How to Find More Meaning in Your Life

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: August 19, 2020
how to find more meaning

Whether you realize it or not, right now your brain is using a map. Powerful, yet usually hidden, mental maps are what guide your actions anytime you make a decision, face a challenge or set a goal. Your mental map is what helps you spot the most useful opportunities, seize the most valuable resources and chart the best route toward your goals. 

But not all mental maps are created equal. If the mental map you’re using lacks “meaning markers,” it is incomplete, inaccurate and can lead you astray. Meaning markers are the things in your life that matter to you—career advancement, a new business, your kid’s admission to a desired school, better health and so on.

If you’re currently finding your work less meaningful, your obstacles less surmountable or your goals less attainable, chances are you need to redraw your mental map. 

In my research, I’ve found there are several common mistakes we make when drawing the mental maps that guide our daily decisions and actions. Sometimes we haven’t highlighted enough meaning markers. Sometimes we’ve highlighted the wrong ones and chosen a path studded with negatives rather than the things we truly care about. And all too often, we map escape routes before we even begin looking at paths for success. 

Here are three ways you can improve your mental mapping:

1. Highlight your true meaning markers. 

The best mental map is one with paths that steer us toward accomplishing meaningful goals. But we can’t chart those paths until we’ve identified and mapped the things in life that matter to us most. Think hard about what you find most engaging during your day, what brings you joy and what you hope to accomplish and achieve. If you could wave a magic wand, what’s the one thing you’d change about your life? These questions will help you find your true meaning markers. 

2. Reorient your mental map. 

Every mental map has a focal point that dictates where the majority of your brain’s resources will be allocated. Reorient this map around the meaning markers you identified in step one. Shift your mindset so that you’re focused on the area of your life you want to change, whether it’s raising your revenues, improving your writing skills or building stronger interpersonal connections. 

3. Map success routes before escape routes. 

What you focus on becomes your reality. If you’re focused on avoiding routes to failure, you will completely miss the roads to success.

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This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by baranq/

Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.