What is classed as meaningful can vary from person to person. It is not something that is set in stone or fixed. The meaning that one has in life can change as one grows older and has different experiences.
The countries and cultures of the world can have meanings that are vastly different to each other. Men and women of the past had meanings that were radically different to each other and as time has gone by; their meanings have become less defined.
On google.com meaning is described as – 1. What is meant by something. And meant is described as – 1. Intend to indicate or refer to (a particular thing or notion); signify: "I don't know what you mean". 2. Of a word) Have (something) as its signification in the same language or its equivalent in another language.
So then, although meaning can relate to what the majority of people can agree on, it can also relate to what which a minority of people agree with; as well as the personal meanings that one can have.
One of the biggest examples is of course –religion. There are some religions that are very similar in their meaning and others that are very different. Religion is full meaning and one is unlikely to feel that there is no meaning to life as a result of being religious.
This can cover all areas of life and even what may or may not happen after this life.
As the social climate has changed, the meaning has also altered. But one thing is certain and that is; the society that one is brought up in or lives in, has an incredibly powerful influence on the meaning that one has.
Part of the societal meaning comes from the mainstream media. The media is creating meaning as a result of how it portrays what it shows, and also what it doesn’t show. What it does show is rarely presented in manner that is fluid or open to interpretation; the meaning is often fixed and absolute.
The people that are known through the media, such as celebrities, also have the potential to shape the meaning that people have.
The childhood environment that one is brought up in will play an important role and perhaps it’s the most important factor. At this age, one’s mind is so malleable and open to accepting whatever it is exposed to.
The meaning that the caregivers have will typically be passed onto the child. This will child can then accept this meaning or rebel and reject it. However, what is fairly certain is that it will have an effect.
At a more personal level we all have thoughts, emotions, feelings and sensations. And these are shaping what we perceive as meaningful and meaningless.
These could be the result of biological needs and the conditioning that we have received as a consequence of the society we were brought up in and the childhood that we experienced.
What this means is that one’s behaviour will be defined by what they class as meaningful. Now, this could be going on at a conscious level, where one chooses what is meaningful to them. Or this could be running unconsciously; with one being pulled to do things without a conscious choice being made.
If the second option is being carried out, it is not much of a surprise and is often to be expected in our society. The world is full of voices, organisations, groups and influences that are happy to offer meaning to anyone that will listen.
And as the ego mind, by its very nature, works in absolutes, it’s not much of a surprise to see this then appear in the world. These meanings are then not only the absolute meaning; they become the absolute truth.
Approval And Acceptance
The need for approval and acceptance goes way back and was necessary to ensure survival. As a child one is dependent on the approval of one’s caregivers and unless this has been looked at, it can turn into needing the approval of others; with the need for survival being played out once more.
And this is another way that one can get caught up in the meaning formed by other people. By going along with the meaning that has become accepted by others, one can feel a sense of acceptance and approval.
However, this may be a meaning that doesn’t truly sit with them or resonate with who they are. The fear of being rejected and the egos minds way of associating this with death could stop one from finding their meaning.
It could be that the meaning that one has is completely defined by the outside world, or that one decides their meaning based on a combination of the inner and outer.
What is clear is that the outer world will always have an effect on the meaning that one has. But, we have the choice of how we interpret what we see and what we do as a result.
Empowered Or Disempowered
Some people live lives that are full of meaning and as a result of this, they are usually individuals of purpose. One could assume that they posses something that others do not. Is this really the case? Or do others just interpret reality differently?
The ego mind is interpreting reality and this is then triggering internal associations. These are associations that can be changed and altered, they are not fixed.
And depending on the associations that one’s ego mind has in relation to meaning, will influence whether one acts with purpose, has passion or feels empowered.
These associations will also trigger thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions. And this will then go onto how one behaves and the self image that one has.
One can then choose to live a life of meaning and not meaning that has been defined by someone else, but meaning that has been consciously chosen.
Meaning that reflects who one has chosen to be and meaning that may change as one grows and continues to develop.
To do that, one has to question and challenge their own meanings, where did they come from? Are they what is truly meaningful to me? Do they empower and fulfil me?
If not, then the time has come for them to go and to be replaced with what really matters.
The environment that we live in will also have a say in the meaning that one has. It may be a meaning that creates a lot of dysfunctional and disempowering meanings. And if this has been the only environment that one has been in, it will also seem to be the only meaning.
Changing the environment may not always be possible, but changing the meanings in our mind is possible.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.