load of crap! And I knew it.
As I stood there looking up at the stars in the beautiful silence that surrounded me, I questioned my thinking, my decisions, my drive to be the best. The sky above was full of stars, stars that stretch so far I can’t begin to comprehend the scale. I realise how insignificant I am. How insignificant we all are. Consider also that the stars we can see are all but a tiny sample of all the stars out there. Estimates suggest there are at least 19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 solar systems similar to ours with at least one possible ‘Earth’ in each.
Looking up at the sky is like looking down at a beach and seeing one grain of sand that represents the earth among all the other grains of sand. How significant is the problem you’re stressed about in the scheme of things? In the universe, the earth is insignificant and it’s been around for some 4-5 billion years. If we trace back the history of the human species and place the first homo sapiens at least 200,000 years ago, then statistically my life is the equivalent of this full stop .
We can celebrate the most impactful people of our time, the Isaac Newtons, the Gailieo’s, the Magellan’s, the Darwin’s, among others and realistically their knowledge has impacted in only the last couple of hundred years. In another 200,000 years who will we remember? I can bet you it won’t be any of these dudes, their work, while significant now, will be forgotten. So how much stress should you suffer to succeed in your role? If you succeed, what will you achieve? Who will remember you when you’re gone. Will you be immortalised for compromising time with your family or friends?
So what’s the meaning of life?
Well, for me it’s simple. We are born and at some point after that we die. In between birth and death we’re essentially just filling in time. Societal norms inform how we should spend that time. But societal norms are not true, we don’t to follow suit, we don’t have to comply. Would these same societal norms be societal norms on the hundred thousand other inhabited planets? Surely a successful life on a habitable planet is one where occupants spend time engaged in meaningful activities that do the least harm to others. Wouldn’t that be right?
We need to seriously question what contentment on a planet looks like. We need to question the marketing, capitalist driven fake desires and “needs” and replace them with something real. Most of the stuff we buy doesn’t make us content, it makes us think others will think we’re more content. More expensive wine is still just crushed grapes.
I am now working with an organisation that is focused on trying to re-write the way we imagine growing old. We get so stuck in the paradigms set by stereotyping, marketing and popular culture that we lose the ability to think for ourselves. It’s time to rebel against the pressures we place on each other to conform to the expectations of…
…I have no idea. Society? Culture? Capitalism? Socialism? Why is it that I question my success based upon how I think others will think of me? That’s a bit wack isn’t it?
It’s time to take the pressure off. Life is really not that serious! We’ll be dead soon enough and our insignificant legacy will ultimately be a few healthy worms. Let’s get off the capitalist crack of ‘more’ and spend time with our families, friends and nature. Let’s focus on helping each other live with contentment on our faces and a desire to do better for all that is amazing around us.
Let’s not conform to someone else’s ‘happy’, let’s tread our own path. Write your own rules, define your own happiness and live an exceptional life!