What will 2013 bring for you? This year, will you do something amazing with your life or will 2013 be an exact replica of 2012?
Like a hamster on a wheel, will we go on repeating the same thing year after year, wishing our lives would get better, would change direction, would become more significant, would become happier and more meaningful? In studies it has been found that less than 50% of people are ‘truly happy with their lives’.
Most of us know that deep within us is the potential to do something amazing with our lives, if only we could find the right outlet, direction or opportunity to be given a chance to shine. So millions of us sit, waiting for ‘something’ to happen that will change everything for us and give us the opportunity to express our great potential.
The bigger questions here though are, what do we actually want from our life? What is the meaning of life? For what purpose are we actually here?
When asked what they want from life, by far the majority of people answered that they ‘wanted to be happy’. Another way of answering this question is to find out what people on their deathbeds most regretted.
A study by Netter, Kutner, Nachtsheim, & Wasserman, in 1996, ranked those regrets as: 1) romance 2) friends 3) education 4) leisure 5) self 6) career 7) family 8) health 9) spirituality 10) community.
An article in The Guardian in February this year listed them as:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The most striking thing about these lists is the absence of a mention for material possessions. In a consumer-obsessed world, no one looks back on their lives, wishing that they had more or better material possessions. It doesn’t even get a sniff, which is odd because that seems to be the sole goal of some many people. This unequivocally proves that the pursuit of material gain for its own sake does not bring happiness, in fact, it brings the very opposite.
What the list above does predominantly relate to, are the human connections we have had in our lives. Most regrets are centered round failings in developing those relationships further or missing opportunities.
That is what life is about, human connections and the more honest and open connections you make with your partners, lovers, friends and people in your community, the happier you will be. It takes courage to express yourself more openly but it is clearly the key to a happy fulfilling life.
This is even more evident if we practice altruism, doing something for others with no hope of personal gain. Altruism promotes deeper positive social integration, distraction from self-preoccupation, enhanced meaning and purpose, a more active lifestyle, and the presence of positive emotions such as kindness that displace harmful negative emotional states.
We are all, often paralyzed into apathy by the one thought that we are just one person. What does it matter if we do or don’t do something altruistic, it won’t make a drop of difference to the world. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
If everyone in the world did one altruistic thing or helped one person (without selfish motivation) everyday that would be over 7 billion good acts done in a day, 49 billion a week, 196 billion per month and 2555 billion or 2.555 trillion.
That would not just make a difference to the world we live in, it could easily change the world!
So, the meaning of life is to be happy. We become happy by having more better and honest connections with others and by being more altruistic. Seems pretty simple.
I hope you have a happy New Year and that 2013 will be the very best year of your life….. until 2014.