How to Live a Meaningful Life

by Alli Polin on February 12, 2013

How to Create a Life of Meaning

What if today was your last day?  What if it’s going to be tomorrow?  How can each of us make the most of our lives today instead of waiting for the “right moment?”

A family friend of mine was eating lunch alone in her kitchen last week.  She choked on her lunch.  She left work to pop home, grab a bite, walk her dog, and never returned.  I had not thought about her in a long time, but now that she’s gone, for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about her.  (BTW – If you’re alone and choking, you should do the Heimlich on yourself with the help of a chair or table.)

I don’t believe that today is my last day, or yours, but I’m not going to miss one more minute of living time.  I’m not talking about doing something crazy on my bucket list like skydiving or climbing a huge mountain either.  It’s not the big adventures of life that make it the most meaningful, it’s the small moments. 

Have you ever felt like you were treading water instead of splashing and playing and enjoying the moment?  Are you missing the small moments of life because you’re so focused on your next milestone?  I’ve missed a lot of the small stuff – too much.  Good news, if you’ve ever thought, “I want a more meaningful life,” it’s not too late.  Living, and meaning, are found between the milestones, not only when you reach your goal.

Here are seven small things on my path to a more meaningful life that I’m strongly committed to doing today and everyday.  I know that it’s not the longest list in the world, but it’s a great place to start.  What about you?

1.    Keep in touch with friends and family

Each phase of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to find incredible people who accept me for who I am and I love them for who they are too.  As I’ve moved on to new adventures, many of those friends have slipped away.  I’m going to call one today just to tell her that I miss her.  Facebook is great for quick updates but voice-to-voice, face-to-face (even through video chat!), makes a big difference.

2.    Make room for new friends

How hard is it to share a glass of wine, or coffee, with someone new?  It’s fabulous to get past pleasantries and really get to know someone.   Invest the time to build new relationships and you’ll find new Sherpas to walk with you along your journey.

3.    Help because I can, not because I have to help

I love helping people.  It gives me joy and lights me up.  When I help them, I’m feeding my hunger for meaning and purpose too.  Quid pro quo happens but giving without expectation?  Best.  Feeling.  Ever.

4.    Play less dueling laptops

Many a night I’ve sat next to my husband on the couch with the TV on.  We’re both on our laptops in our own worlds sitting side by side.  An hour before bed it’s time to close the lid and talk, connect and share about our days.  Living in parallel is no way to live.

5.    Hug, love, cuddle and engage with my children

I don’t want a day to go by that my children don’t know that I love them.  More than my words show them how much they matter.  The foundation for our future relationship is set now and I don’t take that for granted. I’m lucky, they still want to be with me (and even be in a rock band with me!).  Before I know it, Mom and Dad will be much, much, lower on the coolness scale.

6.    Never go to bed angry

I’ve been known to be stubborn.  I stand my ground with the best of them.  Still, it’s up to me to choose a heart at peace over a heart at war.  I’m not talking about a tense truce either.  Really accepting myself, my feelings and that the other person that I’m so angry with is just like me; human.

7.    Make Social Media filled with real connection

I spend a lot of my time on social media.  Social media isn’t a one-way feed.  It’s social! Engagement, conversation, G+ hangouts, FaceTime, and Skype take profile pictures and make them real, whole people with whole lives.  What a gift to have found people across the globe from their words scrolling across my screen that are now colleagues, peers, and friends.

There are a lot of other important things to do today and everyday.  Pick one, two or pick them all but just stop waiting for meaning to fall in your lap.  For goodness sakes, don’t wait until it’s too late to tell someone “you matter.”

You can’t wait for your life to suddenly be meaningful, you give it meaning through your choices. 

What do you choose?

  • Donate your time and money to causes that matter
  • Be compassionate
  • Find your passion and purpose
  • Listen like you don’t know what someone is going to tell you
  • Be curious
  • Share your stories
  • Make clients, colleagues friends and family feel like they are the only ones in the world
  • Invest your time in people and causes that matter to you
  • Commit to a spiritual or centering practice
  • Tell someone “I love you, I care.”
  • Loosen up!  Laugh!

Would love to hear from you on the small moments that give you a big life filled with meaning, purpose and connection.

(Photo credit)

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew Hawley February 12, 2013 at 8:20 am

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

What a great post! At a time when I needed a reminder to be more involved and engaged with my own life and what I’m here to do, this post comes along!

This reminds me of a question that I ponder from time-to-time: If we feel a significant and powerful sense of emotion and willingness to change when we have a near-death experience or significant loss or disruption, how can we harness that emotional power in our lives, without the crisis?

I think we’d all agree that if something like “that” happened to us, we would most likely respond in a positive and transformative way, so why can’t we create that turning point on our own — but create, shape and manage it?

Again, thank you for this post.


alli February 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Thanks Matt! Appreciate your comment and adding depth to the conversation with new points to ponder. Good question and one that each of us should find the time to reflect on – so important that when we find our commitment to change faltering, we call forth our emotional power. Many thanks!


Blair February 12, 2013 at 9:03 am

What a great read first thing in the morning. I feel that I will pay attention to the details of this day with much greater focus. I hope it lasts a little longer than today, but alas, I often get caught up and am treading water before too long. I am glad to make time for new friends! And will hold the image of “living parallel” as one to watch for and try to avoid. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration, and sorry to hear about your family friend.


alli February 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Blair – You’re right! The greatest challenge is to continue to keep the focus on what matters most. Each time I recommit to more connection, more peace, it lasts a little longer than the time before. It’s part of being human, we’re imperfect 🙂 Thanks, Blair!


Amber-Lee Dibble February 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I’m sorry for your friend. I’m sorry that what is really important to us, each of us, needs to be played out in such a way to remind us what really matters.

It isn’t as if we stop caring or loving the people we hold so dear to us. But we do tend to allow the moments to go past us without taking part in them.

Thank you for this great post, and priceless reminder.


alli February 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Amber-Lee –

Thank you.

You said it so well. “It isn’t as if we stop caring or loving the people we hold so dear to us. But we do tend to allow the moments to go past us without taking part in them.” I have some dear friends that we float in and out of each other’s lives, checking in only periodically but when we do the connection is still incredibly strong despite the time and miles between us. Still, we could do better. I could reach out more. I make up stories about needed the time to write a good long note when a quick “I’m thinking about you. I’m here for you” is a gift as well.

Appreciate your contribution to the conversation and I hope you’ll return!


Jon Mertz February 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Well said, Alli! You offer so many important points – make new friends, don’t live in parallel…. We have a certain amount of time, so we need to live in ways that always leave a smile on our face as well as those around us. A good wake-up call here! Thanks. Jon


alli February 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Jon – That’s the heart of it! Living with joy in relationship and with personal connection to others. Appreciate you!


Alice Chan February 12, 2013 at 11:49 pm

You made a great list, Alli, and the point about making family, friends and connections a priority especially rings resonance. No one on their death beds wish they worked more or made more money. They all wish they had spent more time with their loved ones. So, it’s a reminder for all of us to not wait till we’re dying to regret not having done so. Your post serves as a great reminder. I also love what you said about giving life meaning every day. Thank you, Alli! Glad to have “met” you!


alli February 13, 2013 at 3:37 am

Absolutely, Alice! It’s our connections with other people… our relationships that matter most. You inspire me, Alice! So happy that you’re one of the people I’ve had the opportunity to learn from & share with along my journey.


Leave a Comment