The Pursuit of Meaning vs. The Pursuit of Happy


There is a lot of “pursuit of happiness” going on out in the world. And of course, who can blame humans for wanting to be happy?

I was reading an article recently, and they suggested that instead of chasing happiness, we should chase meaning.

I (obviously) agree.

And another article invited us to chase after flow, kindness, and meaning as an alternative to happiness. (Their definition of “flow” being so engaged in something that you lose the sense of time)

After reading these two articles, I happened to listen to a podcast episode with Scott Barry Kaufman and Susan Cain discussing these very topics.

They were discussing introverts and extroverts and how introverts have less dopamine (the pleasure/happiness brain chemical) than extroverts. So, by definition, extroverts are in fact happier.

If you are an introvert like me, you might initially have a bad feeling in hearing this, just as I did.

BUT, Kaufman went on to pose the idea – that having a lot of dopamine (pleasure & happiness) does not equal fulfillment.

He asks, if you could just be hooked up to a machine that would just give you constant dopamine for the rest of your life and you never had to do anything else ever again, would you do it?

The answer is no. Because although you would technically be happy, you would not end your life feeling fulfilled.

Or another example. You could either spend one evening a week watching Netflix or one evening a week helping the poor.

Which would make you happier and bring more pleasure? Maybe Netflix.

Which would potentially be frustrating at times but also leave you with a sense of meaning and purpose? Helping the poor.

Let’s stop reaching for a happy life, and start reaching for a meaningful and fulfilled life.

Will you join me?


Balancing Self Care & Self Sacrifice

If you know me and have kept up with the blog – you know I am an advocate for self care.

Before my advocacy in self care, I was living in the framework of self-sacrifice. Which is not a bad framework – but I pushed too hard. I am a highly sensitive introvert that needs 8 hours of sleep to function. I need downtime and a sense of stability. But I would try to pretend I didn’t need those things – and I would burn out. I had to realize that being able to contribute to the world meant I needed to learn self care.

With that being said, everything is a balance. Self care does not mean always choosing the easiest option. We have to be able to use our intuition and inner wisdom to determine what is the right choice in any given moment.

In the example above, Netflix might seem like more self care – but living a life consistent with your values and making choices to help others brings fulfillment and purpose to your life.

It’s a balance – we must embrace the tension of both being important. If you had a busy stressful day and are almost over the edge – maybe Netflix is the right answer in that moment.

I work with at-risk young adults and I would face extreme burn out if I tried to do everything I possibly could for each and every person. I work in the Social Work field – where setting boundaries and having self care are very important in order to avoid burn out.

One day, a young woman popped in my office full of stress, fears of the future, and overwhelm. I asked if she would like to go for a drive, get some fresh air, and talk. She said yes and off we went.

Did I technically have time to go out with her for an hour and hear her stories?

No, not really. But in that moment, I knew it was the right thing to do.

Not only did she feel better after our outing – it also communicated that I cared about her – and began a positive relationship between the two of us.

Which made me feel good. And fulfilled.

And really, isn’t making decisions that make you feel purposeful, caring, and good about who you are – a form of self care?

Sometimes caring for others means staying home to recharge, so you can be more present for them in the future.

And sometimes caring for self, can mean extending a helping hand when you have other things you could be doing, and giving yourself the sense of purposefulness that comes with that action.


Balancing Living out Values vs. Just Being

You are good enough, just being you.  You do not have to be perfect. When you aren’t doing, you are still valuable.

These are lessons I had to learn.

And again, it’s balance.

I hear the phrase, we are “human beings” not “human doings.”


But, it is living out our lives consistent with our values, that makes life meaningful, purposeful, fulfilling, and worth it.

And we give ourselves grace, when we can’t do this perfectly. And we give ourselves self care.

But there is something missing, if there are no values or mission guiding that life.


I like exploring ideas and ways of thinking. And new ideas and new ways of thinking are helpful, but I also must course-correct when the ideas go too far.

I had to do this when I became overly focused on self sacrifice, and stopped caring for myself.

But, I have found myself re-adjusting again – it has been very important for me to learn about about self care and just being. But, I began reading books and articles on this subject – and realized there were people I felt were going too far, and I stopped agreeing.

