I started to become interested in the concept of meaningful living while I was a teenager. Like all teenagers, I dealt with drama among friends, fears about my future, feelings of inadequacy and rejection, you know, typical adolescence type of stuff.
But, there were also parts of my life that weren’t so typical. Difficult, terrifying things that made me wonder how I would ever be able to survive physically, emotionally, and mentally.
What helped me through this was a series of beliefs about myself and about my situation. I like to think that these personal creeds, mantras, or whatever you want to call it actually saved me.
I chose not to be a victim.
This was a hard choice to make, but once I knew the sweet taste of living meaningfully, I never wanted to turn back. Choosing to be a victim gave those who were hurting me even more power and I just couldn’t let that happen.
I chose to see all difficulties as learning experiences.
“What can I learn from this?” Was a question I repeatedly ask myself. This kind of introspection taught me to love and consider myself and see the bad parts of my life as temporary situations that I had hope to eventually get far away from.
I chose to pursue my talents.
Don’t listen to naysayers. You might not end up a star on the red carpet but doing what you love will bring you joy beyond your struggles. When life goes in another direction, try something new and see if it’s a talent you hold that you didn’t know you had.
I chose to take care of myself.
I started going to bed earlier, get up earlier, eat healthy meals, exercise, and spend time with people who build me up emotionally. I cared about how my own choices and the choices of others affected me and the difference it made was incredible.
Most importantly, I learned from those who have truly experienced hell and back.
Viktor Frankl and A Man’s Search for Meaning
If you aren’t familiar with Viktor Frankl, he was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor and author. He describes his experience through the concentration camp, but most importantly he describes how he was mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically able to survive the agony of suffering such a heinous crime. His understanding of meaning among suffering brings an enlightenment beyond what you can imagine.
Viktor Frankl’s iconic book A Man’s Search for Meaningspoke to me on a level that I could never have spoken for myself. Some of my favorite quotes of his were:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Happiness must happen…you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
My Happier Ending
What I learned after all of these new life choices- but mostly new outlook on life- was that my trials seemed manageable, even a blessing. It wasn’t this empty promise to myself that what I was going through “wasn’t so bad” but rather that no matter what I went through I would come out of it stronger able to help others. It not only carried me but I felt empowered.
How to use Meaningful Living with bullet journaling:
Each day, find meaning in the struggles you went through. Bullet journaling could have a two-pronged effect in this. You can benefit yourself, and you can benefit your children or other loved ones as you write down how you found meaning in your worst times.
If you’re dealing with mental illness, bullet journal how you felt, and then add a simple word next to the experience you wrote down. (It will be useful to have a legend as well with a small description about the word.)
Here is an example of how I would do this:
Some days I might write down: “Exhausted, irritable. Barely woke up and survived the day.” And then in a meaningful living column, I might write “children.” This indicates that I chose to continue my day even when it was hard because I knew it was best for my children’s benefit.
Looking back on these events and the reasons behind them will help you feel added strength when you start to think you can’t do it anymore. It also provides focus and purpose when you start to lose your way from the ultimate goals in your life.
As for your family members, if you make your bullet journal accessible for them they could learn from you how to choose meaning in their own lives. Many people go through similar problems in life, particularly through families. Mental illness tends to be highly hereditary and your words might bring them inspiration and encouragement.
Give this a try and let us know how it worked out for you. Not all tactics are meant for everyone, but it never hurts to try new things to see how it affects your mental wellbeing.