Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Is An Ordinary Life Meaningless?

Plain, white milk splashing

If you believe everything you read on the web, we live in a world of hyperachievers. Of people doing extraordinary things. People travelling the world with nothing but a backpack and a laptop, people founding companies, people pushing themselves beyond their supposed limits, people having adventures and telling the world about them.

In some circles, those kinds of folks are held up as a modern ideal. And unless, like them, you’ve lived in a dozen countries or mastered half a dozen languages or founded three startups before you’re 30 you haven’t lived up to your potential.

Their extraordinary lives make your ordinary life seem boring. They make it seem meaningless. Scholar and author Dr. Brene Brown said:

I see the cultural messaging everywhere that an ordinary life is a meaningless life

It may seem that way. We’re not doing what that small minority is. We’re not trumpeting our triumphs or exploits online. Because of that, some of us may succumb to what Dr. Brown referred to as The shame-faced fear of being ordinary. But an ordinary life is definitely not meaningless.

Most of our lives are decidedly ordinary, whether we intended them to be or not. Not all of us are wired to undertake months- or years-long adventures. Even if we are, family and financial constraints prevent that.

There’s more to life than all of that. Think about who you touch, who you influence. Think about who you help, in any way. Everything you do might be a series of small gestures, but those small gestures can add up. They can set a child on the right path in life. They can help a friend through a bad or dark time. They can guide or influence a stranger. They can show family and friends that you love them, that you appreciate their presence in your life.

Meaning in life doesn’t come from hearts or likes online. It doesn’t come from huge numbers of followers. It doesn’t necessarily come from grand adventures or missions.

Meaning in life comes from the quality of the honest and real interactions in your life. It comes from those closest to you, from true friendships. It’s not a matter of doing more than the next person. It’s a matter of embracing what and who you have in your life.

And not matter how ordinary a life you think you have, that life probably contains a lot of what’s truly important, whether you see or believe it or not.

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