The goal of life isn’t for me to sit in my house feeling relaxed and cozy. These moments are important and necessary, but when I go to work and hear the stories of my clients who face abuse, loss, mental illness, poverty, hopelessness, trauma…

Cozy at home is not where I belong. Bringing hope and encouragement to the poor in spirit is where I belong. I have been lucky to have certain things in my life, and when I see others who do not have those same things – this makes me question too much self care.  I don’t want to throw self care out the window, but I want to use self care as a tool so I am recharged to take on this mission and bring as much encouragement, support, and kindness I am able to.

You are valuable just being who you are. With no actions attached.

But if you have abilities to change and impact someone’s life for the better-

why not do it?


In Closing…

Follow your values and give yourself grace.

Trust your inner wisdom to know.


I hope for you, a happy life.

But moreso, I hope for you a meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilled life.


A life that is aligned with your values and your core beliefs.


A life where you don’t define yourself by the problems you have, but rather, by the kindness and hope you bring to others.

Where you simply forget about yourself for awhile, because there is a mission in your life that has consumed you, in the best kind of way.


You will do amazing things.





Journal Questions:

  1. Are there any areas in which you need to shift your thinking from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of meaning? If so, how will you do this?
  2. What comes to mind when you think of balancing self care and self sacrifice? Are there areas in your life that come to mind where you need to focus more on care or sacrifice? Do you feel open to trusting your intuition to know which one to embrace, in any given moment?
  3. Reflect on the ideas of living out your values versus just being & giving yourself grace. What does this balance look like for you?
  4. What is your mission right now? Who are you showing kindness to? Where are you feeling a sense of purpose? What is bringing you a sense of fulfillment or meaning? If this is lacking, how could you make choices and take actions, to invite more of this into you life?
  5. What was your biggest takeaway from this post? Is there an action you need to take, based on this? What do you need to focus on this week?

A Letter to You


Hi friends,

I know I have been a bit absent on the blog lately, so I wanted to write a little letter to you – so you know I haven’t disappeared!

I have been spending lots of my time investing my live meaningful values into my non-online life. This has been going quite well, but I also have used some of my time in which I usually wrote, to focus on other things I am working on.

Also, I have never been one to force myself to write – the thoughts, ideas, and writing always came very naturally. Although there have many thoughts swirling around in my mind, nothing has felt quite right to post on here.

So, I have been following my intuition and allowing myself to take this little break. Please continue to check back, as I plan to still write, but I am allowing myself to focus on some other things as well – which means my writing could be a bit more sporadic.

I am curious to know what is happening in your own life. What shifts have been happening for you? What values have you been focusing on? What practices have you developed to further implement these values? Please feel free to share in the comments, as I would love to hear!

When I started this blog, I mentioned before, some of the main values I wanted to focus on were Creativity, Helping Others, and Growth.

And I am happy to say, the last 10 or so months of this blog have been bursting with creativity, a sense of helping others, and experiencing continual growth.

I am happy about this, but also sensing new values I would like to focus on. They are actually all values I have held in the past, but ones I would like to re-visit and re-focus on again, as I have not made them my main priority in the past 10 months. They are:

Simple & Conscious Living: Minimalism / Environmentally Friendly Living / Purchasing that Supports Human Rights

Exercise & Diet: Focusing on eating foods that will nourish my body & give me energy and focusing on taking care of my body through exercise

Using my Talents to Impact the World: Focusing on how I could bring my talents into my current workplace, thinking through how my agency could best serve the youth we work with, looking for other opportunities in my life where I could be of service to others by using my talents, skills, and knowledge – and specifically focusing on those who are in poverty, vulnerable, or poor in spirit

So, that’s a little bit where my mind has been at lately, I would love to hear where living a value centered life has taken you and what thoughts and actions it may have prompted.

One other thought – when I started this blog, I was very clear that sometimes we have to work on getting our mental health in order – to be able to live out our live meaningful goals. And just as it is important to care for our mental health, it is also important to not stay in that place where we are only focused on ourselves. Sometimes we need to forget about our own problems for a bit, and put our energy into sharing light and goodness with others.

There is a quote by George Bernard Shaw that I love. I will leave you with it today, to reflect on.

