In order to lead a meaningful life, you need to cherish others, pay attention to human values and try to cultivate inner peace. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
In this quote, the topic is a meaningful life, and how to have one. It states that there are three things to do and work on in your life.
The first thing mentioned is the need to cherish others, to hold them dear or to treasure them. Note that the quote doesn’t restrict this to just a certain group of people. That’s a lot of people!
The second thing mentioned is to pay attention to human values. Not your values, my values, or a certain set of cultural values. The values that most sane humans share, for their good and the common good.
The final thing mentioned is to try to cultivate inner peace. This was the topic of a post from two weeks ago, and is a worthy addition to the list.
Why is trying to lead a meaningful life important?
I really don’t think that anyone wants to get to the end of their life and say, “Well, that was pointless!” I know I wouldn’t like to think that I would end up in that place, would you? This quote defines a life as having meaning by doing three things.
They are to cherish others, to mind the common values of humanity, and to work on ourselves, searching for inner peace. The first is a great way to connect with others. Cherishing others doesn’t require that they cherish you back, and that can be a challenge. But it does add meaning to life.
By paying attention to our shared values, we reduce the chances of offending others, and help find ways of connecting with them, based on the common values we share.
By trying to cultivate inner peace, we find ways to reduce or eliminate stress, anger, and so many other negative emotions and impulses. By being a better person, we are better able to connect with others as well as be less likely to offend them by disregarding basic human values.
This leaves us a wide field in which to operate, as we find the things which allow us to live a life full of meaning. But all paths rely on a foundation as described in this quote.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I would start by assessing where you were at this point in your life. How much effort do you put into cherishing others? Not just your close friends and family (although that makes a great start), but absolutely everyone?
It will be easier to start with a small group, and then work your way up to everyone. How well do you cherish your family and your close friends? How can you do it more or better? Can you think of a couple different ways?
Now consider how can you start to work outwards from a small circle to a larger circle, to include people less familiar? The ideal end to this portion of the exercise is to include everyone. How could you do that?
Take a moment and consider just how you would implement these ideas. Are there particular times, locations, or events which you could use to help you remember to do something? How can you make this behavior a habit, so that in the future, it happens automatically?
Next, consider how well you mind the values of others, at least in the broadest sense of the common human values. How well do you treat others, and how much respect to you show their basic values? Here, we’re not talking about the fancy things, just the basics, like life, dignity, etc.
How far does your respect of others go? Just to your immediate circle, or does it go farther than that? Are there certain groups who are automatically included or excluded from your respect? Can you come up with good reasons for behaving that way, or are they just excuses and justifications?
Take a moment to consider how you would go about changing your behavior to be more in line treating others better and more in line with basic human values. How can you make this behavior a habit, so that in the future, it happens automatically?
For the action of cultivating inner peace, please see my prior treatment of the topic here. How well are you doing at managing your less helpful emotions and urges? What is your plan for getting better at it, and improving yourself?
It isn’t going to be easy, and at times, it will be tough. But the reward is worth it, in my opinion. A meaningful life will be defined differently by each of us, but these three principles will provide you with a sound foundation on which to build your legacy.