Meaning and purpose
Te tikanga me te takenga
"E hoa ma, ina te ora o te tangata"
My friends, this is the essence of life.
What is meaning?
Meaning gives us a way to interpret situations in our life. It can give us a reason to carry on when things are tough, and provide direction to help us navigate through hardships to a more balanced and happy future.
People can have vastly different concepts of meaning in life. Some may argue the cosmic meaning of life is to be part of something that is bigger than themselves, a 'grand scheme', and that then gives them purpose and structure to their lives. This may take the form of religion or spiritual beliefs. Other people may find meaning within the relationships they share, or through the number of ‘meaningful’ moments they experience. What's common to these different perspectives, is that we ascribe meaning through what matters to us (be that faith, relationships, or experiences).
Meaning in life can be found by identifying what's important to you. Our values are pivotal in deciding what matters to us, and choosing to live your life through your values can be a key part of what gives life meaning and purpose. This may include many things: the important people in your life; your dreams, aspirations, and the milestones you want to achieve; whether you're aligning your lifestyle with your personal values; and ultimately - what would make you proud of yourself.
What happens if you lose your purpose?
We may lose meaning, purpose or direction during different life stages, when we are grieving, or when something disappointing has happened. At times like this people can feel adrift, sad, distressed, dissatisfied, a lack of motivation or lack of interest in maintaining social connections. The ongoing stress that can come from losing your meaning in life can contribute to physical health symptoms, such as weight gain or hair loss.
Our sense of meaning in life and its ability to affect physical health reflects the close ties between our wairua/spirit and hauora/wellbeing. When our wairua is weakened, this can go on to affect our hinengaro/mind, our whānau/family or social wellbeing, and even our tinana/body. For some people, a continual feeling of hopelessness and lack of purpose can contribute to depression and anxiety. If you feel like this it's important to not only seek treatment for the symptoms (see Mind/ Hinengaro section), but also the underlying issue.
What makes life meaningful
Finding your why
The military culture can provide us with meaning. As members of the NZDF we share a strong sense of belonging, we have a collective purpose and shared values. These inform how we interpret and respond to situations.
The NZDF has a mission statement: "To secure New Zealand against external threat, to protect our sovereign interests, including the Exclusive Economic Zone, and to take action to meet likely contingencies in New Zealand's area of strategic interest.” This is the reason we all do what we do. It gives us, as an organisation, a reason to carry on no matter what we may face. It is our why.
To help you understand your why, Chaplain Russell Bone adapted Simon Sinek’s teaching in the book, 'Find Your Why'. By reflecting on your past, assessing your present, and looking to the future, this tool will help you to see the common themes that boil down to, your why.
Your unique why statement includes an impact - the difference you want to make in the world. It also includes a contribution - the primary action you will take to achieve this dream.
The end result will take time, but if in the end you feel an emotional (gut) connection to your why statement, you are in the right place.
Chaplain Bone's adaption of Sinek's "Finding your why" can be found in Staying at the top of your game