Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Monty Python can help You find More Meaning in life



"Oh look, Howard's being eaten".
 "Is he?"
 "Makes you think doesn't it"
 "I mean, What's it all about?"
 "Beats me"
What is life all about? If you are a fish in the Monty Python sketch, then one day you are swimming around,  enjoying your day, wondering what it's all about, the next day you are lunch. If you are a reader if this blog, you are unlikely to end up like Howard, but does it really amount the same thing? You get up, go to work, read articles, have lunch (possibly one of Howard's friends!) -  but then a time comes -maybe in the distant future, maybe not -  when, to borrow euphemisms from another famous Monty Python sketch, you are pushing up the daisies and joining the choir invisible.

The fish tank sketch doesn't tell us "what it's all about", but a moments reflection helps us  recognise what life isn't about. Life isn't just about having a purpose, if that purpose is one that we don't own. Howard the dead fish had a purpose from the restaurant's point of view - but that didn't help Howard. We all serve a number of purposes From society and the government's point of view,  your purpose is to  pay taxes and to be  law-abiding. From your boss's point of view, your purpose is to do your job competently. None of these purposes are necessarily bad. The point is that they are not enough to make your life meaningful from our own perspective. Having a purpose is not sufficient to provide personal meaning in life.

What we need are projects and goals that inspire us, things that make us want to get out of bed in the morning.  We want our life as a whole to add up to something.

Two things that can help is to  identify and follow both our values and our strengths.Values Clarification exercises can help identify your key personal values.. My RSVP procedure is a good place to start. Identifying your strengths and talents is also helpful. Positive Psychology has provided a number of measures to help you identify these, such as the VIA and the Realise2 Strengths measures.
Wisdom can help you understand what you need to do to identify how to put strengths and values into practice effectively. Wisdom has a strong moral element. Tony Soprano had a talent for leadership, making money and killing people but  we would hardly judge him wise or his life positively meaningful.

So can Monty Python help you find more meaning in life? Perhaps it does, in a surprising way.  One notable Python, Michael Palin, provides us with a  good role model of a meaningful life.The world would be a poorer place without Michael Palin. His  talents include humour, wit, friendliness, adventure and creativity which he has used to the full. He has had the wisdom to extend his professional activities to include making  travel programmes, which allows him to develop and use his talents. I still remember seeing him give a speech to the Oxford Union back in 1980 - a genuinely funny, modest and inspiring man.

So where do your talents lie? What inspires you? What do you do that makes your life most worth living? What do you do that makes the world a better place, even if only slightly?  If you can find answers to these questions, and then put suitable  environment and practices in place,  then you will have the best chance  finding and creating more meaning in your life.

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