The meaning of life

Egbert Haynes
The meaning of life

The meaning of my life is to help others find meaning in theirs. Viktor Emil Frankl (1905 - 1997)

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain writer (1835-1910)


  • Life is lived in a paradox of evolution and crisis
  • The crises associated with different decades in life
  • Life expectancy can be lived as a life without hope
  • The singularity in the chronology of life
  • Do we all seek to give our lives meaning?
  • In search of the meaning of life
    • Suggestions for change
    • Bibliography

Life is lived in a paradox of evolution and crisis

Growing as human beings comes with a series of goals, linked to obstacles to overcome. Psychoneuroendocrine immunology today has taught us that people subjected to acute and chronic stress live less, and take longer to recover from physical injuries.

On the other hand, there is also strong scientific evidence that associates the mismanagement of our emotions, product of the problems of daily life and stress, associated with diseases ending in "itis" (colitis, gastritis, for example), related to conflicts somatized and unresolved.

So, if you think that your life is important, you will live longer.

The first scientist to investigate the meaning of life was Viktor Frankl (1905-1997). The word sense comes from the Indo-European root sent, which means "to follow a path or take a direction." The modern explanation of the meaning of life is very close to the original meaning of the term, since it implies orienting towards values ​​and objectives (Retzbach, 2018).

The approaches of Viktor Frankl, contravened those of Freud and Adler, who thought that the engine of life resided in the instinctual drives (Eros and Thanatos), or in the desire for power, respectively..

Frankl's followers assume that people want to achieve a life with full meaning, and that those who do not succeed suffer.

The crises associated with different decades in life

As a pedagogical strategy, different stages of life associated with crises are described below, goals resolved or not, which could lead us to think about the meaning of our lives..

  • Javier is finishing his degree and now he doesn't know whether to continue studying or working. He does not even know if his profession is the best he has chosen because he has heard that there is not much work of that. You are going through the crisis of the quarter of life.
  • Leticia goes through the third floor, reaching her 30s has brought her many goals; Some compliments, others not. He feels closer to 40 and blames himself for not having taken advantage when he was 20. He has a career and works, he even has a partner, but he has not been able to leave his parents' house, he still has no children, no home. And every time she compares herself with her friends, she thinks that they are completely happy and she is not..
  • Ricardo is 40 years old and he wonders if he has really met the goals that he had set since he was young. He has gone through a divorce, he is still an employee of a company where it is difficult to see that he can grow. Suddenly the second wind grabs him and he is attracted to younger girls. However, one thing he can't help is seeing his hair and mustache start to turn gray. And, although he tries to hide it, he tires faster than before and it is impossible not to hide the crow's feet that have formed. He still wonders if reaching the highest point of what his life can be, if he will be able to fulfill all the unfinished dreams, some that only he knows and others that, due to more effort, have not arrived. An undeniable fact is the passage of youth. Live a true psycho-emotional crisis.
  • In most men and women in their fifties, a true hormonal crisis is experienced with the arrival of andropause (men) and menopause (women), reducing the degree of sexual activity. For women it means the end of their reproductive stage loaded with hot flashes and emotional states accompanied by crying. And, for some men it can be like the arrival of the second adolescence. In both there is a true biological crisis: dry skin and hair, muscle weakness and insomnia, decreased sexual desire and erectile dysfunction and alteration in bone density, to name just a few. What brings a crisis of anxiety and uncertainty. If all this occurs with a chronic degenerative disease, one begins to depend more on the children, the partner or the family. It is very likely that by now some friends have left this planet and most people do not remember the music or the social context that they lived..
  • In their sixties some people fear for their health, most of the children have become independent. The couple could stop being together and professional life could have come to an end. Memory crises can occur, retirement occurs and it is a breaking point between dependent and still independent life. Not only the loss of friends, partner or family is exacerbated. Sometimes they do not find a reference to talk about because the story of the daily life of childhood, is sometimes an underworld that few know. For example, their childhood games turn out to be encrypted behaviors that only they understand (having played the top, the yoyo, the bobbin, the matatena, throwing the soldiers with marbles and more).
  • When you turn 70, you can live with the stereotype of the elderly, with a curved back, with the decrease in physical and intellectual capacities, but you can also live life fully.

