Your personal well-being is heavily influenced by how meaningful you think your life is. We all want to be happy and live fulfilling lives; doing meaningful things is the way to achieve it. But finding meaningful things to do is a challenge. This list of meaningful things to do has purposeful ideas, whether you want something to aim at this year or just something to do this weekend.
If you find your life is too hedonic, pursuing pleasures and lacking a sense of meaning, these ideas will help you turn your life around this year.
1. Marriage, the Pursuit of Happiness
In this Pew study, family was the number one thing that makes life meaningful by a large margin, so it stands to reason that getting married is one of the most significant things you can do this year.
Of course, you need to find the right person first, but when you do, don’t think you must wait until all the stars line up before getting married. There is a simple answer to all the common concerns about getting married:
- What if this isn’t the right time?
- What if we aren’t compatible in the long term
- Maybe I’ll find someone else more suitable if I wait.
The solution is hard work.
Sure this might not be the best time, and you might lack money, but if you’re prepared to make some sacrifices, you can make it happen. No one is 100% compatible, but with compromise and willingness to make it work, you will. If you both put enough effort into the relationship, you can overcome the challenges together.
If you are already with someone, what are you waiting for?
2. Children, the Meaning of Life
After getting married, the next logical step is to have children.
There are so many cliches about how having children changes who you are, and they’re all true. The sad thing is that no matter how much you hear it, it’s utterly meaningless until you have a child for yourself.
- A source of love and true happiness
- Children give your life a meaning you never knew you didn’t have
- Having children forces you to become more responsible and grow emotionally
- Children may be the purpose of life
Of course, there are downsides to having kids too. It’s stressful, and the words “free time” will no longer exist for you, but if you are looking for meaning, you’ll find it in your kids.
3. Volunteer for Personal Growth
It’s hard not to find reducing the pain and suffering of others meaningful. When millionaires have bought everything and experienced all there is to experience, many turn to philanthropy.
Philanthropy combines two Greek words meaning “love” and “mankind.” Just as when Jesus was asked which law was most important, he answered, “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The best way to love humanity is to find a way to serve them. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go work in a soup kitchen though it could be. Instead, think about the skills you have and how a charity might be able to use them. If you’re a web designer, why not offer your services to a charity for free? If you’re an athlete, why not help others by finding a kid’s team to coach?
Compassion comes in many forms.
4. Buy a House
There’s something about owning property that says, “You’re finally an adult.” But, of course, when you’re young and don’t have much money, buying a house can feel like a long way away. But owning a house doesn’t have to be something you put off till you have the money.
Real estate partnerships-buying an investment property with other people is common. The obvious benefit is that you don’t need to have the total asking price. For example, with a group of 10 members, you’d only need to pay a tenth to own property for the first time.
Of course, that would mean you only make a tenth of the income from the property, but we all have to start somewhere. You also get the added benefit of the knowledge and skills of the other people in the group. That is especially valuable when you are a first-time buyer.
5. Travel for a Fulfilling Life
Life is fleeting, so find yourself and find your purpose on the road, see what the world has to offer until contentment becomes a way of life. I haven’t lived in my home country for over 15 years. Travel has been a way of life for my family and me. The mindfulness it promotes is a huge source of meaning for us. It’s easier for me to relate to other travelers than my old friends back home.
The changes in how you think and see the world creep up on you slowly, and you don’t always notice them when you’re away. When you return home, you realize how far you’ve come (literally!)
You don’t need to sell all your things and become a digital nomad or slomad to get travel benefits. You don’t even need to leave the country. The value of travel begins when you put yourself in a place you’ve never been before, even if it’s just one town over.
6. Get Therapy to Reduce Negativity
Of course, therapy isn’t for everyone, and most people do not need it. But if you have thought there are some things you wish you could work through, make 2023 the year to do it.
It may seem scary at first, especially if you are introverted, but therapy can hugely positively affect your life. If you always react negatively to certain circumstances or are unhappy with particular aspects of your personality or relationships, speaking to a therapist about them may be the way to go.
Therapy can help you:
- Let go of negative experiences
- Deal with negative emotions
- Improve your mental well-being
- Plan your life management
7. Change Jobs, Reduce Stress
According to Pew research, career and occupation was the second most reported thing that makes life meaningful. And with the amount of time you spend at work, this makes sense.
Therefore, finding the right job is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in life, especially if you expect to stay in the same industry for your whole career.
Equally as important is not choosing a job you don’t like or one that’s unsuitable. Many people can happily do a job they don’t love, but a job you hate will quickly deprive your life of meaning.
So this year, commit to finding a job you love (or at least don’t hate.)
8. Start a Hobby, It Makes You Happier
You might see hobbies as frivolous activities for children, but hobbies can infuse your life with meaning and purpose if you pick the right one. Think back to when you were a child. Was there something that filled you with excitement and wonder? If there was, that’s where you should start.
Search for a hobby with depth that will allow you to progress and learn for decades to come.
Choose a hobby that fits your personality. If you’re an extrovert, find a social hobby. If you’re a proud nerd, find a nerdy hobby.
Most of your time is spent doing leisure activities outside of work and your social life, so make sure you are doing something that brings you happiness.
