Meaning and life philosophy

Meaning in life

Humans are meaning-making creatures. Whatever we encounter, we usually try to figure out what it means. We do this without even knowing that we are doing it. Some of the interpretations are unique to us and based on our own experiences and world-views, and some are based on meaning that we all construct together as a society; in most cases the meaning that we construct is based on both individual and social factors.

What our lives mean and what is life all about are common coaching topics. People don’t tend to come asking to discuss meaning of life, but usually we start talking about eg career dissatisfaction or life balance, and end up asking big questions like what someone wants to do with their life.

Meaning in life is important for most people. Each individual creates their own meaning – even if one is born into an environment where externally-given meaning (e.g. faith) is strong, it is still the individual that makes choices on how that faith might guide them. So that means that we alone are responsible for giving our lives meaning, there isn’t some magic wand that can be waved to make one’s life meaningful. Of course this is empowering. But it is also scary, because it means that we alone are responsible for our life’s meaning.

Asking big questions like what one will do with one’s life are important in coaching. If we don’t consciously choose what our life will be about, we risk making decisions that in the long term take us away from a rich and meaningful future. In coaching, I like the mantra “think big – start small”. What is the big picture in broad terms, and what small steps can I take to get me there.

Life philosophy

A life philosophy is an overall vision and attitude towards life and its meaning. When asked what they want out of life, many people have trouble answering. Yet, without knowing what values matter to us, we risk filling our lives with distractions, we get fixed on reaching one goal after another each without real satisfaction, we fail to face the challenges that inevitably come up, and we fail to make every single day count. 

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”


“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”


“If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Lao Tzu

A life philosophy is unique and personal to each and everyone of us. It doesn’t matter to anyone other than you what yours is, what matters is knowing what is important to you, and using your values to guide your actions every day. We are all unique, having constructed our individual world-view based on our experiences as individuals and as part of the society around us. Inevitably life throws challenges at us, and we have a choice in how to respond. It isn’t possible for life to be perfect all the time; indeed if every day was trouble-free, we wouldn’t appreciate it in the way that we do when we face challenging as well as joyful times. But it is possible (indeed good) to make sense of life including its absurdities, to face the inevitable challenges, and to consciously choose who we want to be.

Coaching then is about the big questions in life, like who I am, where do I belong, what do I want out of life, where is my life going. Of course those big questions are inevitably accompanied by small questions too. Once you know your life direction, then comes the time to plan action. And sometimes people seek coaching with seemingly straightforward issues, but through deep coaching underlying big questions emerge and are discussed.

image by jake thacker.jpg

Ideas & Advice





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