We all have those moments when we question our lives. What is the meaning of life? Why are we working so hard? To what end?
Here are the views from selected thought leaders to help us view this universal topic in a positive way, so we can move on with our lives and make a difference.
One thing you will notice is that some of these thinkers believe that we’re asking the wrong question.
What matters is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
– Viktor E. Frankl
The famous Austrian psychiatrist who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany says he found meaning even under those brutal conditions. To Frankl, it’s all about purpose. For him, the purpose was survival. And the only way he was able to survive was to think of how his family and friends did not want to be disappointed by his death.
You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
– Albert Camus
French philosopher Albert Camus tells us to forget about pondering the meaning of life, for doing so takes away valuable time from the act of living. Life itself, in his view, is the meaning.
The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
The former bodybuilder turned movie star and politician set out at a young age to leave a legacy. He has influenced millions and left his mark. To Schwarznegger, the meaning of life is to leave a lasting legacy – to make changes that will last long after we are gone.
I say no to a lot of stuff that would be easy money but deviates from my meaning
– Dan Buettner
The New York Times best-selling author and adventurer Dan Buettner has been on many expeditions around the world, some of which he calls “longevity hotspots” to research why people in certain parts of the world live as long as they do. He has made that a focus and purpose of his life. Anything outside of that purpose is rejected. Purposefulness is a key part of life meaning.
Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.
– Joseph Campbell
Writer Joseph Campbell told us that we’re asking the wrong question. It is not so much “What is the meaning of life?” but rather, what meaning will you give to the life that you have?
Anyone can get a job, but do you have a purpose?
― Tom Butler-Bowdon
Self-help author Tom Butler-Bowdon believes we should not be looking for any old job. But rather, we should use our career to fulfill a purpose or goal. Many people who enter the sciences, for example, do so for a greater cause. What is your cause?
The sole meaning of life is to
– Leo Tolstoy
They often get a bad rap but many people in government really are there to try and make things better. Being in service to others does bring meaning to our lives. Russian writer Leo Tolstory who wrote such classics as “War and Peace” was a firm believer in non-violent resistance. His beliefs would later influence Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Tolstoy was all about serving humanity.
What makes the meaning of life is people, so you try to be good to people immediately around you and in your broader community. So a lot of my projects are about how I can affect the world in the hundreds of millions.
– Reid Hoffman
For entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, life is about big ideas – ideas that can influence and change how millions of people live their lives. Hoffman has bought into the philosophy of Tolstoy which says that even one person can change the world.
I think it’s love.
– Julie Benz
Actress Julie Benz believes the meaning of life is pretty simple: it’s love. The giving of love and the receiving of love. Love is what makes life worth living. Life, in this context, is an “experience” – one to be enjoyed.
Life is problems. Living is solving problems.
― Raymond E. Feist, Silverthorn
Fantasy writer Raymond Feist puts forth the notion that life has meaning when we solve problems and move humanity forward, forging a better life for future generations. If we can do something today that helps someone tomorrow, life has been worthwhile.
To me it’s a complete mystery.
― Charles M. Schulz, Charles M. Schulz: Conversations
Finally, it was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts cartoons, who perhaps best summarized the view taken by most of us. Life is a mystery.