Existential crises increase the risk of suffering from anxiety and depression and can even lead to suicide (Retzbach, 2018). In 2012, a study conducted by Boyle Buchman, found in people who gave meaning to their lives, two factors that acted as protectors in Alzheimer's, namely, good mental health and an active social life (Thivissen, 2018).

Life expectancy can be lived as a life without hope

Life expectancy in Mexico for 2016, according to INEGI data (2019), is 78 years for women and 73 for men.

What to do with a life, no matter how many years we are alive? How to make sense of it? Life is a paradox, children want to be grown up, adolescents a little older, young adults have the goods of mature adults, mature adults want to have a calmer life, without the pressures of having achieved their goals or not. of life.

Whether we can make sense of our life or not, no matter our age, life will have taken its toll anyway. When we have time, we don't have money and when we have money we don't have time. When we have youth we have no experience, and when we have experience the youth is gone.

It seems that we are trapped in a circuit where the snake bites itself. Thus, crises in life can lead us to get sick more easily and die, but if we live it more fully, it carries protective effects from a medical point of view..

Research like that of Tatjana Schnell shows that a marked sense of life predicts a longer life expectancy. In addition, individuals who see meaning in their life are likely to take better care of their health (Thivissen, 2018).

The singularity in the chronology of life

  • Biologically, life is a constant growth and a process of adaptation to new stages marked by stages of life: being babies, childhood, adolescence, being young, mature and elderly adults. Our cells are born, grow, reproduce and die, in a cycle of renewal and life cycle. Each stage brings us reflections on ourselves and social interaction in health, especially since our body is changing.
  • In the psycho-emotional, in principle the challenge of doing or thinking things that people older than us do, make us distinguish ourselves in the positive from others, and is charged with emotions. Without realizing each new challenge, it leads us to countless activities (positive or negative) that sooner or later tend to overwhelm us creating psychological stress or even to perceive that we will never be able to reach the abilities of others. Many times it also leads us to boredom and creates a psychological stress that sooner or later will lead us to a biological one. Leaving a feeling of emptiness or bottomless barrel. Our emotions are capable of making us sick or creating great states of satisfaction.
  • In the transcendental, sooner or later we could ask ourselves basic questions that also generate great pleasures or satisfactions and even give direction to our life or make us really live without direction.
    • Who I am?. It is defined by our personality traits, those that drive us or stop us as people.
    • Where I go?. It is the direction I want to take in terms of finding a profession or trade, even if we decide for ourselves we can change or maintain it throughout life.
    • Who do I go with?. We can make the choice to go alone or in the company of a partner, friends or family. It is normal to even experience changes with any of them throughout life or to stay from the beginning to the end of our passage through this planet..
    • The base is the first question and they work like an ascending ladder to reach another one that encompasses all the previous ones. If we have difficulties to solve any, we will be prevented from transcending and we may feel uncertain and without a definite direction.

Do we all seek to give our lives meaning?

It seems that all human beings would have to go through to find meaning in our lives, but this is not necessarily the case..

In my point of view there is a continuum aimed at finding meaning in life. That goes from who in the early stages of their life have it clear, others fight to be clear and others do not worry.

