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Saturday
Mar192011

Lifeshifting #7- beyond Meaning Mountain

Lifeshifting is about orientating your primetime- the best hours of each day of your life- to doing what you find most meaningful. If you're allocating your primetime to doing a job you find meaningless- get a night job instead and spend your days doing something more worthwhile. In my take on lifeshifting I've taken to calling this movement towards meaning, Meaning Mountain. But sometimes, even finding Meaning Mountain is hard.

Maybe you don’t even know what is meaningful to you. Sometimes we get so caught up in conventional ways of living, or problems, or other people’s lives that we lose the ability to even know what we find meaningful and what we know is meaningless.

If your job is so stressful that you need a few beers each night to wind down you may conclude that beer drinking is meaningful.

If you deal with what Viktor Frankl calls “Sunday neurosis” by going shopping rather than facing up to sense of futility then you may conclude that shopping is meaningful.

If calling in sick and watching TV rather than doing your job makes you feel better then you may conclude that being workshy is meaningful.

If you don’t know what you find meaningful you have to search for Meaning Mountain. And if you’re so cynical that even the words ‘meaning mountain’ sound meaningless then you have to search for the sign that will get you to meaning mountain.

the Search for the Sign

Life is full of micro-meaning. If you have a child and you help him to read or tie his laces you will know that is more meaningful than laughing at his inability to do these things. One of the great crimes of ignorance is the way academics propound theories that say 'Life is meaningless'. As Viktor Frankl wrote: "The gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Maidenek were ultimately prepared in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers."

Life is full of meaning. If you doubt this first find micro-meaning. Help people. Be a good friend. Work conscientiously. Be reliable. Keep your word. Do this and your life will acquire more meaning. Meaning is just the addition of lots of instances of micro-meaning.

Gather enough micro-meaning and you start to get glimpses of macro-meaning. You start to realize you could structure your life to maximize meaning.

This is the sign you follow to meaning mountain.

One of the most disheartening images I have is something I read in an account by a heroin addict, who was a father. He recounts locking himself in the toilet to shoot up as his ignored toddler son bangs on the door demanding attention- and the addict loathing himself shouts out, “Go and watch the fucking telly can’t you?”

Addiction and distraction are enemies of meaning. Maybe you have to outwit those problems first. But even in a life circumscribed by disaster, like the life Viktor Frankl lived in the concentration camps, offers chances to help others, inspire others, be generous with time and help.

Look for micro-meaning, look for the sign to Meaning Mountain.

Then What?

OK you’ve found micro meaning in your life, you’ve glimpsed that you could better structure your life around meaning. You’ve seen the sign to the mountain- so now what?

How do you discover what work is most meaningful  to you?

This is the key question of lifeshifting. When you know the answer you will feel confident to make the Lifeshift Decision, which is actually the hardest part of the whole process, the one that requires the most courage, but is, at the same time, paradoxically the one that requires the least effort.

 

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