What is your definition of a meaningful life?

Do you value family and loved ones? Is financial security important? Or is your work your passion? Many renowned philosophers and psychologists believe that a happy life is closely related to a meaningful life.

However, to pursue happiness alone isn’t the key to living a meaningful life. Experts believe if we aim for pursuits that give our lives meaning, then happiness should then follow.

Emily Esfahani Smith in her book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters explores the texts from some of the world’s greatest philosophers and writers, including Buddha, Aristotle and George Elliot.

It suggests that there are four main factors that add up to a meaningful life:

  1. A sense of belonging

Being recognised, understood and validated by friends, family members, work colleagues and partners is one of the main ways we give our lives meaning. There have been several studies that show it is our relationships that give us the most meaning in our lives.

  1. A sense of purpose

Life can seem meaningless without some purpose or goal. If these goals reflect our passions and values, then even better. Not only this but studies have shown those in professions where helping others is the main focus tend to rate their jobs as more meaningful.

  1. Reflecting on the past

A kind of ‘what if’ or ‘what might have been’ type of thinking. We reflect on critical past events and mentally reconstruct them. This allows us to appreciate the significance of the event within the bigger picture of our lives.

  1. Experiencing Awe

To have an experience that fills us with deep emotion or utter joy where we feel awe. These experiences can make us feel as ‘we have risen above the everyday world to experience a higher reality’.

Back to the MBTI personality types now.

What constitutes a meaningful life for each of the 16 MBTI types?

ISTJ – Finding a loyal partner

This type finds meaning in long-term relationships. You quite often find them married, or they will have been with their partner for a very long time. They are steadfastly loyal, whether this is to a partner, job, cause or duty. It is their dedication and traditional values that give them the ability to overcome any tragedy.

Hard-workers, they will have a goal and aim to achieve it through diligence and effort. Dependable and serious types who earn their success by being thorough and trustworthy. Family are everything to ISTJ’s and building a solid family base is what gives them a meaningful life.

ISFJ – Charitable work

You will often find ISFJ’s in caring roles thanks to their warm-hearted approach to people. They commit to people without any expectation of reward for themselves. Generous to a fault, whether this is within their own family or at work. They always meet their obligations and feel a duty to support those who are less fortunate than others.

These are the true philanthropists amongst us and they thrive in charity work. Compassionate and friendly, these are unselfish and kind-hearted souls.

INFJ – Helping Others

INFJ’s dedicate their lives to helping others. Whether they incorporate this into their profession, their personal lives or simply through their personality.

Empathic and compassionate, they are also practical and organised. As a result, their passion to help and improve people’s lives often ends up with a solution. INFJ’s want to understand people and will commit themselves to a cause. This dedication could be on an individual basis or wider scale.

INTJ – Learning and challenging themselves

INTJ’s are the thinkers, the types that are not happy unless they have a new college course to study or a new book to read. They are sponges when it comes to soaking up knowledge.

They are typically highly intelligent and open-minded and capable of extremely high standards when it comes to competence. This is not why they learn, however. It is a personal quest for most INTJ’s. The high standards are set by themselves.

They enjoy intellectual challenges and get frustrated and bored when not learning something new. As a result, they enjoy a good debate.

ISTP – Being a problem-solver

Practical and hands-on, ISTP’s are the types that love to take things apart to see how they work, then put them all back together again. They love to work with their minds to figure out how things tick.

Their life has meaning if they are tasked to solve problems or to get the best results. This applies to their work life and their personal life. They are friendly but calm and naturally tolerant in fractious situations. This makes them the perfect mediator.

ISTP’s are happy to work through as many possible solutions as it takes until they find the right one. Then they feel valued themselves.

ISFP – Being creative

creative thinkers

Solitary and sensitive souls, the ISFP’s of the world are acutely in sync with their senses. They may favour one over the other, and this will lead them to choose a creative area to focus on.

You will find artists in many different forms, from chefs, musicians, authors, sculptors, perfumers, even architects and landscape gardeners for instance. Whichever genre the ISFP picks, the aesthetic and visual aspect will give them the most pleasure.

Their gift is to create things inspired by the beauty that evoke the senses. Interpreting beauty around them gives this type a meaningful life.

INFP – Writing for a living

These types are first and foremost idealists, but what gives their life true meaning is to write. Being an INFP myself, I can certainly testify to this!

INFP’s will always send an email or text rather than telephone. They have high values about the world around them. Whether this involves people, the earth, politics, or animal rights, there will always be one thing that concerns them enough to act.

Being introverted, their weapon of choice is writing. They have an innate ability to express themselves much more clearly by writing than they ever could verbally.

INTP – Exploring new ideas

INTP’s live inside their heads. They are abstract and hypothetical thinkers, always seeking out different possibilities. They find meaning in exploring ideas rather than hanging out with people.

They are similar to INTJ’s in that they value knowledge over all other things. They are typically highly intelligent and adaptable. They love learning new concepts and are sceptical about existing theories, preferring to form their own. They can be critical of their own work but love discovering new theories.

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