Final Draft

The meaning of life is a question that has been debated among philosophers for thousands of years, and it’s unlikely that we are any closer to reaching a unanimous consensus on the answer. Indeed, according to James O. Bennett, the meaning of life “cannot be considered apart from the experience of meaningfulness at a personal level” (Carter 13). In addition, a study by Grouden and Jose (2014) found that how people define what’s meaningful in life differs greatly according to factors such as gender and age, which implies that the meaning of an individual person’s life may change as he or she gets older. It is possible that there may be no absolute meaning of life that applies universally to all people, as everyone has a different definition of what is meaningful.

However, we can generally agree on what determines whether a person has attained meaning in his or her life. A person leading a meaningful or purposeful life will be relatively content, successful, and generally satisfied with his or her life regardless of other events.  In short, we can conclude that the meaning of life is to find happiness, although, as Bennett proposes, the question still remains: “Under what conditions can life be experienced as meaningful?” (Carter 13)

As we devote at least a third of each day to our primary vocations, it is logical that any definition of the “conditions” for a meaningful life should consider the pursuit that occupies over half of our waking hours. Moreover, not only is work an inevitable part of our life, but a 2014 study by Mishra et al. at Monash University’s Department of Economics found a strong causal relationship between life satisfaction and job satisfaction. If we accept long-term life satisfaction as an indicator of a “meaningful life,” then it can be argued that the “meaning of life,” or at least the best way to attain it, is to find one’s true calling, a vocation that one truly enjoys and that brings deep fulfilment and satisfaction.

The story of writer Ben Fountain, as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Late Bloomers,” shows that pursuing one’s true calling can bring one great success and life satisfaction. By all accounts, Fountain should have been satisfied with his life, as he had a high-paying job as a lawyer at a well-known real-estate firm, but he was not completely happy, as he knew that his true calling was to write literature. He took great risks and made considerable sacrifices to pursue this, but his efforts paid off: not only was he much happier as a writer, but he also achieved great success, winning a Hemingway Prize and other awards for his work. While it is likely that he would have also been moderately successful as a lawyer, it is unlikely that he would have earned as much recognition, and he certainly would not have been as satisfied with his life as he is now.

While Fountain’s case may seem a bit atypical, not everyone has the luxury to switch careers, and many people simply don’t know what their true calling is, it does not make the idea of pursuing meaning in one’s life any less feasible. For one, Ben Fountain did not become a writer as soon as he finished college and law school, but rather much later in his life, at the age of 48. Despite pursuing his ideal vocation so late in life, Fountain did not suffer any disadvantage, and it can even be argued that his late career switch allowed him to determine exactly what he wanted to do for a vocation.

In addition, career advice experts like Maureen Anderson strongly emphasize the importance of finding a job one loves doing rather than one that merely pays well or provides comfortable working. In The Career Clinic, Anderson presents a variety of anecdotes from people who have achieved great life satisfaction from pursuing vocations that they found genuinely fulfilling. These include accounts such as those of Nancy Solomon, whose ideal job was to work as a psychotherapist, although her family did not approve, preferring for her to follow the family tradition and go into the fashion industry (Anderson 37). Despite “earning more and more money” and “climbing” to higher positions over a period of 18 years, Solomon “became more and more miserable” and often wondered how much she would have to earn to compensate for the fact that she “hated [her] life” (Anderson 37). It was only when she had the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a psychotherapist, incidentally after being fired from her current job in fashion, that she was able to turn her life around and achieve long-term happiness and satisfaction (Anderson 38). While other factors such as family life and interpersonal relationships also contribute significantly to life and career satisfaction (Grouden and Jose), cases like Nancy Solomon show that these factors can at best reduce, rather than completely compensate for a dissatisfying job that occupies over half of one’s waking hours.

Overall, although a fulfilling vocation is not the only aspect of a meaningful life, finding one’s true calling plays a key role in whether people consider their lives genuinely satisfying and purposeful. Achieving one’s purpose in life and finding true meaning in one’s existence will undoubtedly bring a long-lasting sense of satisfaction that will endure regardless of life’s other ups and downs. Though the ultimate end goal of happiness is universal, the particular steps that each person must take to get there are specific to each individual. Pursuing one’s true calling, the job that one would truly love doing, is the most certain path to achieving the elusive rewards of a truly meaningful and fulfilling existence. [949 words]

Works Cited

Anderson, Maureen. The Career Clinic: Eight Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love. AMACOM, 2009. Questia School, questiaschool.com/read/120704031/the-career-clinic-eight-simple-rules-for-finding.

Carter, Robert E. Becoming Bam\boo: Western and Eastern Explorations of the Meaning of Life. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992. Questia School, questiaschool.com/read/87117464/becoming-bamboo-western-and-eastern-explorations.

Gladwell, Malcolm. “Late Bloomers.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 5 Aug. 2016, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/20/late-bloomers-malcolm-gladwell.

Mishra, Vishnod, et al. “The Job Satisfaction-Life Satisfaction Relationship Revisited: Using the Lewbel Estimation Technique to Estimate Causal Effects Using Cross-Sectional Data” Monash University Department of Economics. 2014. Accessed 23 January 2017.

