Meaningful Activities

Happiness Equation postcard One of the ingredients that Personal Development and Positive Psychology gurus often include as being an important part of the “Happiness Equation” is the ingredient of “having meaningful goals”. Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said that the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something meaningful and worthwhile.  (1)

The question is, what are meaningful goals or worthwhile activities?

The experts say that what you find meaningful varies from person to person. According to Positive Psychologist, Tal Ben-Shahar, someone could find meaning in making furniture and another person may find it in volunteering in a homeless shelter.(1) When I heard this, my first thought was that it would be interesting to delve a bit deeper into what makes acitivities such as these meaningful. This article explores my thoughts on this subject.

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1. Activities that are meaningful because they make the physical world a better place

Examples of activities that help make the world a better place:

  • Conservation (eg saving rainforests, conserving national parks and nature, ensuring animal safety from extinction/ hunting / harm),
  • Activities that help make the world a more beautiful place to live in: eg keeping places clean, well-kept, nurtured, like gardening, street cleaning, park ranging, politicians in charge of maintaining nature in their sections of the world.

Why is it meaningful to look after the planet?

  • To secure the Earth’s existence and its resources for future generations (for our children and our children’s children and their survival too).
  • To make the world more enjoyable for us to live in (with beautiful nature to enjoy, with amazing animals to appreciate etc).
  • Because “all is one” – and appreciation for all living things, and caring for plants and animals is in a way a gateway to opening your heart to love and appreciation for everything. Strong appreciation for nature can be a gateway towards higher levels of consciousness.

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2. Activities that are meaningful because they make people feel happy
Examples of activities that help make other people happy:

  • Entertainment:
    - Comedians work, doing stand-up
    - Making enjoyable books, TV shows, movies
  • Art: Making enjoyable art & graphic designs
  • Music: Making enjoyable music
  • Cooking: Making delicious foods for people to enjoy
  • Teaching enjoyable hobby classes eg dance
  • Doing enjoyable entertainment performances eg acting / circus performers / magicians
  • Making products people enjoy (from clothes to building houses, from making soaps & perfumes to doing interior design; from making furniture to building gadgets; and also includes providing services that make life better or more comfortable)
  • Talent scouting to find people who are able to make great content that others enjoy. Simultaneously you are making the talented individual happy by making their dream of being discovered and acknowledged come true.
  •  Helping people feel healthy (which makes it easier to feel happy) eg doctors, nurses, surgeons, dentists, nutritionists, life coaches, therapists.
  • Helping people feel safe (which makes it easier to feel happy) eg police, army, security work
  • Helping people feel better about themselves and about the way they look eg stylists, hairdressers, orthodontists, therapists, hypnotherapists, teachers who help you uncover your talents and cleverness.
  • Volunteering to help people in difficult positions improve their lives and therefore help them get closer to achieving happiness and well-being (eg helping at a charity, raising money for charities etc).
  • Doing self-help exercises to help you feel good eg practising rampages of appreciation and gratitude.

Why is it meaningful to make people happy?

  • Uplifting others feels good both to you and to the others. It breeds gratitude, bliss and other positive emotions – and in my opinion, breeding positive feelings in itself is intrinsically meaningful.
  • Raising the amount of joy on the planet, in spiritual terms, helps raise the general vibration and consciousness of the whole planet. Some spiritual beliefs state that one of the purposes of human life is to reach higher and higher levels of consciousness.

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3. Activities that are meaningful because they broaden human understanding of the world and themselves
Examples of activities that do this:

  • Research in fields that we don’t yet fully understand (eg spirituality, psychology)
  • Teaching what we DO know in important subjects, enlightening others to understand themselves and their world better. eg through workshops, lectures, blogs, books, youtube videos and more.
  • Meditation can allow self-exploration to increase understanding on personal or universal subjects.

Why is it meaningful to broaden human understanding?

  • Broadening human understanding is a type of growth and expansion in a positive direction. Striving to improve and grow is intrinsically meaningful. It’s hard to explain it any further than this. Everyone likes to improve and grow. It’s satisfying, feels good, and leads only to good places.

