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For when you feel like your life is meaningless

In this video, Casey talks to a user on the Support Wall who’s struggling with their identity - watch below:

Next Steps:

  1. Have the people around you ever told you that you were meant to be something? Like an athlete, a musician, or an entertainer?
  2. How did that make you feel? Did you agree and move toward that goal, or did it make you uncomfortable? Keep this in mind as we go further below.

In the video Casey talks about how our culture can sometimes influence us to follow a path whether it’s good for us or not. We’re all familiar with the popular “American dream” model: grow up comfortably, get into college, meet your future spouse there, get married, move to a comfortable suburb, raise 2.5 kids and a lab, be good at your job. There’s nothing wrong with this path in life, but there is something wrong with forcing everyone onto that path.

As Casey talks about, most times we carry a feeling that we must be more. Whether it comes from society, our friends/family, or ourselves, we are under the impression that we must do another thing, achieve another goal, or go forward in a certain way to be more complete, or add to ourselves. The formula goes: 1. I do not feel satisfied with my life – 2. This (achievement, object, other person) looks like it will give me the satisfaction I want – 3. I must have this thing, or I will not be satisfied.

There’s an old quote that goes something like this: All men, through striving endeavors, get what they want. It’s just that, when they get it, they realized they didn’t want it anyway. I don’t remember who wrote it, but the point stands that money, a new romantic partner, or a better home does not satisfy us. So when we spend gargantuan levels of energy to get these things, and they don’t satisfy, we’re left wondering what it was all for, and who we really are.

Instead, begin with meaning. Instead of looking outside your self for other things, titles, or people to define you, look inside yourself for meaning. Try this:

  1. Picture yourself at a funeral (bear with me here!). People are milling about, talking about the deceased and waiting for the ceremony to begin. You approach the open casket and realize it’s your funeral. Now that you realize you’re a ghost, drift back over to the people having conversation. You realize they’re talking about you. What would you want them to say? When they talk about your life, how would you like them to describe you?
  2. Write these things down - be creative. How did you make people feel? What is now missing from the world now that you’re gone?
  3. Take your time, using this exercise, and write down who you want to be. Not a role, a title, or something you want to own, but describe who you want to be.
  4. Carry this statement around with you, and work outward from it. Instead of thinking, “If I can just make the football team, people will finally respect me!” - switch over to “I’m already fully confident in myself. I want to play football because it’s fun, and my respect for myself isn’t effected by what others think.”

This is definitely easier said than done! Remember - think inside -> out. Build a foundation within yourself, and carry it out into the world.

The above exercise is something that I do annually, and bi-annually (does that mean every half year? or is it biennually?! who knows. Every 6 months, whatever that is).

For me, my life flows like this

  • Do a retreat to clarify who I am. This involves the funeral example from earlier, as well as a great deal of reading scripture, prayer, and other life-affirming activities
  • Remind myself of all my roles - father, husband, heartsupport, pastor, friend
  • According to who I found myself to be during my retreat, determine what the most effective thing I can do for each role each day can be.

For example, at my heartsupport role, I wear 3 hats - I’m the online fundraising guy, the grant writer, and the Houston chapter leader. If my purpose comes from outside <- in, then I’ll be tempted to use these roles to define myself. I’d sit back and say to myself, “Man, HeartSupport thought I’d be good at these roles. I’m pretty awesome. What would they do without me?” All that is fine and well…until those roles either disappear or someone else becomes better at them. Then where am I at?

But if my purpose and meaning are already fully established, it really doesn’t matter what I’m doing, because what I’m doing flows inside -> out. My purpose is to bring joy and meaning to people. I know this about myself, so I’m going to spend time doing things that fulfill that purpose. Working at HeartSupport is a natural outgrowth of that, so if for some reason I lose those roles, it’s ok, because my purpose wasn’t based on them.

So that’s me!