Grouden, Melissa E., and Paul E. Jose. “How Do Sources of Meaning in Life Vary According to Demographic Factors?” New Zealand Journal of Psychology, vol. 43, no. 3, 2014, pp. 29+. Questia School, questiaschool.com/read/1G1-394516187/how-do-sources-of-meaning-in-life-vary-according-to.

 

Rough Draft

The “meaning of life” is a question that has been debated among philosophers for thousands of years, and it’s unlikely that we are any closer to reaching a unanimous consensus on the answer. Indeed, according to James O. Bennett, the meaning of life “cannot be considered apart from the experience of meaningfulness at a personal level” (Carter 13). In addition, a study by Grouden and Jose (2014) found that how people define what’s meaningful in life differs greatly according to factors such as gender and age, which implies that the “meaning” of an individual person’s life may change as he or she gets older. It is possible that there may be no absolute “meaning of life” that applies universally to all people, as everyone has a different definition of what is “meaningful.”

However, we can generally agree on what determines whether a person has attained meaning in his or her life. A person leading a meaningful or purposeful life will be relatively content, successful, and generally satisfied with his or her life regardless of other events.  In short, we can conclude that the meaning of life is to find happiness, although, as Bennett proposes, the question still remains: “Under what conditions can life be experienced as meaningful?” (Carter 13)

As we devote at least a third of each day to our primary vocations, it is logical that any definition of the “conditions” for a meaningful life should consider the pursuit that occupies over half of our waking hours. Moreover, not only is work an inevitable part of our life, but a 2014 study by Mishra et al. at Monash University’s Department of Economics found a strong causal relationship between life satisfaction and job satisfaction. If we accept long-term life satisfaction as an indicator of a “meaningful life,” then it can be argued that the “meaning of life,” or at least the best way to attain it, is to find one’s true calling, a vocation that one truly enjoys and that brings deep fulfilment and satisfaction.

The story of writer Ben Fountain, as described in Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Late Bloomers,” shows that pursuing one’s true calling can bring one great success and life satisfaction. By all accounts, Fountain should have been satisfied with his life, as he had a high-paying job as a lawyer at a well-known real-estate firm, but he was not completely happy, as he knew that his true calling was to write literature (Gladwell). He took great risks and made considerable sacrifices to pursue this, but his efforts paid off: not only was he much happier as a writer, but he also achieved great success, winning a Hemingway Prize and other awards for his work (Gladwell). While it is likely that he would have also been moderately successful as a lawyer, it is unlikely that he would have earned as much recognition, and he certainly would not have been as satisfied with his life as he is now.

While Fountain’s case may seem a bit atypical, not everyone has the luxury to switch careers, and many people simply don’t know what their true calling is, it does not make the idea of pursuing meaning in one’s life any less feasible. For one, Ben Fountain did not become a writer as soon as he finished college and law school, but rather much later in his life, at the age of 48 (Gladwell). Despite pursuing his ideal vocation so late in life, Fountain did not suffer any disadvantage, and it can even be argued that his late career switch allowed him to determine exactly what he wanted to do for a vocation.

In addition, career advice experts like Maureen Anderson strongly emphasize the importance of finding a job one loves doing rather than one that merely pays well or provides comfortable working. In The Career Clinic, Anderson presents a variety of anecdotes from people who have achieved great life satisfaction from pursuing vocations that they found genuinely fulfilling. These include accounts such as those of Nancy Solomon, whose ideal job was to work as a psychotherapist, although her family did not approve, preferring for her to follow the family tradition and go into the fashion industry (Anderson 37). Despite “earning more and more money” and “climbing” to higher positions over a period of 18 years, Solomon “became more and more miserable” and often wondered how much she would have to earn to compensate for the fact that she “hated [her] life” (Anderson 37). It was only when she had the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a psychotherapist, incidentally after being fired from her current job in fashion, that she was able to turn her life around and achieve long-term happiness and satisfaction (Anderson 38). While other factors such as family life and interpersonal relationships also contribute significantly to life and career satisfaction (Grouden and Jose), cases like Nancy Solomon show that these factors can at best reduce, rather than completely compensate for a dissatisfying job that occupies over half of one’s waking hours.

Overall, although a fulfilling vocation is not the only aspect of a meaningful life, finding one’s true calling plays a key role in whether people consider their lives genuinely satisfying and purposeful. Achieving one’s purpose in life and finding true meaning in one’s existence will undoubtedly bring a long-lasting sense of satisfaction that will endure regardless of life’s other ups and downs. Though the ultimate end goal of happiness is universal, the particular steps that each person must take to get there are specific to each individual. Pursuing one’s true calling, the job that one would truly love doing, is the most certain path to achieving the elusive rewards of a truly meaningful and fulfilling existence. [951 words]

Reflection:

This paper was one of the most difficult and time consuming papers I’ve written over the entire two semesters I’ve spent in College Writing. Honestly, I was very unmotivated once I saw a new assignment called “RESEARCH PAPER!” However, this paper taught me how to find and use good primary sources on Questia, which I can definitely see myself using in the future.

 

 

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