The older you get, the more you begin to look back in an effort to make sense of your life and the lives of those around you. I have come to the conclusion that everyone does have a gift, something they can give the world. It is also something that gives them joy every time they give this gift.
So, in effect, finding the meaning to your life does not really require you to visit a guru or climb a mountain to meditate. It does require you to examine what you do well and what that contributes to other people. Someone whose gift is their ability to nurture, for example, might find joy in the teaching or nursing profession. Similarly, an athlete who feels joy whenever he excels might bring that joy to others who experience joy in watching him perform. Michael Jordan is a good example. By all accounts he is not a particularly nice person. His competitive zeal caused him to fight with teammates and coaches. He never found happiness off the court. Still, he confided to reporters that the only time he felt really at peace was when he was playing basketball. His superhuman abilities on the court also brought joy to those who saw him play.
Finding your gift can take much of a lifetime or it can happen very early. My brother, for example, already knew by the age of nine that he wanted to be a journalist. He was never happier as a kid than when he brought home copies of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Arizona Republic and read them cover-to cover. Over the years he worked his way all the way up to Editor, but I never thought he considered what he did as work.
In my case, I loved teaching college students, but left that profession when I became enamored with the computer industry. I spent some time in computer sales. I hated the cold calling, but I enjoyed explaining why the product was worth buying. Later I became a market research executive. Once again, what brought me joy was communicating the value of the research.
So, it’s clear to me that my gift is my ability to explain complex subjects in a way people can understand them. I’ve written several college textbooks and now teach on a volunteer basis. Even when I write fiction, I tend to take on complex issues and try to explain them in the story without being preachy. One mystery, as an example, delves into the complex issue of gender identity and transgender people. A science fiction novel I wrote explores the possible implications of a first contact between humans and extraterrestrials. That’s a subject so interesting to me that I self-published a non-fiction book on that topic.
Maslow came up with the term self-actualization to describe people who reach a level of psychic satisfaction once their basic physiological needs are met. It’s another way of describing people discovering their gift, the unique quality they bring to this world. If you’ve ever wondered what your gift is, then the best way to learn that answer is to start by interviewing yourself and jotting down all the tasks that bring joy to you. The next step is to determine what these tasks have in common. Let’s say you sell insurance all day but live for the valuable time when you’re not working so you can spend time woodworking or carving figurines. Clearly you have a gift for building things with your own hands. Whether that means you should expand your hobby into a small business or find a job that will allow you to spend more of your time doing what you love, you should consider finding ways to spend most of your day doing what you love.