Meaning and Personal Significance
President, International Network on Personal Meaning
Coquitlam, B.C., Canada
What is your aspiration for the New Year? Will
this be a break-through year for you? Do you still dream of wealth,
fame and power? Do you plan to achieve greater success? Or do you
yearn for meaning and personal significance in a chaotic and uncertain
More than ever before, people are openly talking
about their quest for meaning and purpose. These include individuals
who are at the top of their games, who are wildly successful in
their chosen field. Sept.11 has made them realize the emptiness
of having too much to live with, yet too little to live for; they
no longer want to be like the proverbial fool who has gained the
whole world, but lost his own soul.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to
take stock, to reflect. I challenge you to explore five fundamental
existential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? How I can find happiness?
Where am I going? What is the meaning of suffering and death?
You don't have to be philosophically sophisticated,
nor do you have to be spiritually oriented. At one time or other
most people have at least entertained, no matter how fleetingly,
one of these questions.
Here is my proposal to you: try to discover
satisfactory answers to these questions answers that will
fundamentally change your life. You will not regret embarking on
a quest that is as ancient and universal as the human race.
The tendency to wrestle with these existential
questions testifies to your humanity and separates you from animals.
Answers to these very questions hold the secrets to a fulfilling
life, which people all over the world are yearning for.
Who am I? What defines me as a unique human
being? What is the true nature or essence of me when I am stripped
of all my social roles? What are the core elements of me, which
will remain the same even when I have undergone all sorts of changes?
What kind of character am I in the unfolding story of life?
Your ability to answer this question is important
for safeguarding your integrity in times of rapid change. It can
also help maintain your sanity in a personal crisis.
Why am I here? What is the purpose of studying
hard and working hard in order to make a living? What is the point
of it all?
Your affirmative answer to this question can
make life more enjoyable and make pain more bearable. To paraphrase
Dr. Frankl, "Those who have a reason for living can endure any adversity
How can I find happiness? How can I live a life
that is worthwhile and fulfilling? Most people have tried to respond
to the question "Why am I here" with the answer: "I am here to enjoy
life, to find happiness."
But this answer begs more questions: What is
happiness? How can I find it? Why is it that I still feel so empty
when I already achieved everything that is supposed to make people
If you can answer this six million dollar question,
you will be the envy of the town.
Where I am going? Am I getting nowhere, just
like a rat in a treadmill? Which way shall I turn at this crossroad?
Am I heading in the right direction? Is there any danger lurking
These self-doubts even trouble individuals,
who are ahead in the race by virtue of their enormous talents and
ambitions. If you have a clear sense of direction and purpose, you
will be farther "ahead" than the fast but misguided "runners" because
these winners will be disillusioned by what awaits them at the end.
What is the meaning of suffering and death?
Why this tragedy? Why me? Why should I live and endure suffering
and pain? Why should I strive when death will reduce all my achievements
Such questions have haunted all human beings.
It would be a real accomplishment if you can find something, some
belief that will transcend suffering and death. Then and only then
will you be able to stare into the maw of hell and say: Death, where
is your sting?
If you search the literature of mainstream psychology,
I am afraid that you will not find much help. It is a shame that
psychologists have not paid much attention to the larger fundamental
questions about human existence.
INPM has been created to fill this void. Our
main purpose is to provide helpful information and road maps to
all seekers of meaning. More importantly, we want to cheer you on
with words of encouragement and songs of hope in your lifelong quest
for meaning and fulfillment.
I want to wish all my readers a blessed New
Year - a year of recovering your lost dreams and discovering your