3 Simple Rules For A Meaningful Life

Matt Lillywhite

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A famous quote was written thousands of years ago by the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. It goes like this:

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

He’s totally right. By reshaping our mindset, we can change our perception of the world. We can find hope during times of hopelessness. We can also find meaning when everything feels meaningless. And if we can do all of that, it’ll be incredibly easy to smile more every day.

With all of that in mind, I want to share three simple rules that have helped me live a more meaningful life. Hopefully, they will do the same for you, too.

1) Make Friends With People Who Have Your Best Interests At Heart

There are a lot of fake people who use and manipulate others for their own gain. As long as they get what they want, they often don’t care about the emotional fallout. As Dan Brennan writes in WebMD:

“Manipulation is the exercise of harmful influence over others. People who manipulate others attack their mental and emotional sides to get what they want. The person manipulating — called the manipulator — seeks to create an imbalance of power and take advantage of a victim to get power, control, benefits, and/or privileges at the expense of the victim.”

For a long time, I thought I wasn’t good enough. Many people manipulated and used me to get what they wanted. Then, once they were done with me, they often threw away our friendship like a piece of junk. They thought it belonged in the trash.

But one day, I came across a beautiful quote from the Greek philosopher, Epictetus. He said to “keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” So that’s what I did. Every day, I began spending time with people who inspired me to become a better person.

From personal experience, I can say that it’s better to have 50 friends who care about you than 500 friends who don’t. So, if you want to live a more meaningful life, make friends with people who have your best interests at heart. The impact it could have on your level of happiness is profound.

2) Leave The World Better Than You Found It

Contrary to what you might think, the secret to genuine happiness isn’t a Lamborghini or a two-week vacation to The Bahamas. Instead, it’s helping others. As Jenny Santi writes in Time Magazine:

“Giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain — and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.”

One reason I started writing was to share my experience with anxiety and various other mental health issues. For example, I wrote about how I felt when my mom got diagnosed with cancer in 2019. And since that article was published, I’ve received several messages from people thanking me for helping them to feel like they’re not alone.

Try to do something every day that positively impacts the lives of other people. For example:

  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Send a text to a loved one saying, “I love you.”
  • Help and support someone going through adversity.

Think of positivity as a ripple effect. When you show kindness to one person, they’ll probably want to pass it on. And eventually, the world will become a better place because you took the time to help and be kind to others.

3) Embrace Your Discomfort Zone

I want to tell you something that took me an incredibly long time to learn. Running from your problems won’t fix them. Because unless you know how to control the negative thoughts inside your head, they will always be in control of you. As Heidi Priebe writes in Thought Catalogue:

‘The problem with running away is that we’re trying to apply a definitive solution to an indefinite, ongoing problem. We’re attempting to tie up the loose threads of our lives before we’ve detangled any of them. We’re putting a bowtie on a monstrosity. We all want resolutions as simple as purchasing a plane ticket, updating our “Current City” on Facebook, and moving on with our lives, but we forget that our emotional ties run deeper than that. We forget that we can never fly far enough away from ourselves to escape what it is that lies unresolved within us.”

I’m empathetic to the fact that life can be difficult. You often can’t control your circumstances. However, you can always control how you respond to them. You can work through your shortcomings and overcome every single fear that’s holding you back from living a better life. Alternatively, you can pretend your problems don’t exist and hope they’ll magically go away within a few weeks, months, or years. Spoiler alert: they won’t.

That’s why it’s important to remember that every action you take is a choice to do one thing over another. And whether you like it or not, the only way to live a more meaningful life is to confront the demons that make everything feel meaningless. Then, do whatever it takes to eliminate them. Like Jordan Peterson writes in his recent book, Beyond Order:

“With careful searching, with careful attention, you might tip the balance toward opportunity and against obstacle sufficiently so that life is clearly worth living, despite its fragility and suffering. If you truly wanted, perhaps you would receive, if you asked. If you truly sought, perhaps you would find what you seek. If you knocked, truly wanting to enter, perhaps the door would open. But there will be times in your life when it will take everything you have to face what is in front of you, instead of hiding away from a truth so terrible that the only thing worse is the falsehood you long to replace it with.”

Rules exist for a reason. They provide structure and clarity to our lives when there would otherwise be none. And obviously, they help us stay on the right path so we can fulfill our full potential.

So, if you want to live a more meaningful life, it makes sense to live by rules that provide you with a sense of meaning. Start by making friends with people who have your best interests at heart. Then, leave the world a better place than you found it. And finally, embrace your discomfort zone, so your dreams and ambitions are no longer held back by fear.

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