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Maurice Sendak once said, “There must be more to life than having everything.”

There is. And the secret to finding it is to seek meaning in your life, not control.

Many people spend their lives seeking control… of money, real estate, jobs, careers, other people… you name it, somebody wants to control it. But control is an illusory thing. It’s like running side-hill on loose gravel. The terrain is always changing, so to maintain “control,” you have to keep moving.

In the end, people are much happier when they stop pursuing control and start seeking meaning. At that point, you begin to establish a foothold on solid ground.

There are many ways to find “solid ground” and add meaning to your life:

1. Follow your interests. I used to hear people say, “There isn’t enough time in the day.” I’d say, “What are you talking about? I’m going to go take a nap!” Then I began following my dreams. Now I know what those other people were talking about. Pursue the things you feel passionate about. Your days will be full.

2. Don’t be afraid of anything. If you are afraid… of following your dreams, of intimacy, of leaving the perceived safety and comfort of your home or job or the status quo… then confront the traumas that caused your fears. If you need help, get a counselor or a coach or a mentor to help you overcome your fears. Life is too short to be timid.

3. Avoid negative people. Loose gravel is bad enough. Negative people are like quicksand. Avoid them. That includes people who are abusive in any way – emotional, verbal or physical. Don’t tolerate it. If someone is abusive to you, tell them to stop. If they don’t stop, leave. Leave the room, leave the house, and if it still doesn’t stop, leave the relationship.

4. Believe in something. God, Spirit, Being, Art, Nature, Human Nature, Yourself (especially Yourself). A life devoid of belief is a life devoid.

5. Help others. If somebody needs help, lend a hand. You will be rewarded many times over. I started Dream of Things (to publish meaningful books) and the Note Project (to inspire others to share appreciation) because I wanted to do something meaningful for others. Along the way, I met many fascinating people and brought more meaning to my own life.

6. Lastly, open your heart. The heart has an infinite capacity for love. All you have to do is open up and let it out. Tell your loved ones that you love them. Tell them every chance you get–every time you see or talk or write to them. And when somebody hugs you, hug them back.

If you do each of those things, you will have a rich and meaningful life. The world will be your oyster, which brings me to one last thing:

Ask for the world. And when you get it, share it!

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Mike O'Mary is founder of the Note Project, a campaign to make the world a million times better by inspiring 1 million people to share notes of appreciation. He is also owner and publisher at Dream of Things, a book publisher and online retailer. In addition, Mike is author of The Note, a book about the power of appreciation, and Wise Men and Other Stories, a collection of holiday-related essays.

In his career, Mike has written essays, fiction, drama and sketch comedy. He has published stories and essays in the Sunday magazines of the Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Baltimore Sun, Cleveland Plain Dealer and Detroit Free Press.

Mike has also written and produced sketch comedy in Chicago, and he was a commentator on WNIJ – Northern Illinois Public Radio, doing weekly commentaries as part of the local segment of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program.

Mike is a graduate of Knox College (BA in Economics and English-Writing), the University of Montana (MFA in Creative Writing, MA in English Literature), and the Second City Comedy Writing Program.

In addition to his creative work, Mike has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, producing speeches, annual reports and other executive communications for the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Mike's daughter, Kathleen, is an artist based in Chicago, Illinois. Mike is engaged to be married to Kathy Hayevsky, a Montessori teacher, in June 2011. They live in a 140-year-old house in Downers Grove, Illinois, along with several very noisy little birds.

For more information, please visit

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. That is funny Mike. Your saying that I have a meaniful life. I do all the steps that you put in your inspiration. Sometimes I forget to see all I do, because its a habit for me to do it. I told the problem I have with my back. All the positive people in my life stepped up to help any way they could. I cut out all the people that didn’t have my best intrest. My live has meaning today.
    Thankyou Mike, for the reminder.

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