  • Live for living, without asking why, or for what? It would be a life oriented towards leisure, the immediate. Live carefree. You settle for what you have or what comes to you, without pretending more. Today, many young people feel that the demands of the world exceed them and lead them to live a kind of indifference towards the meaning of their own life. On the other hand, there are other young people who value little what they have and live a somewhat empty life even with many satisfiers, most of them provided by their parents, but they do not find meaning in their life, as happens in white depression.
    • Look for the most vital nomas
    • What is need nomas
    • And forget about worry
    • Only the very essential
    • To live without fighting
    • And nature gives it to you
    • (Jungle Book Song: Seek the Most Vital)
  • Go through periods of crisis, where you ask yourself what or why live? This phase would be mediated by crises in the different stages of life. Where sooner or later you ask yourself:
    • Who am I? Where am I going? and with whom am I going?.
  • From an early age they find a meaning to live.
    • Carl Friedrich Gauss. “He was born in Brunswick in 1777 and died in Göttingen in 1855. As a child he showed great ability with numbers. At the age of three he was able to correct a mistake his father had made in calculating the salaries of some bricklayers who worked for him. At the age of ten, his school teacher, who wanted peace in the class, ordered the children to add all the numbers from 1 to 100. Little Gauss, almost immediately, wrote the solution on his blackboard: 5050 ”(Stories of Mathematics, 2019). When little Carl told his teacher the result, the poor boy took a beating as his teacher thought he had cheated, copying the result from somewhere. He was considered a child prodigy, despite the fact that his parents were humble peasants. “Gauss was not sure of his vocation: mathematics or philology; but he liked his results so much that he devoted himself to mathematics ”(Historias de Matemáticas, 2019). He was a German mathematician, astronomer, geobotanist, and physicist who contributed significantly in many fields, including number theory, mathematical analysis, differential geometry, statistics, algebra, geodesy, magnetism, and optics (Wikipedia, 2019). . He is considered one of the most important mathematicians in history.

In search of the meaning of life

The diversity of people on this planet suggests that there is no single point of view to give meaning to our lives.

The psychologist Tatjana Schnell, from the University of Innsbruck describes that the meaning of life can be recognized through four characteristics:

  1. Meaning, that is, the feeling that what is carried out matters, that makes the difference.
  2. Belonging is the feeling that you have a place in the world.
  3. Coherence, if what happens in life is harmonious and congruent, and
  4. Orientation, knowing the values ​​and objectives that define it (Retzbach, 2018).

Schnell (Schell, cited in Retzbach, 2018), also proposes 26 sources that give meaning to our lives and grouped them into 5 large categories:

  • Self-transcendence
    • Horizontal: Union with nature, social involvement, self-knowledge, health and generativity.
    • Vertical: Explicit Religiosity and Spirituality.
  • Self-realization: Challenges, individualism, power, creativity, knowledge, freedom, performance and development.
  • Order: Morality, common sense, roots and tradition.
  • Feelings of identity and well-being: Community, fun, well-being, love, conscious life, care and harmony.

In the best of cases, a balanced combination of at least three of these five areas should be achieved. To put it another way, the more positive karma points we add, we can feel fuller and more satisfied with our life, with the positive consequences that follow..

A very specific example of how many people solve their existential crises and give meaning to their lives, results from long and often strenuous walks by faithful with a high religious fervor, as happens in the pilgrims' route on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. and in Mexico with the arrival from remote towns to the Basilica of Guadalupe.

Suggestions for change

  • People who have a sense of life, have better physical, psychological, emotional health and are happier. They are more sociable, optimistic and handle their stress better. Cushions the negative consequences of stress.
  • Giving meaning to our life goes beyond the accumulation of goods, it is a purpose for which to live.
  • People who give a reason for their existence suffer fewer heart disorders (strokes) and dementias (Alzheimer's). Learning that one's life has a special meaning, helps to overcome stressful situations and to cultivate habits that are beneficial for the brain's cognitive performance. People who find their life meaningful are more goal-oriented and more resilient. Therapeutic interventions make it easier for people to find the meaning of life and contribute to the treatment of certain diseases (Thivissen, 2018).
  • Inflammatory processes are less in those who have a meaning in their life (Retzbach, 2018).
  • Some people find their meaning in life helping others, volunteering or raising children or grandchildren (their own or others).


  • Historias de Matemáticas (2019), Biography of Carl Friedrich Gauss, consulted on January 24, 2019, Online:
  • INEGI (2019) Life expectancy, Consulted on January 23, 2019, Online:
  • Retzbach J. (2018) Happiness is built with meaning, Journal of Psychology and Neurosciences, Mind and Brain, May - June 2018, pp. , Barcelona.
  • Thivissen P. (2018) The importance of the meaning of life, Journal of Psychology and Neurosciences, Mind and Brain, May - June 2018, pp. , Barcelona.
  • Wikipedia (2019) Carl Friedrich Gauss, consulted on January 24, 2019, online:

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