Find Your Meaning Operating System

Jordan Brown

Mental health information that is meaningful and accessible.

For years now, that's the angle I've taken when creating mental health content.

Accessible seems obvious enough.

Creating content that is easy to digest and is readily available for people where and when they need it.

But what about meaning?

What's meaningful to me won't necessarily be meaningful to you.

For that, we need a definition and a Meaning Operating System.

Mental Health and Meaning

Before I give you the operating system to help you make sense of this meaning idea, let's address why creating meaning is so important for mental health in the first place.

After all, meaning is a squishy topic.

Is it in what you do, or is it in who you are?

Do your relationships make up meaning, or is it something bigger than that?

Maybe, just maybe, it's in an overarching, all-consuming system of thought that guides your words and deeds?

It's can be any and all of that.

Before you throw up your hands and click away to happier pastures, consider something that I think we can both agree on.

Meaning is created by the person having the experience.

Your meaning is an internal thing--it stems from your experiences, and it's heightened by your values and by the concepts you hold dear.

A life without meaning is a life heading down an underground tunnel.

Even if you navigate your way safely through the bowels of the underground network, you're still underground.

You're still crawling through a systems of tubes that don't seem to go anywhere.

There are no landmarks or lights to guide your path.

Meaning is in the Making

Now that we've considered the importance of meaning for mental health, let's get back to this Meaning Operating System.

Your computer has one.

And you may not have realized this, but you have one too.

When you decide whether an opportunity is worthy of your time, you're using your operating system to help you decide.

When you're considering if mental health content is going to help you or hurt you, you're using your operating system to make that decision.

An operating system is not a concrete thing as much as it is a collection of experiences, feelings, and thoughts that come together to make you who you are. It's the embodiment of everything that makes you, you.

Finally, let's turn to identifying your own operating system.

A Simple Exercise to Determine Your Meaning Operating System:

  1. Consider the last tough decision you had to make. Or, consider the last time you needed to find information to make a tough decision.
  2. Consider the values and feelings that emerged as you were making that decision.
  3. Think about why those values and/or feelings were important to you.
  4. Now, analyze the nature of those values and feelings. What were the predominant ones? Why did they rise to the top?
  5. Finally, consider how you made the decision. The ultimate decision you made is actually not that important--it's how you made the decision that matters most.

You see, a Meaning Operating System is not a thing as much as it is a process.

The way in which you do things often says more about you than what you actually do.

And this all ties back to your mental health.

If you struggled to answer these questions, maybe your operating system isn't clearly defined yet.

If you feel scattered and all over the place as you make decisions and go about life, maybe you haven't decided on a Meaning Operating System yet.

That's OK.

No one really has it all figured out.

What truly matters is that you travel the path of meaning-making in a way that feels right for you.

You weren't born knowing how to walk and move around.

But then, one day, it all came together into a complex system of parts and feelings that is undeniably and authentically you.