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Monday, June 6, 2016

A Recipe For Life


The words of advice that have been written about what constitutes a recipe for life are legion. Mine aren't new. They're not even mine, as I heard them in a TED talk given by Paul Kronenberg, co-founder, together with Sabriye Tenberken, of Braille Without Borders and Kanthari.

But here is what's different: in their simplicity these words can be applied to every single human being who seeks such a recipe. And in their application, meaning is given to life.

Find a task that gives you value. The task Kronenberg was referring to - specifically - as he gave this talk, was that of a boy in Nepal. He was a yak herder. The task gave him value. Your task may be very different, perhaps much more sophisticated, perhaps you even went to Oxford in order to "accomplish" your task. But think: does it give you value? In the case of the yak herder, his task gave him value - in his community and in his own eyes - and the value gave him dignity. Thanks to the dignity he gained respect, and thanks to the respect, he gained self-confidence and self esteem. These are very clear building stones towards a life of meaning. Having meaning can make all the difference over the course of a life trajectory, most particularly in times of need, or loss, or pain,or chaos. See also my article from 2011: Finding a Meaning For Your Life

Let's examine where the 'value' of being a yak herder lies. The village - the community - needs those animals for many different purposes and thanks to the fulfilling of those purposes, the community not only survives, but it may even thrive. And the yak herder's role in this is very clear.

Now look at your own life. Examine it just as closely. Do you derive meaning from what you do with your life - from the tasks you have chosen? Look at it like this: does what you do with your life serve mainly to allow you to accumulate money, possessions, and/or prestige, or does it serve a larger purpose (even in only on a very small family or community level)? Does it serve mainly to make you feel successful in the eyes of others, or does it add to the greater good? While money is a necessary part of life and can, indeed, do a great deal of good, money, possessions, or how others see you, in and of themselves are not typically what allows you to feel you have a meaning in your life.

Give this some thought. The answers are not necessarily easy, nor will you necessarily like what you find. But I promise you this: if you find something that gives you meaning, you will love your life.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi wrote: When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. And that joy that emanates from the soul like a river comes to you thanks to the meaning you have given to your life.


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