How a meaningless life can make you happy

Wendy Syfret is a Melbourne-based author and editor. She is the previous managing editor of VICE Asia, in addition to head of Editorial for VICE Australia. She has contributed to publications corresponding to The Guardian, Crikey, and ABC Life, to call a few. Currently, she is editor-in-chief of RIISE, a climate-forward vogue and way of life publication.

Below, Wendy shares 5 key insights from her new ebook, The Sunny Nihilist: How a Meaningless Life Can Make You Truly Happy.

1. Nihilism doesn’t deserve its dangerous status.

Nihilism has a PR downside—the time period itself has change into shorthand for “grim” and “depressing.” But I’d argue that this status is undeserved, owing extra to the individuals who have embraced, promoted, and manipulated it than the idea itself.


In its easiest type, nihilism preaches that “life is meaningless.” In flip, so are you and I. When we settle for that “meaning” isn’t an inherent factor, we can study it as a idea we create, and therefore have the power to manage. Additionally, we can query the place it comes from, and who’s pushing it.

Even if you don’t go full nihilist, it can be a immediate to surprise: Why do I imagine what I imagine? Where do these concepts come from? Who is benefitting from them? What do they actually ship to me? And how do they profit others?

2. Meaning is meant to make us happy, however our obsession with it’s making us depressing.

The seek for a significant life isn’t a dangerous factor. It is a quest that has pushed humanity ahead for millennia. It’s additionally a lot of labor—folks have devoted their complete existence to understanding that means by faith, philosophy, artwork, and even a dedication to civic life.

Few of us have that sort of time, however our need for significant connection stays. Unfortunately, that lust can simply be hijacked by power-holders who acknowledge that in the event that they can produce a dupe of that significant feeling—for under a fraction of the work wanted to create a true sense of that means—then that’s a highly effective software.


Meaning was by no means purported to be binged on. Even believers of that means positioned it in, maybe, one or two components of their lives. But now, each job is all of a sudden “culture-defining,” and every client product “life-changing.” Nothing can exist with out some big, bloated narrative connected to it. It’s nice advertising and marketing, however it’s additionally exhausting.

3. Meaning makes you egocentric. Rejecting it’d make you kinder.

One of the deceivingly good issues about shopping for into all this that means is it can make self-obsession really feel like a really noble act. When we embrace private myth-making, inserting ourselves on the heart of the universe, we give ourselves permission to spend a lot of time interested by our personal lives, actions, and experiences. Who doesn’t love that? In distinction, nihilism’s main promoting level of “you don’t matter” is a spikier declaration.

Honestly, staring into the abyss takes guts, however there are a lot of advantages to making an attempt it. Acknowledging nihilist rules doesn’t have to be a harmful expertise. Accepting our personal smallness within the face of the universe prompts fascinating concerns round how we spend our time, cash, and power—once we’re not completely dedicated to ourselves.

We begin questioning about what we need to final past our quick lives, and what must be protected and treasured. For every person who can be totally different, however I’d wager it’s not your follower rely or LinkedIn presence.


4. Value vs. that means.

I dunk on that means a lot, however I’m cautious to level out that it’s not the identical as worth. Value is actual, like the sensible use of the merchandise we’re bombarded with. We might all profit from considering extra about worth and spending much less time questioning about that means.

At this second, what do you have to really feel happy and properly? What is actually being provided on your effort and time? Navigate your life by prioritizing worth over that means, and I promise you’ll really feel way more rewarded on your efforts.

5. Meaning takes us out of the second.

Meaning guarantees success, enlightenment, and a path to “living right.” In actuality, it too usually delivers confusion, and a sense of in some way being within the fallacious place on the fallacious time. Meaning can manifest as simply one other field we can by no means handle to tick.

When we cease interested by what our lives might be, we return to the fact of what they’re. If we settle for that existence doesn’t have a cause, then all we’ve is that this life and this treasured, fleeting second. With that perspective, how will we spend our time in another way?

For me, every second seems like a uncommon deal with to be loved and savored. Even a mundane day is a present that can by no means be repeated. The world feels bigger, but in addition smaller.

I’m capable of extra clearly ask: What makes me happy? What do I would like proper now? Where is pleasure actually discovered? The solutions are easier and nearer than you suppose.

An ideal peach, time with family members, a noon stroll within the solar. These actions are “meaningless,” however they’re the tiny blocks that construct a stunning (pointless) life.

This article initially appeared within the Next Big Idea Club journal and is reprinted with permission.

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