The search for meaning

Nov 26, 2019 | Pulse

“I want to find my purpose.” “I need to find myself.” “I want to do work that fulfills me.”

These are all common statements that you hear today as more and more people are on an active search for meaning. They want to lead lives that feel purposeful, significant and make them feel fulfilled and are taking action towards making this a reality. Humans have been questioning the meaning of life since the dawn of time. However, today there are more people who are actively pursuing this meaning and purpose in their own lives. Whether this means retiring early from a corporate job to follow their passions or explore their spirituality. It could be doing work that is of service to others or serves a purpose larger than themselves, or simply taking some time off to attend a meditation retreat. Whichever form it takes, many people today want something more than the daily grind. They want a larger purpose. They want more meaning.

The question arises as to why this search for meaning and purpose in life is so prevalent in today’s society.

Below are two of the big reasons:

1. People understand the need to find a different approach to life. They feel the way they currently operate is not working • People are more aware of today’s social, economic and environmental problems. Issues such as global warming and inequality are evident for all to see. Most people have an inherent desire to be good and therefore they struggle to come to terms with the fact that their work may be worsening these social ills. This creates an urge to find more meaning and to be a part of the solution instead of the problem. • Tech led epidemics such as loneliness, depression and feeling disconnected from the collective are on the rise. Therefore, people are searching for a new way to live. A way that is more fulfilling than their current lifestyle.

2. They are able to envision more possibilities for their lives. • Due to social media and technology people have more access to wisdom, knowledge and different ways of life. They see more possibilities. They become a part of the collective conversation about meaning, purpose and fulfillment and take steps to make this a reality in their lives. They follow influencers, pop psychologists and philosophers and see that they can incorporate these ideas in big and small ways and therefore can start on a journey towards more meaning without making drastic lifestyle changes. • There are more options and opportunities for livelihood. Therefore, those at middle and higher-income levels have greater financial security and are able to think beyond the basics of food, shelter and clothing. They then start to think about quality of life which sets them on this search for meaning and fulfillment.

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Here are two stories of people who made changes in their lives to pursue a life of greater meaning, purpose and fulfillment. Tarique was the head of a plantation company. However, he wanted to do more for Sri Lanka, especially in terms of tourism. He wanted to enter the tourism industry to provide high-quality experiences for local travelers. He felt that most of the tourism industry was targeting the foreign market and the locals weren’t getting a fair deal. He retired early and set up Backwaters Lodge in the middle of a village (Eluvankulam) in Wilpattu. The Village of Eluvankulam is a small farming village with only seasonal employment and very little earning opportunity for women and youth. Therefore, Tariq and his team are committed to uplifting the lives of the villagers. To do this, they outsource many jobs to the village. All the food is home-cooked by the people of the village. Transport and safaris (both Wilpattu and Kalpitiya) are also outsourced and the number of jeeps in the area has increased from 2 to 10 since Backwater Lodge was set up. Many villagers have been empowered and assisted in setting up their businesses such as low-cost driver, guide accommodation, fishing, trolling, site seeing boat tours, dolphin and whale watching tours, food and barber shops, even a car wash. Having such a positive impact on people’s lives is what drives him and gives him a sense of purpose and meaning, which has made his life richer and more fulfilling.

Nishan is an entrepreneur who quit his job to start his own business – an online educational platform. He made this change as he wanted to do something meaningful with his life and he felt that a traditional job was unable to provide him with a sense of purpose and meaning in his life. He started a business that educates Sri Lankans on personal finance, entrepreneurship and health & wellness. Contributing to people’s education and helping them transform their lives through his work is what gives him a sense of purpose and provides a larger meaning to his life.

We are seeing people searching for meaning everywhere and in everything. It has a direct implication on how they behave, how they buy and how they engage. Brands that deliver meaning create a powerful engagement with audiences. This is one of the primary reasons why the concept of ‘Purpose’ is so powerful today. Brands must pursue a purpose and connect with their consumers at a meaningful level beyond functionality and experience.

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