• How to live a meaningful life: Connection with something greater than yourself – Part one

    September 24, 2017 | curtrosengren
  • Something greater than yourself

    Have you ever noticed how the more we focus on “me, me, me!”, the less satisfying life feels?

    This post in my series on finding meaning is about the rewards of getting beyond the egosphere and exploring life outside that little echo chamber of self-absorption. It’s about a transcendence that shifts your focus from a me-centric world to a beyond-me-centric world.

    Life in the egosphere can be a bumpy ride. Focused on ourselves, it’s all too easy to get stuck in an endless me-loop. “What does that mean about me? How does that affect me? Am I getting what I want? Why didn’t they give me what I want?”

    And with our brain’s natural negativity bias, it’s all too easy for the answers to those questions to come up wanting. Like it or not, we’re wired to notice the negative. And when we’re overfocused on ourselves, those negatives can paint a pretty bleak picture.

    There can be upsides to a me-centric life, of course. “Huzzah! I got what I wanted!” But those moments are inevitably short-lived. One reason for that is what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill.”

    When something good happens – we get a promotion, or a raise, or buy our dream house – we settle into it and it becomes the new norm. It loses the positive charge and we set off on our quest for the next hit of something to make us feel good. Over and over again.

    Tapping into this beyond-me source of meaning is about moving out of the limiting box we create with that quest for pleasure, comfort, and validation and opening the door to a more expansive way of experiencing life.

    An over-indulgence in self-interest keeps us limited and small. Focusing on something bigger than yourself, on the other hand, expands your world. It gives you a bigger perspective, preventing the tiny-house World of Me from obscuring the fuller, richer, more meaningful scope of life.

    A beyond-me focus acts as both a form of addition by subtraction – steering us clear of the misguided and inevitably doomed-to-fail pursuit of happiness via self-satiation – and a portal to a bigger, more meaning-filled existence.

    I love how George Bernard Shaw put it:

    “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

    In my next post, I’ll explore some of the specific ways we can connect with something greater than ourselves.

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