The Power of Meaning (and How to Apply it to What Really Matters)

June 17, 2014

Do you ever stop and wonder why certain things matter to you? Why you do the things you do or work so hard for the things you work for? Do you ever question who decided something was meaningful, important, or stylish? Or do you assume there must be a reason everyone else is doing it?

When I was younger, in my “dark and twisty” and depressed days, I became very detached from the world around me. I listened in bewilderment as people passionately discussed “small talk” topics or gossiped like the world depended on the outcome of that particular exchange. I wondered who decided things were supposed to be a certain way, or what was more important than something else, and watched in wonder as others fell in line just because someone said it was the way things should be. I started asking why, a lot, in any and every conversation about any given subject. I was curious about meaning and whether or not others placed any thought into what they determined to be more meaningful than something else.

The act of detaching myself and the curiosity of why people gave meaning to things gave me some incredible perspective about the world around me. And simply put, nothing is really meaningful unless we make it so. Unless we decide to give it meaning and prioritize it accordingly.

From this place of detachment, I started deciding for myself what really mattered. What, to me, was really meaningful, and where to apply meaning to things in order to make my life more fulfilling, passionate, connected, and joyful.

This has meant turning down clients that didn’t align with my values, despite the clout and revenue that would come with them. It means joyfully selling my home and declaring with certainty that, at least for now, home ownership is not for me. It means pushing for more depth, passion, and connection in my relationship, despite the fact that many people are content with basic companionship. It means going against the grain, almost always, on things that don’t matter to me. It means speaking up about things I’m passionate about and defending what I feel really, truly matters in this world. It means avoiding small talk like it’s the plague, and not pursuing relationships of any kind that aren’t fulfilling.


At any give time, you can decide to apply or remove meaning from a gesture, conversation, item, relationship, trend, or anything in between. Here’s a look at how you can begin doing this in your daily life:

1) Get really clear on your truth.

Being able to apply meaning to things starts with really knowing yourself, your truth, what really lights you up, and why. If you don’t know yourself fully, you’re going to have a hard time getting clear on what’s truly meaningful for you. Take some time to reconnect with yourself by getting still, tuning into your intuition, and starting to pay attention to what you’re most passionate about.

2) Take a step back and detach.

Really take a look at this thing and ask yourself why it’s meaningful or important to you. Why do you feel like you need or should do this? Why does it matter? What’s the benefit, or how does it contribute to building the life or business you want to build? If you can’t answer that question, you may be applying meaning to something that doesn’t really matter to you.

Far too often we just go with the flow and assume because others apply meaning to something, we should too. Things like getting our college degree, getting married, buying a home, following celebrity news, buying a certain style of shoes, or even landscaping our yard a certain way. It’s what others are doing, so it must be important, right? Wrong. The fastest way to find yourself unhappy, lacking fulfillment, and lost is to do things because everyone else is.

3) Get a fresh perspective.

Step back and take a look at what’s in front of you with a fresh perspective. Imagine you’re an alien who’s new to this world, observing this action, activity, or trend with fresh eyes. In the grande scheme of things, is it really important or necessary? Is it something people do just because people do it? If you can’t find a way to apply meaning to it from a place of your personal truth, desires, and vision, it’s not really that important now is it? There may be a better way, or something else you need to do, create or obtain to reach your vision.

4) Take action based on what matters to you.

If you detach and get a fresh perspective, only to realize you’ve been pouring time and energy into something that really doesn’t matter to you, make a shift. Do something different or stop doing it altogether. Remove yourself from the conversation, find a new tribe, or start speaking out about what you believe in. Stop doing things because others are and take action around what you’d rather be doing instead. Start creating alignment between your truth and your actions, only pouring time and energy into things that are truly meaningful for you.

This won’t always be easy! After all, we’re creatures of habit and, thanks to our caveman days, it feels threatening to our survival to go against the grain or step away from the flock to blaze our own trail. Remember that fear is normal and just means you’re growing and stretching in amazing new ways. Trust that. Trust yourself and continue to dive into meaning behind everything you do. Before you know it, life will be more fulfilling, passion filled, and joyful!

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