The Meaning of Life: 6 Tips for Answering Life’s Most Profound Question

Since the dawn of time, humanity’s been asking the one lingering question: “What’s the meaning of life?”

The question seeks to answer all life’s biggest mysteries.

Why are we here?

Is there a creator?

What should we do with our lives?

What happens when we die?

Mankind’s Search for Meaning

Our quest to answer life’s most profound questions began before civilization itself. Early man searched the cosmos for answers, worshipping the sun as the ultimate life giver and creating origin stories to explain our existence.

These questions still haunt us, and we still have no real answer. Instead, we develop our own ideas. 

Many look to philosophers to lead the way.

Philosophies on The Meaning of Life

Philosophers throughout the centuries developed varying ideas about humanity’s ultimate purpose. Their ideas can help guide us to find meaning in our own lives.


“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.


Aristotle, the famed ancient Greek philosopher, thought humanity existed to enjoy the fruits of life.

Happiness is the ultimate goal. We should relish our time here, living life to the fullest and appreciating the full scope of worldly experiences.

The philosophy seems simple, but happiness is far more complex when you scratch the surface. Some folks get so caught up in chasing happiness that they never realize they already have it.

Happiness is far more than a fleeting emotion or achieving a specific goal. It’s a messy cross between a mindset, an emotional state, and living a life true to yourself.


“The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

-Albert Schweitzer

A far more modern take on the meaning of life puts service to others as the ultimate goal. Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer said the meaning of life is found in serving others.

A life of service means you dedicate your life to a cause to make the world a better place. People find meaning in helping others through volunteer work, political activism, and careers they feel make a difference in the world.

Spiritual Growth

Throughout its long history, humanity found solace in faith.

Though every religion claims their way is the secret key to unlocking meaning, the truth is no one knows for sure. It’s not about worshiping according to a specific book; it’s about putting your life into the hands of a higher power and serving a purpose greater than yourself.

Growing spiritually and knowing your gods and goddesses helps inject meaning into life.


Psychologist Abraham Maslow put the idea of self-actualization on the map from a human needs standpoint, but some take it a step forward and define self-actualization as the meaning of life.

We’re here to learn, grow, and become the most authentic representation of ourselves. The meaning of life is to know ourselves fully, deeply, truly, inside and out.


Buddhist philosophies point to transcendence as the meaning of life, almost in direct opposition to the self-actualization theory.

Rather than look within to discover who you are, the meaning of life is to look outside yourself and become one with the world around you.


Some strict evolutionists scoff at the idea that life holds a deeper meaning. In the biological sense, the meaning of life is clear: reproduce.

Our sole purpose is to pass our genes on to the next generation. There’s no bigger picture; it’s all about survival of the fittest.


“If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning, and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible, and nothing has any importance.”

Albert Camus, The Rebel

Popularized by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Nihilism claims life holds no greater meaning. There’s no purpose, shared values, or point to any of it.

Nihilism can lead to destructiveness. People who can’t find any meaning have no morals, ethics, or values. If nothing matters, it doesn’t matter if you hurt others or yourself. 

Does Life Have Meaning?

Nihilists believe life has no meaning, but we can’t know whether they’re right or wrong.  

It’s impossible to know whether there’s a greater purpose to life, but you should ask yourself whether that matters.

Does life need a more significant meaning, or is the fact that we’re here meaning enough? Is meaning found in a higher purpose or in doing something small that affects the world around you?

Whether you follow any of the philosophies on the meaning of life or not, the only thing you can know for sure is that you’re here, and you must make your meaning out of that fact.

Discover The Meaning of Life

Many of us lie awake every night, pondering our existence. This existential dread causes anxiety and restlessness as we struggle to find our place in the world.

We can’t know the ultimate answer, so we must find meaning on our own. 

It’s a terrifying proposition, but a perspective change can help you accomplish it.

Consider the Philosophies

The philosophies on the meaning of life are popular because they resonate with millions of people. Throughout history, people have found meaning by serving a cause, exploring their faith, developing themselves, or looking to nature.

Explore the philosophies that speak to you. You may discover that the meaning of life was sitting in front of you the entire time.

Ditch Hedonism

The nihilistic philosophy on life’s meaning takes proponents down a dark path of hedonism. If nothing matters, why not spend your life on self-indulgence?

Hedonism elevates pleasure above all else to the point of self-destruction. But there’s no meaning in overindulgence. The joy in hedonism is short-lived, and those stuck on the hedonistic treadmill will never find true happiness as they constantly quest for the next feel-good thrill they think will make them happy.

The self-indulgence may feel good in the moment, but it’s empty. It has no real meaning.

Embrace Existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophy on life’s meaning that embraces the unknown by claiming that personal freedom and self-determination are essential to finding meaning in life.

In existentialist theory, life is all about discovery. We get to choose our own meaning.

But the freedom can be terrifying.  Many suffer an existential crisis when faced with the concept that life has no greater meaning. A perspective shift can help you overcome the crisis. Life does have meaning, but you get to determine what that is.

Engage in Mindfulness

Even if life has no greater meaning, the fact that you’re alive and experiencing the present moment means something.

If you’re struggling with an existential crisis, stop looking toward the bigger picture and embrace the here and now.

Stop looking for meaning beyond what’s transpiring in front of your face. Engage all your senses to enjoy the world as it’s happening. 

Mindfulness can help you appreciate what you have now and take your mind off the big questions as you live intentionally in the present.

Find Your Purpose

The meaning of life is different for everyone. Find yours by exploring your purpose.

Your purpose in life might relate to one of the major philosophies on life’s meaning, but it doesn’t have to. Some find meaning in raising families, serving their communities, creating art, teaching others, or helping creatures that can’t help themselves.

Discover What Really Matters

“If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do”

– Angel

Even if life has no bigger meaning, it still has meaning.

Everything you do impacts something somewhere. Your existence means something to everything you impact.

Consider the starfish story, which highlights how our actions have meaning.  

A young boy walks along a beach littered with thousands of dying starfish, struggling in the sand after high tide. As he walks, he picks up each starfish he encounters, gently tossing it back into the ocean.

A man watches the young boy as he works and approaches after seeing him throw a few starfish back.

“You know there are thousands of starfish on this beach,” said the man. “you’ll never make a difference.”

The boy picked up a starfish and tossed it into the sea. Then he looked at the man and said, “It made a difference to that one.”

Life doesn’t need a big-picture meaning for us to make a difference. If you can’t find meaning in the supernatural, find it in the here and now. Do something that impacts your world. Feed a stray cat. Donate to a worthy cause. Read to sick children.

Every action you take while here has meaning, even if just to that tiny ant you decided not to step on.

We Can’t Know Life’s Greater Meaning

Life’s biggest questions are unanswerable. We’ll never truly know why we’re here or what comes next.

All we can do is make the best of what we know we have.

Live life to the fullest, embrace the present moment, and give all you have to make the world better. Live your best life today because, as far as we know, it’s all you have.

Author: Melanie Allen

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pursuing Your Passions, Travel, Wellness, Hobbies, Finance, Gaming, Happiness

Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation and is a certified happiness life coach. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.