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

-George Bernard Shaw

You are a mighty one. You are a world changer. I can’t wait to see what you will do with your life.

Enjoying the journey with you.




P.S. I don’t have any journal questions with this letter, but I do encourage you to be thinking of three things you can do this week that will incorporate the values you have chosen to focus on right now.

What is Your Present Moment Purpose?


Many of us wait for our purpose, for later. Some date in the future. Once this or that has occurred.

There may be an amazing in purpose in your future.

But, there is also a purpose in your life right now, too.

I always want to be clear, that seeing the purpose in the present moment, does not mean you have to give up the purpose of the future.

I have always been a bit of a dreamer myself, I love to dream of the possibilities of the future. And I remember reading articles about how “maybe the purpose is right now after all” – and actually left the article feeling disappointed. Because I felt like dreaming of the future was off limits.

Dreaming of the future is not off limits.

There may be an exciting adventure for you to take in the future. There may be an awesome project. There may be a new job.

Feel free to dream.

You can anticipate and take steps toward the future.

BUT, please do not do this at the expense of today. Right now.Your current life and these current moments.

As you read this article, I challenge you to think reflectively and deeply, as you ask yourself,

What is my present moment purpose?


Values, Intentions, & Your Present Moment Purpose

So, now that you know that you don’t have to give up any dreams of the future, let’s get focused on the present for a bit.

I recently heard spiritual teacher Ekchart Tolle use the term “present moment purpose.” It resonated with me so much, because I have spent so much of my life living only in the future, instead of investing and embracing all that the present moment had to offer.

I think we can come up with excuses for why we can’t live out our purpose now. Saying things like, I can’t live my purpose until I have a new job or move to this next phase of life. Again, new jobs and new phases of life are not bad things – but if our belief is that we cannot live out our purpose in any way at all, until these things are done – well, I am going to challenge this idea a bit.

So, how do you start embracing your present moment purpose?

You have to be intentional. Maybe you have heard the phrase before, “The grass is green where you water it.” If you place all your happiness in the future and don’t water the the grass that is right in front of you – well, you are going to have dead ugly grass – so of course you are going to be desperately looking for the greener grass somewhere else.

I am advocating for a mental shift in which we anticipate the future because there is joy in the future, NOT because the present is terrible and we desperately want to get out of it.

So, starting today-

Begin to water your grass.

Plant some flowers.

Do some landscaping.

Although you are allowed to dream of the future, pretend – just for a moment – that you are here forever. What would you do differently? How would you invest more?

I love how Jess Lively talks about value based intentions on her site.

Jess describes that intentions are “statements of our deepest values in particular areas of life.” And once we establish our value based intentions, we are to “embody our values in the present moment, given our current circumstance.”

Given our current circumstance.

I have spent a lot of my life fighting the current circumstance. But this new way of thinking suggests that we show up fully, given whatever circumstance we are in.

I had struggled with my job when it shifted and changed – when my caseload and workload increased. Some days I tried to fight the way things were. Other days I would apathetically detach.

But, when I focused on what values I wanted to live out, given the current circumstance, there was a bit of a shift. We cannot always control outcomes, but we can choose to live out values, to the best of our ability, in any situation.

So, if I have many clients to meet with. I am busy. Things are hectic. I am juggling too much. I can still focus on and live out my value based intention.

I developed a little phrase for my value based intention for work. And no matter how busy I am, I commit myself to living out my value. Any time a client steps in my office, I commit that I will be –

Kind, supportive, and seeing the inner light.

I can’t always control how much time I have. Or how busy or free I will be. But when I meet with a client, I can always make sure that I am kind to them, that I am supportive of them, and that I am looking for the inner light within them.

And if I can leave my day, knowing that I committed to this value, I can leave feeling good about my day. It’s not about outcomes. It’s about asking “Did I live out my values fully, given the present circumstance?”

The more you live each day committed to the values that align with you, the more meaningful and purposeful your life will feel.


Adding What Will Bring Value & Purpose

When we are talking about present moment purpose, this is not to say that you can’t add anything to your life, that will add that purpose more.

The key is focusing on adding things to your life – that you can add now, in the present moment. Not one to two years down the road, or when some circumstance changes.