9. Go to Church: Find Yourself and Immortality
For 2000 years, people have found their life’s meaning in the church. Sports, hobbies, kings, and empires have come and gone, but the church remains a beacon of hope and spiritual connection to something more than yourself.
The church is a source of family, work, social life, spirituality, and leisure time. There’s no wonder why people say it helps them live a meaningful life. If you are feeling disconnected and are searching for a relationship with a higher power, visit your local church. Seek, and ye shall find.
10. Donate Money, Fight Nihilism
There’s no question that you can find meaning by giving to others. And the times when you can’t physically be there to help, you can give money to help the cause.
There are charities all over that you can give to. But before you start donating, check that the charity is reputable and that the money goes where it’s supposed to and not into the pockets of CEOs and governments.
11. Change Your Lifestyle
A lack of meaning in your life can manifest when you live in a way that doesn’t follow your principles.
- Perhaps you disagree with the suffering the meat industry causes but haven’t gone vegetarian yet.
- You may work for a company but don’t believe in what they produce
- You might wish for a minimalist or nomadic lifestyle but haven’t gathered the courage to try it.
Whatever lifestyle you think might bring you more meaning, remember, you can always return to your current lifestyle if it doesn’t work out, so there’s nothing to lose.
Give yourself a trial new lifestyle for three months. Don’t throw away any belongings, sell your house or quit your job just yet. Instead, try a new lifestyle for 12 weeks; if your life improves, take steps to make it permanent.
12. Find Yourself Somewhere Else
I moved to China when I was 21. It completely changed my life. Moving away and starting a new life is perhaps the most extreme of all the ways to make your life more meaningful. But it brings the most meaning too.
Moving to a new country isn’t just about changing your surroundings. It means learning a new language, discovering a new culture, and learning a new way to think and look at the world. Opportunities that you never knew existed will open up to you. I have performed wedding ceremonies here and starred in TV shows.
Living in China also gave me the confidence to continue traveling and become a digital nomad.
13. Find Someone to Spend Your Life with
Is there anything as powerful as the spark you feel when you first find that special someone? You look into their eyes or touch their hand and know they’re the one.
Some people are lucky and find the right person in their hometown, but it takes some work for the rest of us.
If you aren’t going to new places and meeting new people regularly, how do you expect to meet someone new? To move into the next stage of your life, delete the dating app and try these places for meeting people instead:
- Sports & Exercise classes
- Interest groups
- Lectures and learning centers
- Social events (wine tastings, book clubs, etc.)
14. Rescue an Animal
Have you seen “Biggest Little Farm?” It’s a movie about a couple who decide to buy a farm as an act of kindness after adopting a rescue dog. Their dog barking annoys their neighbors until they make the ultimate lifestyle change for their new pet.
Adding responsibility to your life is almost always a source of meaning. And a new pet is more than a responsibility. They will be there to nuzzle into you when you’re upset. They’ll share your joy when you feel happy. Looking into their eyes will give you a sense of why you’re here.
15. Change Your Physicality and Be Happier
Of course, you don’t need to be thin to have a meaningful life but being healthy is vital if you want to enjoy life. Many people place a lot of importance on how they look and wish they could be thinner or more muscular or look different in another way.
Wanting to look better isn’t bad, and if you think your life would feel more meaningful if you lost some weight or packed on some muscle, then go get a gym membership or start the keto diet.
16. Live Your Life Spontaneously
Most people today are living the same day over and over again. They wake up, drink coffee, eat breakfast, and head to the same office. Then, at the end of the day, they sit in the same chair and stare at the same screen till they’re tired enough to go to bed.
It’s no surprise that people crave some spontaneity in their lives. But the desire to be spontaneous and live in the present moment isn’t enough. You need to know what to do too.
Here are three things you could try today but also check out this post with 27 Spontaneous Things to Do.
- Roadtrip with no destination
- Go to the beach
- Call an old friend
17. Read More
One of the reasons that people don’t read much isn’t because they’re lazy or unwilling. It’s because they fail to see how reading benefits them.
If the most intelligent guy in the world was sitting next to you, what would you ask him? Perhaps something about what you should do with your life, the universe, or how you can make more money?
Or if a great country or company leader came to your town, would you go out to meet them? Probably.
But getting a single answer or a quick hello from someone famous doesn’t gain you much. But you ask them or meet them because you understand their value and how they could change your life.
Many of these people have written books detailing their most important and valuable ideas. You’ll find things that have taken them a lifetime to discover within their pages, and all you have to do is read them.
So the reason you should read is simple: It’s the most efficient method to improve your life.
18. Learn a Language
The benefits of learning a language are well documented, from greater intelligence to reduced neurological diseases, better problem-solving, and more career opportunities. In addition, learning a language will change your personality, but only if you use it.
Sitting at home with a textbook won’t get you far, no matter how well you can conjugate verbs. But getting out into a new language environment will produce more results than you can imagine, even if you can hardly string a sentence together.
19. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of appreciating what you have. People who practice gratitude are happier and show lower signs of stress in challenging situations. There are many ways to practice gratitude here are some to get you started.
- Sit and think of three things you’re grateful for, imagine life without them
- Use grateful affirmations, say out loud the things you are grateful for
- Keep a gratitude journal, and use gratitude prompts if you’re unsure what to write.