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:
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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
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 aspects 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.
ESTP – Living in the moment
You won’t find ESTP’s with pension or funeral plans. They are spontaneous, live in the here-and-now and want things to happen immediately. They can be quite hedonistic but only in the sense that they enjoy short-term experiences of comfort and pleasure.
They enjoy material things and new adventures and love being surprised. These types are always rushing around, doing fun stuff and experiencing everything they possibly can.
ESFP – Being the life and soul of the party
Open the fridge door and these people will perform. Outgoing, extrovert, quick-witted and loves being the centre of attention. This type is a born performer and if they are not already professional then they’ll be entertaining their friends and family.
You will not see ESFP’s staying in for some ‘alone time’, in fact, they’ll get itchy feet and grumpy if there’s no one to go out with so they can show off a little. Natural party hosts, they are the life and soul of a great night out. They also make work a lot more fun and brighten up the office whenever they walk in.
ENFP – Finding new adventures
To say that ENFP’s are easily bored is a true understatement. They are one of the most spontaneous and flexible of all the MBTI types. They love starting new projects but are not great at finishing them.
Stick an ENFP in a routine 9-5 job and watch them die of boredom. Give them a creative role within a laidback atmosphere and watch them shine.
The same is true for their personal life. You won’t find these types holidaying to the same place year after year or visiting the same restaurants. New adventures give their lives meaning.
ENTP – Values their freedom
Only when the ENTP is free from ties and responsibilities will they find true meaning in their lives. You won’t find them in a boring routine job. They are too outspoken for a start.
Always looking to the future, they’ll have a vision for the way they want their life to turn out. This vision will always be changing as they consider other possibilities. So long as it doesn’t bore them and challenges their sense of adventure, they’ll run with it.
Stick them in a campervan with no map and that is pure happiness to them.
ESTJ – Organising others
Give an ESTJ a role where they are leading a group and they are happy. They are fantastic organisers, methodical and matter-of-fact decisive people. They find it easy to make logical decisions which is why people flock to them for direction and supervision.
ESTJ’s love their role as leaders and are flattered that people want their help. They have a need for organisation and practical knowledge of getting things done. Their frustration for disorganised environments means they’re motivated to create happy ones so they offer to take on the leadership roles.
ESFJ – Helping people
People give this type meaning in their life. They are happiest around them when they are providing for them, helping them and working with them. They are fiercely loyal, once trust has been established.
These types are instinctive in knowing what others need, even before others do. Harmonious and cooperative, they find it easy to work with others, so long as they can be in charge. They do need some appreciation for what they do or achieve as validation for their actions is important to them.
ENFJ – Fighting for the rights of others
These are the true humanitarians. They put their own needs aside to fight for other’s rights. Empathetic and warm, they are naturally sociable and inspire others to join a cause.
ENFJ’s have to have a purpose in life and helping others in distress provides them with just that. You will often see them as aid workers, councilmen and women, politicians, and social workers.
Material possessions are not important to them. They want a kinder world and are prepared to do their part to spread the word.
ENTJ – Leading others
Another MBTI type that gets meaning from assuming leadership roles. They differ from other types as they are particularly forthright and blunt. Decisive and straightforward, they will assume leadership quickly and can be pretty vocal when stating their ideas.
Some might find them overpowering and could easily be crushed by their strength of character. They are all powerful types who can come across as brusque and curt, but they do have a natural gift for leadership. To those who can understand them a little better, this brusque nature will present as charm and efficiency.
Obviously, we all have different ideas about what constitutes a meaningful life. Do you agree with our assessment?
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