When I got serious about living my “live meaningful” life, I realized that there were three words that stuck out to me, and felt really important to me. I have many values and many things that I enjoy – but when I thought about what I truly wanted in my “live meaningful” life, three thoughts came to mind:


Helping Others


I realized I needed to find ways to embody these things in my own life. To be looking for opportunities to embrace these things in my life currently, and to also be adding things to my present life that would help me live in such ways.

At times, I recognized that I was putting too much pressure on areas of my current life, because of the lack I felt. I have a creative mind and wanted to be able to engage in creative pursuits, I wanted to feel like I was truly helping others in their life, and  wanted to feel like I was always growing and learning new things.

I would try to force my job to feel this way at times – but then get frustrated when the work wasn’t creative, or I wasn’t helping people in the ways I thought was best, or that my job wasn’t helping me grow or learn new things.

This of course, led to the desperate fantasizing of the future – not the good kind of future anticipation – but the kind where my present situation was NOT OKAY and it needed to change immediately or I would be NOT OKAY.

And then I started this blog.

I didn’t quit my job. I didn’t move across the country. I didn’t re-arrange my entire life and everything in it.

I simply found something that I could do now, in the present moment, that incorporated my values of creativity, helping others, and growth.

It took the pressure off my job for a bit. And once I had found fulfillment elsewhere, it allowed me to take a second look at my job, and begin to incorporate my values there too…but in a much gentler and realistic way.

If I ask you, what are your three values – what are the first three things to pop into your mind?

Is there anything you could start doing today, that would incorporate those values?

And what are some values you could live out in your daily life, starting – today, tomorrow, and next week?


Valuing & Sharing Your Experience

I have talked about this concept many, many times on the blog, and I will probably keep talking about it, because, it really is that important.

But, a large part of embracing present moment purpose, is valuing the experience you are having right now. Showing up fully to it. And asking yourself –

Why am I having this experience?

How is this experience teaching me something?

What lesson am I being taught right now?

What could I spend time reading about, writing about, or listening to – which would help me learn more from the experience I am having?

And how could I learn from this experience, so that I could then share it with others?

How could I help others because of the experiences I face in my own life?

I am not telling you to stay in a bad situation. But, if you are in a situation that cannot be changed yet, why not show up fully to it? Maybe there is a purpose in it?

A purpose for you – to learn and grow.

And a purpose for others – that you will be able to use your experience to help others.

Maybe, just maybe, there is beautiful, lovely, amazing purpose in your life right now.

Maybe you are here for a reason.


Every Moment has a Purpose

I believe every moment has purpose and is precious. A moment of quiet can be a space to reflect on your gratitudes. A moment of stress can be a chance to work on your mindfulness skills. How can you find purpose in each and every moment that comes your way?

It starts with the moment. But beyond the moment, how will you find purpose in your life today, tomorrow, and next week? Not the life that you will have a year from now, but the life that you are in right now.

I believe we all have a present moment purpose that we can live out in the circumstance that we are in.

We can live it out everyday in each and every moment we are in.

I encourage you to reflect on what your values are – what is a phrase that encompasses how you want to show up at your job or with others in your life?

What are three values that come to mind? Is there a way you can add these three values to your life more?

How can you show up more fully to you present circumstance by accepting that there is a lesson that you can learn and/or share with others?

Not sure where to start with all this? What resonated with you the most as you read this article?

That is a good place to start.


May you be presently purposeful.






 Journal Questions:

  1. Although dreaming of the future is not off limits, pretend just for a moment that you are here in your current life forever. What would you do differently? How would you invest more?
  2. Reflect on what your values are – what is a phrase that encompasses how you want to show up at your job or with others in your life? (For example, mine was “kind, supportive, and seeing the inner light” for when I met with clients). Think of something that can be a phrase that reminds you of your values and purpose in a specific situation.
  3. What are three values that come to mind? (For example, mine were creativity, helping others, and growth). Is there something you can add to your life that would incorporate these values more into your current life?
  4. How can you show up more fully to you present circumstance by accepting that there is a lesson that you can learn and/or share with others? What is the lesson you are learning right now? How could you share it with others or help others because of it?
  5. What resonated with you the most as you read this article? Based on this, what is your intuition directing you to do?


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