the coal minds from the time I was 16 until I got too sick to work when I was 67.
And the meaning can be less noble: I did the best I could but never found any
meaning in life. I started using drugs a 13, had AIDS by 16, and gave AIDS to 25 or
30 people before I died. Ive been a really successful con all my life. Clearly, some
lives have desirable meaning, other lives serve little purpose or evil purposes.
Goodrick (1999), writing about finding meaning, makes some simple but sensible
points. For one, he notes that fulfilling a noble purpose requires us to act, to DO
SOMETHING, that is, to devote ones time to the cause. Thus, he states the obvious:
a meaningful life requires good behavioral self-control and time management. For
example, it is hardly a meaningful life if you earnestly but only occasionally think
your purpose is to serve God but otherwise very seldom think of God or do little to
serve others. Goodrick believes that TV is the greatest hindrance to living a
meaningful life; it is a time robber. Thus, for many, religion and TV may be the
opiates of our time. Self-control is discussed in chapter 4.
Second, while it is possible for a notable few to accomplish meaningful and
commendable things while being depressed and self-disdaining, there is a much
stronger relationship between accomplishing good goals and feeling happy,
optimistic, and being self-accepting. Happiness and doing good may facilitate each
other. A Jesuit philosopher, de Chardin (1966), studied happiness 40 years ago and
concluded that it (a) usually involved work and discipline to self-improve and
accomplish worthy goals, (b) efforts to avoid selfishness (in yourself and others),
and (c) a diversion of our focus from our lives to the problems of others or of the
world. Certainly, most people would prefer to do good things while being happy,
rather than unhappy. See chapter 6 for ways to increase happiness.
Third, Goodrick says that two integral parts of a meaningful life are (a) close,
caring relationships and (b) worthwhile work. Being a good friend, a trusted helper,
and an effective worker requires many skills which you can learn (see chapter 13).
Meyers (1992) says happiness comes from sharing, loving relationships, not from
material wealth. In fact, Goodrick argues that materialism leads to unhappiness
because we never get enough and because striving for things robs us of the time
and inclination to relate to and help others. He further buttresses his argument by
citing Jesus and Buddha: Jesus--Dont gather a lot of materialistic possessions.
Focus instead on spiritual values, giving to, caring for, and loving one another.
Buddha--Unhappiness comes from wanting what you dont have. So, stop wanting
things to be different. Be happy with what comes to you. There are several books
on Living the Simple Life (St. James, 1998).
I like Goodrick because he suggests doing hard, noble things, such as giving up
much of our material wealth (big TV, expensive sound systems and cars, big houses,
fashionable clothing, etc.), managing our time (spending 30% of ones free time
volunteering at a charity, 40% working for the church, 10% reading inspiring
literature, 10% in artistic/creative activities), reading and relating so we learn to be
happier with ourselves and more empathic, more forgiving, and more giving to
others, and insist on work that contributes to others, not takes from them. A
meaningful life is a tough, demanding life, not an easy one, no matter how wealthy
the country you live in.