What Is The Meaning Of Life?

What Is The Meaning Of Life?

Even if you live a long life with your physical and cognitive capacities intact, you still have to choose ‘How’ to live your life.

For me, the only reason I wish to live a long life at a high quality is that I get more time and capacity to do what I believe my life was intended for.

This is the domain of soul span:

What will you do with the time allotted to you?

Lifespan and healthspan are questions of science with a very robust evidence base on how to maximise them.

Soulspan is more of a question of art, philosophy, psychology, music and literature.

When we think about how we will spend our brief time here on Earth, we must confront five cold realities.

  1. You will die.

  2. There is no evidence that an afterlife exists. (I wish there was).

  3. Life is filled with suffering.

  4. The future holds incredible uncertainty.

  5. There is no evidence that there is a singular ‘meaning’ of life.

These are sobering truths.

This is why Camus so famously claimed:

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.

Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”

And yet.

Despite all of this, we choose to persist.

But in order to do so, in the face of such terrible realities, we must believe that there is a ‘meaning’ to it all.

Maybe there is no singular ‘meaning of life’, but that does not imply that life can not be ‘meaningful’.


It is in this pursuit of a meaningful life we can summon the courage to move forward despite the brevity of our time here, the uncertainty of our future and the inevitability of our suffering.

Whether or not you think about this problem consciously, at your very core, you are aware of it.

And it motivates you far more than you think.

There is a “rumbling of panic beneath the surface of consciousness”, as Sheldon Solomon says.

It is always with you whether you like it or not.

So, how do you live a meaningful life?

I have spent most of my life thinking about this question.

I have no special claim on an answer that is correct.

No one has.

But here is what I believe.

Each of us has an ideal version of who we could be in our minds.

It is the representation of all that you could be. Now and in the future.

It is the best version of you.

You may not be able to describe it exactly, but you know it exists.

A meaningful life is the pursuit of that ideal self.

“What one can be. One must be" as Abraham Maslow said.

You must, as Nietzsche says:

“Become Who You Are.”

It is the movement from who you are to who you could become where a sense of meaning arises in the world.

There is never a destination but a process of continually becoming.

And when we are moving toward who we are, independently and in a way that is acceptable to society, we feel a deep sense of meaning.

But first, you must discover who you are and who you could become.

In the words of Socrates, one must “Know Thyself”.

This is not so easily done. 

Because the world is constantly telling you who you should be, distracting you from who you are.

And when you chase the phantoms of society’s expectations, you suffer.

Because you are chasing a dream that is not your own.

Deep down, when you are moving toward who you really are, you experience a profound sense of meaning.

And when you do, the weight of the five cold truths we started this article with begin to fade.

Maybe not completely. But they do lessen.

And when you do that, society will reward you.

But do not ask for society’s guidance at the outset. Only YOU can know that path.

This is the Hero’s Journey.

A myth as old as time itself.

But why do we not all choose to become the ideal versions of ourselves?

Because we fear it.

“They fear their higher self because, when it speaks, it speaks demandingly.”

says Nietzsche

An ideal judges.

And you, above all, know that you are not what you could be and feel its judgement most deeply.

You are not all you could be.

At Least Not Yet.

This is what pushes us forward and simultaneously holds us back.

It is when we have the courage to become who we are to move toward the highest representation of who we are despite the suffering and uncertainties of life.

It is only when we do this that we experience the greatest sense of meaning in our lives.

But when we shy away from this task, when we retreat into the mindless tasks that society can lay out for us, we suffer.

We experience the anxiety of an unlived life.

We might have met society's expectations with money, fame or distinction, but if it does not align with the highest version of ourselves, then those victories will be hollow, and we will find no meaning there.

We can blame our environment for blocking or distracting us from the path to our highest selves.

And sometimes, we will even be justified in doing so.

But it does not matter.

Because when you cannot find a way, you will find an excuse.

And usually, that excuse will be a lack of courage.

As Camus says:

“Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.”

But if we do not develop the courage to move forward towards our highest goals, we will suffer.

We will suffer the anxiety of a life not lived.

The thing that people regret the most on their deathbeds is not having had the courage to live the life they knew they should have lived.

With either choice, you will suffer.

But it is only with one of these choices that the suffering you endure will be balanced with the meaning you will experience.

The other will only ever have the suffering of regret.

But I am still afraid to choose.

This is normal.


You must remember.

  1. You will die.

  2. There is no evidence that an afterlife exists.

  3. Life is filled with suffering.

  4. The future holds incredible uncertainty.

  5. There is no evidence that there is a singular ‘meaning’ of life.

The only way to transcend this suffering is to have the courage to choose the path of meaning.

To have the courage to become who you are.

The highest version of yourself.

Of who you are and who you could become.

Only YOU know who that person is.

And only YOU know whether you are moving toward that goal.

There is no greater goal than this.

Because when you become who you are, you discover a deep sense of meaning in the world that will shield you during this incredibly brief and fragile time we are allotted.

The great work of your life is to constantly engage with the process of ‘becoming’.

And summoning up the courage to continue.

So when all is said and done.

And you have lived a hopefully long and healthy life.

Above all, you will ask yourself whether you have optimised your soul span, not your lifespan or even health span.

Because without soul span, without meaning, there is no duration or quality of life that can compensate.

You must always ask:

Are you becoming who you are?

Do you have the courage?

The answers you find here will dictate the meaning of your life.

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