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The true meaning of life, according to a Finnish philosopher

The true meaning of life, according to a Finnish philosopher

By Frank Martela/ As a Finnish philosopher and psychology researcher, people often ask me: "What is the meaning of life?"
The question is not about any cosmic meaning of life. It's about how to find meaning in life. What makes life feel worthy and worthwhile to you?

For seven years in a row, Finland has been ranked first as the happiest country in the world. And having lived here all my life, I've learned that finding meaning in life can be summed up in one sentence: Make yourself meaningful to others.
Here's how:

1. Live for yourself, not for someone else's expectations.

Even a meaningful job like being a doctor can feel empty if your heart isn't in it.
You need to figure out what makes you happy and start doing more of it.

2. Become an expert and share your knowledge.

One of the best ways to serve others is to find something that meets three requirements:
You are good at it. It excites you. It has a positive influence on others.
Once you've found a job or a hobby that makes you feel fulfilled, put all of your focus into becoming an expert at it. Then share it with your community.

3. Do random acts of kindness.

In my wellness courses, I encourage students to do three random acts of kindness a day. It could be as simple as offering a glass of water to the postman, spending an afternoon with a grandparent, or helping a tourist find his way.

Helping people doesn't just feel good in the moment; it also benefits your long-term health. Studies show that people who provide emotional support to their family, friends and neighbors are more likely to live longer.

4. Be a good neighbor.

Talkoot is an old Finnish word that translates as "to work together to do something that one person would not be able to do alone".

In farming times, when someone had a big project on their farm, such as building a barn roof, neighbors would volunteer and do a day's work to help, then celebrate with food and drink.
The tradition continues to this day. This kind of culture extends to why Finns often feel positively about civic duties such as paying taxes. They see it as essential to the good of the whole.

5. Embrace quiet time together.

People don't need to make grand gestures to be an important part of your life. Being together in silence is enough to make us feel connected and loved.
As the Finnish saying goes: "Speech is silver, but silence is gold".

*Frank Martela, PhD, is a Finnish philosopher and psychology researcher who studies the foundations of happiness.