Journaling for the meaning of life

by Juliet Platt on June 25, 2010

in Journaling,Writing

The philosopher A C Grayling says  “the meaning of your life is the meaning you give it; it consists in what you create through the identification and pursuit of endeavours that your talents fit you for and your interests draw you to.”

Drawing a distinction between our talents and our interests is a good place to start in order to begin thinking about the meaning of our life. And beginning this thought process by writing a journal is a good way to see the distinction with greater clarity.

Opening a journal for the first time and being confronted by a blank page can feel like a meaningless exercise – especially if we’re not in the habit of writing. What’s needed is a phrase or sentence to kick off our thinking, and give us reason to write.

“I’m interested in….” is a simple kick-off for a list of our own particular interests. These can be anything we engage with, either as a serious hobby or as a passing curiosity – whatever catches our interest at a given moment in time. As long as we stay curious and keep asking ourselves what it is that interests us, it’s quite likely to be a long, kaleidoscopic list.

“I’m a talented…” is a kick-off phrase that requires nerves of steel in the uninitiated. It is tremendously difficult for us to name our talents, those things we have a natural aptitude for. We resist blowing our own trumpets, and don’t like to boast, and yet knowing what we’re good at is vital in being able to clarify the meaning of our life. Documenting our thoughts in a private journal can be very helpful to us in building up a true picture of ourselves because no one else needs to see!

There are a couple of other distinctions that I would draw in order to find the meaning of our life, and which would then move us forward into meaningful action.

Firstly, it is worth meditating on our skills, those things we have learned to do, are perhaps qualified to practice, or have a number of years’ experience in. These are typically things that we have acquired from outside ourselves – for example the skill of driving, of speaking a foreign language, or of writing articles for publication. A kick-off phrase for a skills list in your journal would simply be “My skills are…”.  You may also play with previous, current and future skills, to give an idea of how your skill set has developed over time, and how it might develop in the future.

The final distinction that helps us build a picture of our meaning and purpose is that of commitment. “I am committed to….” is a kick-off that might well bring some lofty ideals – saving the planet, eradicating poverty – or, more likely, it will bring some more mundane occupations such as: ensuring my kids eat healthy food; using my bike instead of my car whenever I can; sending birthday cards to all my friends and relatives.

Once you’ve got your 4 lists of interests, talents, skills and commitments in your journal, you will then begin to create the meaning of your life,  see new possibilities and perhaps set new intentions.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Bigger June 25, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Hope your back is better.
This is just to say that if you are like me, you may need to ask your friends and close ones what your talents, strengths and interests are. Over a glass…

Juliet Platt June 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Hi Stephen – sounds like a grand idea for dinner party chat! Yes my back is much better thanks – and have managed 3 rounds of golf this last week – one of which was a match winner.

And golf by the way is neither a talent or a skill of mine – just an addicted interest that’s turned into a commitment!!!

Bruce Clarke July 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Good starter ideas – we have tried out making mosaic designs on the covers of our journals I’ll let you know how we get on.


Juliet Platt July 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Yes please do. Send a couple of photos too!

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