We often seem to concern ourselves with these arbitrary questions: What is my meaning in life? Am I living a meaningful life? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?
How to answer such vague philosophical questions? The meaning of life is not one specific question to which a very specific answer can be given: it embeds in itself an array of underlying questions. If I say that your meaning in life is to be a doctor, can this really be the only meaning you have in your life? I don’t like the predeterministic nature of the question. Do you have a specific meaning that you need to live out? If you don’t live out your predetermined meaning, then what? Philosophers have been trying to answer the question of the meaning of life for thousands of years. No one has yet a direct answer. If they can’t find the answer, then why should I assume that I will? If there is no way to answer the question, why to spend precious energy on trying?
Remember Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? The smartest computer in the universe was built to find the ultimate answer “to life, the universe, and everything”. After 7.5 million years of calculating, the supercomputer gave them the answer: 42. No one could understand that! When asked what it meant, the computer asked what the question was. It was a very vague question which received a vague answer.
The meaning of life can simply be happiness and enjoyment. It can be following your passion or learning, or teaching. It can take many forms and it can change throughout life. I think the meaning of life is to be present and to enjoy it. The better question to ask yourself is this: If today was my last day would I still do the same thing I’m about to do? This is what Steve Jobs said at Stanford University Commencement in 2005:
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… Almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”