Focus for meaning, not happiness

Recently, I watched a interview with Ray Dalio, one of the world’s best financial minds. He talked about his focus on two things:

1. Meaningful work
2. Meaningful relationships

A few days later, a thought struck me. Why happiness? So many people focus on attaining happiness. Doesn’t meaning make more sense?

Happiness is an elusive feeling. It can escape from our grasp in the blink of an eye.

When I think about my day, there aren’t many moments I feel happy.

Yet, I would say I’m generally a happy person.

Why? Because I spend much of my time doing what is meaningful to me.

Case for meaning

#1 Meaning is within reach

At any moment, we can decide to do a meaningful task. We can have a meaningful conversation. We can set a goal and get going.

We are in charge of creating meaning in our lives. It’s is within our reach.

Happiness always isn’t.

We can do something that we thought would make us happy, but it turns out that it doesn’t. We can chase money, careers, or relationships imagining that they’ll make us happy, only to discover they don’t.

#2 Meaning reflects importance

Some of the most formative, rewarding or meaningful experiences I’ve had were on the spectrum from uncomfortable to painful. Yet, in the end I was happy.

#3 Meaning leads to happiness

Imagine you are on a death’s door. You have lived your life filled with purpose. You have helped people, created awesome things, learned about the world… Would you not be happy? Would that not bring you peace of mind?

I believe that meaning is a means to happiness. If we focus on doing what is meaningful to us, happiness will follow.

What is meaningful to you?