According to Benjamin Wiker and Johnathan Witt, authors of A Meaningful World, “…nature is a work of genius, like a Shakespearian play is a work of genius — both are rich, deep, and complex, full of meaning at every level.”
Do you find yourself wanting for more meaningful experiences?
Sometimes the best way to get what you’re craving is to give it first. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move or for a situation to spontaneously occur. Be liberal with, and unrestrained in, whatever you share. Create your own meaningful moments, and your life will be all the richer for it. Here are some ideas as to what you can do:
1. Pay attention to someone else’s kid
How many times have you tried to hold an adult conversation, but there’s a child piping up in the background, asking for someone to notice him or her? Before you write this kid off as being unruly, rude or an attention-hog… realize how frequently children are brushed off in today’s chaotic world.
Imagine how good it would feel if you were that little boy or girl, to have a grown-up notice and praise your fine work, spend a half-hour tossing a ball around with you, or simply show interest in what happened to you today. It doesn’t have to be your own child – any kid would be pleased and proud to have the attention and approval of an adult who cares.
2. Listen instead of talk
Seems like we’re forever trying to get our point across, be heard, win the argument, and have the last word. But just remember that as often as you wish someone would listen to what you have to say… others want just as much to have the floor and be appreciated.
The next occasion you have to jump in with a story, give a lecture, or reveal The Answer… just hold back for a bit longer. Give that one small moment to someone else. You might be delighted to find that they have something useful to teach you. It’s when we finally open our minds to other’s interpretations of life and the world, that we can fully engage in rich and meaningful exchanges.
3. Ask the advice of an elderly person – and really pay attention to what they say
In America, we shelve old people away in nursing homes, and in the closets of our memories – seeing aging and ailing parents and grandparents as a burden instead of as the valued members of society that they really are. In Asian countries however, older people are treated with immense respect and dignity. They are honored for their life’s experiences and looked up to for their wisdom.
The pace of the world has sped up considerably in recent decades, and that would make it seem as though older generations are falling “behind the times” and out of touch. But the truth is that many seniors are finding their way around technology and living active lives. As they say, history repeats itself and we can surely learn from what our elders have to share. Why not give an older person the attention and respect they deserve today?
4. Wish the cashier a nice day first
One thing I hear often enough – and I can’t disagree with – is that the world is becoming less courteous, more hurried, and sometimes even downright rude. Luckily, we can all can do our part to change things. Courtesy and consideration for others begins with our own behavior. There’s no rule that says we must wait for the cashier to say “Have a good day.”
If you’re standing on line at the grocery store, or waiting for your burger at the nearest fast food place, why not ask the person who is waiting on you how their day is going? You may receive a blank look at first – people in customer service jobs aren’t used to having the attention focused on them. In my own life, I try to remember that “I am not the only one who might be stressed at work, or feeling my back ache, or worrying about something that’s going on at home. Other people have lives and problems just like I do.” Take a moment and give that clerk a smile – look into his or eyes and wish him or her a wonderful day – and mean it!
5. Drive the speed limit
In our own small way, each of us contributes to the harried and calamitous state of the world – including the roads we drive. Next time you arrive home with your teeth clenched and your muscles taut from putting up with aggression on the highways… ask yourself honestly if you contributed to the situation in any way. How closely behind did you follow the driver in front of you? Did you leave someone else sufficient room to get over when they were about to miss their exit?
I find that I’m much less agitated when I walk in the door, if I resign myself to the fact that there a lot of other people on the road. Maybe we can all cut down on the incidents of road rage – and more importantly, the number of accidents – if we observe the speed limit. Be mindful of your fellow drivers. Go with the flow of traffic. And just remember that the goal is not to win a race, but to arrive at your destination safely.
You stop in every now and then for a visit with your friends, right? Why not make today the day you spend 20 quality minutes with your friend’s dog? If you have ever had a dog of your own, you know what a challenge it can be to make time for him on those busy days. I think it’d be a great thing if we all started taking responsibility for not just our own pets, but for our friends’ animals as well.
Think of how grateful that sweet boy will be to have you talking to him, rumpling his fur, and taking him out for a little adventure where he can sniff, roll, run and explore to his doggy heart’s delight? It’s just a small thing you can do to add meaning to this occasion – and it might even be the most fun you have all day.
7. Be generous with your space
Humans are funny about the spaces they occupy. We spend a lot of time waiting to be next, and we resent it when others cut ahead of us because we feel like we put in our time and now it’s their turn. Having a “me first” attitude might keep you on schedule, but then again it might not. And being protective of our personal area certainly doesn’t do much other than put others off.
If you’re not pressed for time today, why not look around and see if you can offer your spot in line, or your seat on the bus, to someone who can use it more? Maybe it’s a frazzled pregnant woman at the DMV. Or how about that old couple who just stepped in behind you at the bank? You’d be surprised how such a small act of kindness can make a big difference to others – and being offered that one simple smile of gratitude can lift your mood for the rest of the day.
8. If you pray, instead of asking God for more, thank him for what you already have
People who pray tend to do it more often when situations in their lives cry out for it. Maybe they’re feeling unhappy, or they’ve experienced a loss, or they’re deeply worried about something. Prayer offers us comfort, keep our faith strong, and gives us hope for the future. But why limit prayer to asking and wishing?
The next time you have a conversation with God, remember to thank him for what you already have. Do it not because you’re trying to stay in the good graces of whomever you pray to – but because showing gratitude adds another dimension to your daily life. Sometimes we’re so busy dwelling in the negatives that we forget about all the wonderful things we’ve been blessed with. Remembering all the good things will help you keep a healthy perspective. And that will give you the strength to cope when you need it most.
9. Be a mentor – for free
Another easy way to help your heart feel good is to offer your professional counsel – and do it free of charge. Many people today are launching businesses, working as internet-based consultants, and taking the alternate path to success – whatever that may mean to them personally. Making a go of it on your own can be incredibly rewarding, but there is a whole new set of rules to learn before you can get there.
If you are in a position to offer guidance, why not help someone who can use your expert counsel? Sure, it feels great to get paid for your talent and know-how. But it feels even better when you can donate some of that talent and know-how for free.
We live in an electronic, virtual reality where most everything you might want to experience is readily available by computer. And yet, no technology in the world can replace the joy that comes from communing with nature.
Next time you’re feeling physically stressed and mentally taxed, just go out and be one with the earth and sky. Put on your hiking shoes and venture down a sunlit path into the woods. Take a walk beside a babbling brook or trek through an open meadow. Bring your partner, your pet or your child if you have one. Don’t worry about making small talk – this is a time for silent communication with nature. Open your ears. What do you hear? Open your eyes. What do you see? Inhale the intoxicating scents of freshly cut grass or moist, cool earth after a rain. Consider the inter-connectedness of everything in our universe. Recognize that science is indeed a miraculous work of art.
If you want to be really happy in everything you do, stop holding back. Live your life as I’ve learned to: alive, awake, aware, and in awe.