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4. Activities which are meaningful because they allow us to feel we’ve made our mark on the world:
Examples of activities that do this:

  • Having children & grandchildren to carry on our genes

Why is this meaningful?

It makes us feel important and like something of ours will live on even after we die.

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5. Activities which allow us to Experience Love

Experiencing and spreading love (family-love, friend-love, romantic love, even pet-love) is meaningful. Why? Partly because it helps us feel good, but there are other reasons too. Relationships can help us grow and evolve emotionally. They can be a source of fresh ideas, sown into fertile minds, to inspire us to do other meaningful things by making us aware of new things we may not have been aware of had we been completely isolated.

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That’s all I can think of for now. If you can think of any other meaningful activities or general big-umbrella categories for them, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. :)


(1.) Ben-Shahar, T., 2008. Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment (click here to find it on ; click here to find it on

(2.) Yahoo Answers on “What is Meaningful to you in Life?”

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One Response to Meaningful Activities

  1. Janice says:

    Choosing Meaningful Activities : A Spiritual Perspective
    People have been conditioned by society to believe that if we find a meaningful activity in the outside world that fulfils our basic needs, and has meaningful goals, often doing things that make others happy, amongst other things it will inevitably make us happy.
    From a spiritual point of view, the first meaningful thing a person needs to do prior to choosing a specific activity is for you to feel happy within yourself. As you can never know what truly makes other people happy or how they will think or react to what you do, you cannot “do things for other people” with a guaranteed positive outcome for them. All you can guarantee is your own feelings if you are deliberately aware of how you are directing your thoughts and feelings about what you are doing.
    It is only from a place of feeling good that everything else will then fall into place, including finding activities that feel good. Aligning yourself from within first is what determines the quality of your experiences. Each person is responsible for themselves as to what quality of experience they will have. No-one can “make another happy” and sustain the effort.
    We have been led to believe that finding an activity that suits you will make you happy. However, we now know that the opposite is actually true. We know this idea works in opposition to the Laws of the Universe, specifically the Law of Attraction. You can only get what you want from a place of feeling it first and aligning with it, even before it manifests in reality.
    When a person however does not know what activity to choose, how can they get to the point of finding an activity nonetheless that they will enjoy?
    If you do not know what to choose as there is nothing that you really feel particularly attracted to or are passionate about, “going general” can sometimes help. You can ask yourself the following questions:
    Where am I now regarding how I feel with my life?
    If you feel dissatisfied and empty, bored or clueless, take time to firstly acknowledge your “present point of being.” Don’t judge it. Just accept it. You are where you are.
    Then ask yourself if you want to feel better. If you do, then ask yourself what the next baby step is you can take to feel slightly better, even if it merely is acknowledging that you want to feel better.
    You can say to yourself: “I want to feel the best I can…’d be wonderful feeling better……”
    “It would really be nice if I could find something I enjoy doing….”
    Go general: i.e. ask yourself general questions:
    Where would I enjoy being as I do this activity or work – inside or outside? With people, or do I prefer working or being on my own? Do I want a job/do an activity that is serious or is fun? Do I want to stay in one place or would I like to move around? Would I like to travel? Etc.
    By asking general questions, you will possibly get some clarity or direction about what kind of general environments and conditions feel good and suit you or resonate with you.
    Use your imagination and dream about feeling good. The most important thing before you even will be able to find a specific activity that will make you happy, is for you to feel happy. You can only find a happy activity if you yourself are first in a place of happiness.
    The Law of Attraction brings us things that we are vibrationally aligned with. This means that like attracts like, so if we feel lost, we will only attract more of feeling lost to us, and it will be impossible to find anything of significance to make us feel better.
    The idea then, is not that the activity is important, but that we take care of how we feel in general, and feeling good is the way to go.
    Ultimately, what you do is not of primary importance. Whether your goals are simple or lofty, easy or difficult, require talents and abilities, will change worlds or simply maintain worlds, all these are really not of significance where you as an individual are concerned. How you feel about anything you choose to do is what determines your happiness rather than what you will achieve for the world.

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