“Go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.” – Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University
Searching for the meaning in life sounds like a complicated and complex undertaking. It’s not that this isn’t something we’d like to do but more that we haven’t a clue how to go about it. After all, it’s like thinking about world peace – admirable goal, but where do you begin? Maybe a better way to go about this is to keep it simple. Instead of homing in on what life’s meaning is to us, go after what we really like to do, things that make us feel alive and vibrant and eager to dive in. That’s where we really live, anyway, so it’s an excellent resource to tap into.
Granted, we can sometimes run into some amount of stress going after anything we deem worthwhile, that gives us pleasure, helps us learn and grow and become better parents, lovers, co-workers and neighbors. There are just so many conflicting demands on our time and we may often find ourselves stretched far too thin. It’s at times like these that we begin to wonder if we’re not better off coasting. Why put in all that effort if we’re just going to wind up stressed?
The reality is that life has a lot of stress built into it. Learning how to effectively deal with stress is necessary to getting anything done, whether it’s building a birdhouse with the kids to taking a final exam to getting up the nerve to propose to that special someone. What price do we put on what we find meaningful? Truth be told, what is meaningful to us is often priceless; therefore, we should be willing to experience and overcome any attendant stress we may encounter in the process.
Another point to be made about stress is that it can be short-lived. It isn’t necessary – or ever advisable – to constantly live in a stressful state. That’s not only the precursor to serious medical conditions; it also makes us tremendously unhappy. When we’re under stress, switch things up. Do something entirely different to change our mindset, divert our attention from worry and anxiety to an activity that’s more pleasant and engaging.
Like going for coffee or lunch with a dear friend, taking a walk in nature, making a favorite meal, reading that new novel that just came out and is resting on the table just waiting to be picked up and savored. That’s right, savored. This word tells it all. Learn how to savor life’s little moments, each and every one of them, and we’ll be well on the way to not only finding the meaning in life but also going after what creates meaning in life.
Stress doesn’t have to be all that bad after all. A little stress can actually motivate us to get going on what really matters – and that’s a good thing.