For a Fulfilling Life, Ask Yourself Who You Would Bring to a Remote Island

As a philosopher and psychologist specializing in the study of the meaning of life, Dr. Frank Martela continually asks questions about how to make your life more meaningful. This is obviously a tricky question, but he has a suggestion for a mental exercise that might help: ask yourself who you would take with you to a remote island. Here’s what to do and why it might help.

What people in your life attach importance to this?

Finding meaning in life is actually relatively simple, says Martela: it’s about making yourself significant to other people. This is how he puts it in a TED article (in bold):

Your life becomes meaningful to you when you matter to other people: helping a friend, sharing a special moment with a loved one, or talking to a well-meaning philosopher by buying him a much-needed beer.

Then, when we feel that our life is meaningful to other people, we can see value in our own life. The universe may remain silent, but our friends and family, our colleagues and our community fill our lives with their voices, energy and vitality.

Exercises on a remote island

To find out which people in your life attach importance to this, Martela suggests writing down the names of people (for example, those you really know and have a relationship with) whom you would take to a remote island or on a sea voyage that will last several months. If you need guidance on how to do it, here’s what it says (again, in bold):

Think for yourself: who would you bring? Can you identify people who are really important to you and with whom the very fact of living together is a source of vitality and meaning?

Once you’ve identified them, consider how much time and energy you are currently spending on them.

Also, think about your interactions with them: have you been sincere and honest with them, with yourself?

According to Martela, for a full and fulfilling life, you need to have several people in your life whom you can sincerely trust, care for and love.


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