Life can be really hard sometimes, but what some research has shown is that even a hard life can be a good one, if we attach the right meaning to it. This post, which is also a podcast episode shares some powerful strategies to increase meaning in your life.

1. Decrease Regret by Taking Action 

You may have listened to the podcast episode with Mauro Gatti where we talk about finding happy news and staying informed in a positive way and not losing hope with all the negative news in the world. One of the best things he said in that episode was this: “There will always be hope as long as there is action. Do you need extra hope in your life? Take action toward the things that you value!

What’s something you can just do today to decrease the regret you would have in the future?

Here are the top 5 regrets of the dying:

  1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself rather than the life others expected of me
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier

What can you do to connect with your friends more? How can you arrange your life to work less? How can you be more yourself? What are you doing express your true feelings? How are you deliberately adding to your levels of happiness?

2. Commit Something to Your Life List

I have a list that is growing. I had a bucket list before, but after hearing about Stacy Taniguchi’s 100 LIFE list, I changed the name. I don’t like the focus on avoidance of death or hurrying before you kick the bucket. I like the focus on LIVING and celebrating the life we have now. 

Here are a few things from my LIFE list:

I have two categories: to accomplish and to experience.

In the “to accomplish” category:

  • Get a doctorate degree
  • Write a lastingly relevant book
  • Deliver a TED talk
  • Teach over 10,000 students about how to thrive in life
  • Give my mom a home to live in
  • Become a blackbelt in some martial art

In the “to experience” category:

  • experience Being a dad
  • Experience the summer Olympic Games in person
  • A photographic tour circumnavigating the globe
  • Thank J.K. Rowling in person
  • Swimming next to a whale
  • A bioluminescent beach at night with my camera

Your list will be different than mine, but what I have found is that as I contemplate these experiences and accomplishments that I want to have, it makes me excited to be alive. It brings meaning to the struggle in my life. The hard stuff becomes a little less hard because I’m headed toward something. 

There is a book called The Happiness of Pursuit that I highly recommend. In this book, the author often talks about the importance of always having a “life-affirming quest”. 

What is your life affirming quest? Do you have one right now or are you just kind of floating along? No judgement. I have definitely had some moments of floating along. 

No matter what your job or your current vocation, adding something to your life list can be a catalyst for a life-affirming quest and make your life more meaningful. 

If you have things to live for, you’ll be more likely to live.  

3. Educate Thyself 

Another one of the top regrets of the dying was that they didn’t finish or get enough education that they had wished. 

There are dozens of online resources to move your education forward, even in the little non-deliberate moments during your day. Studies show that you’ll see your life as much more meaningful if you spend time learning something new like a new skill or musical instrument than if you just watch a TV show that you enjoy. Nothing against TV shows you enjoy, but if you want to INCREASE meaning in your life, it’s not the path of least resistance. 

4. Join a Church or Community, or Become a Raving Fan

Belonging is one of the Pilars of meaning and being a part of a community really helps to build the sense of belonging. Some people are very religious and love being a part of a religious or spiritual community. I just took part in a global event for my church that was virtual, but that made me feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself even when I was just engaging virtually. 

I’m a part of the greater positive psychology community and I love gathering with others who feel called to help the world become a happier place. Tonight I’m gathering with some of my fellow positive psychology activists. They are my tribe. It feels like a family where I belong. 

I’ve never been a huge fan of any sports team, but I have felt the exhilaration from being a part the roaring crowd like in 1997 when the Jazz played the Bulls in the NBA finals or when Jimmer Fredette was leading BYU to the final four in March Madness or when I was cheering for team USA at the Penn Relays Carnival in the USA vs the world races. It’s a magical feeling to cheer for a team you love. There is something deeply meaningful about it. 

Whether you participate in a church or community or just pick a team to root for, it will increase your sense of belonging, which is a pillar of meaning.  

5. Friendiversaries

View this post on Instagram

F R I E N D S H I P 💫 S P O T L I G H T . Thank you to @morehappylife for this honest reflection of a meaningful (and fun!) friendship. . “Adam and I just celebrated our second friendiversary on July 18th. Adam had the courage to reach out to me after hearing one of my podcasts and we got together for lunch at Gurus in Provo, Utah. It was good to connect with another emotionally mature man. It’s hard to find that sometimes and so it’s nice to have a guy friend who doesn’t just like to talk sports but to talk about how we are doing in life. The good stuff, you know? Not only that but he loves Harry Potter as much as I do. You may notice that we are celebrating our friendiversary with a couple of butter beers 🍻! Friends like Adam are lifesavers when you think you are alone also when you just want to nerd out about why Harry and Jenny Weasley are the worst couple. It takes time and consistency to build new friendships as an adult, but in times like this, it’s worth it.” . #friendship #spotlight #friendiversary #harrypotter #butterbeer

A post shared by By MADISON & KRISTIN (@flourishingfriend) on

One thing I have really enjoyed and that has improved the closeness of some of my newer friendships has been a fun tradition called “friendiversaries”. 

We figure out what day (or pick a day if we can’t figure it out) was the day we met or became friends, and then each year on that same day, we just do something awesome to celebrate our friendship! It’s really quite special.

6. Connect to the Infinite

Hyperion Tree - Aug 2020
Touching the tallest tree on earth – Hyperion. Redwood National Park, Northern California. August 24, 2020

About a month ago, I went on a trip to the Giant Redwood forests of Northern California. One of the things on my life list was to hug the tallest tree on earth. This tree is named Hyperion and it is over 380 feet tall and 800 years old. It was an amazing experience to find this tree and touch and be present with it. Among the thousands of giant Redwood trees, I found myself connecting to something ancient. I took my shoes off and walked barefoot in the forest and just listened. Most of the trees were so tall that I couldn’t see the top and it hurt my neck to try. All of them were too wide to reach all the way around even when me and my wife both connected hands. This was a transcendent experience for me where I was able to spend time with living creatures that were in some cases over 3000 years old! 

I have also had experiences connecting to what I believe is a powerful being that transcends our existence. Benevolent coincidences have happened to me that cause me to ask “why me?” But in a completely positive and grateful way. I know I am a privileged white male, but I also know that there are other things that have happened to me that have nothing to do with any of that. Things so intimate and personal that there is no way it could just be confirmation bias or coincidence. 

Whether you connect through nature, or contemplation of the vast cosmos or praying to some higher power you believe in, do something to invoke awe in your life. This will upgrade your wellbeing and improve your health. You’ll be endowed with energy and purpose to move toward your life-affirming quests and you’ll find peace and positivity to craft a narrative for your life that will fill you up. As you are filled, you’ll be able to connect to and serve other people around you from a place of abundance.   

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