By Jason Tait (May 21, 2020)
Having a purpose and meaning as to why each of us is on this earth is important to living a life of happiness and fulfillment
Rather than the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth, there is an actual meaning to our existence. Such meaning gives people a reason for their life and an understanding that there is a greater purpose in life. To understand the greater impact of your work and why you chose the pursuit that work will help you enjoy the tasks more and become more satisfied and happier.
Studies have demonstrated that two ways to build meaning are through a strong sense of purpose and belonging to a community.
Purpose means having an internal sense of direction. This can energize and help you to have good psychological and physical well-being. To develop a sense of purpose you first need to understand your strengths. Using a strength-finding activity, such as a card-sorting exercise or an online character strength inventory, can help you understand what you are good at and set a direction for your life.
Meaning might start from an internal understanding of your strengths and values, but it is invariably derived from the lasting impression you leave on others. Think about how you want people to sum up your life. Capture these qualities and accomplishments and assess which aspects of your life allow you to develop these. Realign your daily, weekly, and annual goals to these things and you are likely to feel your daily activities are more meaningful.
One of the most powerful experiences that TASIS provides for students to develop meaning in their student life is our service learning program. Here the Coordinator of Community Service at TASIS, Dr. Carolyn Norris, explains all:
“Winston Churchill once said that ‘We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.’ At the heart of this profound statement is the recognition that we find the most purpose and meaning in life not through what we accumulate for ourselves, but through what we give of ourselves to others.
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, this ideal becomes all the more clear. As we try to make meaning out of what is happening in the world and to find purpose in our time at home during lockdown, we are heartened by seeing the world come together to support each other. We ask ourselves, ’What can I do to play my part?’ as we look for ways to share our time and talents with others.
TASIS students embody Churchill’s ideal every day in their commitment to service learning, and they continue to make a difference in these challenging times. From sewing face masks to distribute in their communities to bringing food to elderly neighbors to creating instructional, how-to videos, our students find purpose and meaning through their service to others.”
Mrs. Fleming was keenly aware of the potential of the students that came to her schools and their desire to develop meaning and purpose in their lives for the benefit of future generations.
“So many people bemoan the quality and the character of today’s young people spoiled as they are by materialism, by too soft a life, by television, by drugs and by a seeming lack of moral values. But when one stops to ponder one must recognize and be thankful for the fact that our young people have developed in many commendable ways – they care much more for others and for people less fortunate than they; ecologically, they are aware and caring for the kind of world they will live in and will leave for other generations; they know and become friends with people from all over the world.”
Yearbook message, 1995
To enable meaning it is important to have goals and ambition in life that can help us to achieve things and give us a sense of accomplishment. We should make realistic goals that can be met. Just putting in the effort to achieve those goals can already give you a sense of satisfaction; when you finally achieve those goals a sense of pride and fulfillment will be reached. These accomplishments are important as we push ourselves to thrive and flourish.
Accomplishing meaningful goals can improve well-being in two main ways: feeling good/satisfied at the time of accomplishment and accessing the rewarding memories of past accomplishments.
Getting More Out of Accomplishments
A simple way to obtain more satisfaction from accomplishments is to achieve more. Setting SMART goals increases the likelihood of success:
- Set a very Specific goal
- Find a way to Measure progress/success
- Make sure it’s Achievable
- Be sure it’s Relevant
- Set Time constraints
Have Big Goals that Align with Purpose
Goals – which can be long-term, mid-term, or short term – should align with an individual’s life purpose where possible. Typically, goals that are linked to life purpose are the ones that deliver the greatest level of satisfaction when achieved.
Finishing a task or accomplishing a goal can be rewarding in itself and this feeling can be increased by savoring the moment. The “What Went Well” exercise can assist with this. Start by identifying three things that went well during the day. Then reflect on the personal efforts and strengths that led to that positive outcome. This exercise can also be performed as a team.
At TASIS, our single biggest example of how we promote accomplishments is through the academic learning journeys of our students. Here our Director of Studies, David Jepson, explains more:
“Our teachers have organized lessons in their subjects to help students develop skills and understand concepts that will be important for their future. Every day, students are given a number of goals, both short- and long-term. By passionately engaging in academic tasks and by working with their teachers to attain these goals, students can achieve much more than they ever thought possible.
Mrs. Fleming, the founder of TASIS, used to call it “stretching.” The idea is to attempt to accomplish something that is just a little too hard, a bit too challenging. Stretching for such a goal, one that is just out of reach, especially in the context of support and encouragement, triggers not only remarkable growth and improvement but also something even more significant – you learn to become who you really are, which is what it means to flourish.”
Here are Mrs. Flemings own views and words on “stretching:”
“We hope we have stretched you, we hope we have taught you to welcome struggle! To stand up to challenge! It will make your life worthwhile ad rewarding, and your constant fight against all kinds of ugliness will make the world a better place for all the human beings that live in it.”
Speech to parents and students, 2000