Meaning and Life
What is the meaning of life? This is a very profound question in philosophy; perhaps the ultimate question. According to philosophical counselor Peter Raabe "before the question can be answered properly, it's essential to discover why it's being asked in the first place." He offers three different contexts for this: academic, religious, personal. Throughout the history of philosophy many answers have been given which tend to fall into two categories: theistic and non-theistic. The quality of any answer you receive to this question depends on assessing some of these background issues. Without knowing these I'll offer some general comments on the question that might be insightful.
A surprising number of academic philosophers don't address the question at all but a growing number of philosophers are begining to see the applied value of philosophy and are practicing something called philosophical counseling. For them, the question is not so much academic as it is personal and any adequate answer will take into account the very personal motivations of the person asking it. This is simply a way of saying that there really is no general answer to this question; no one-size-fits-all approach.
According to the logotherapy approach of Viktor Frankl the great motivation in life is to find meaning in the face of what he terms the "tragic triad:" pain, death, guilt. For him, meaning cannot be given but must be found in one's own life though there are tips he provides for how to do this focusing in part on our attitude towards things. In this respect there is some connection between logotherapy and stoicism. There are three types of value that can be used to find meaning in life: creative, experiential, and attitudinal.
Creative consists in achieving tasks such as one might achieve through work or parenting. Artistic endeavors also would fit into this category. For many people, meaning does not necessarily come through work which they view as Voltaire did as something which "keeps us from three great evils: boredom, vice, and poverty." If work doesn't provide you with sufficient meaning then you may have to explore other possibilities.
Another potential source of meaning is experiential. The experience of being in love or appreciating beaty are examples here. As well as friendship. As Epicurus said "nOf all the means which are procured by wisdom to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends."
Lastly is attitudinal which involves the question of how one faces unavoidable suffering through pain and death. Here is a famous example by Frankl:
A colleague, an aged general practitioner, turned to me because me could not come to terms with the loss of his wife, who had died two years before. His marriage had been quite happy, and he was now extremely depressed. I asked him quite simply: “Tell me what would have happened if you had died first and your wife had survived you?” “That would have been terrible,” he said.
“How my wife would have suffered!” “Well, you see,” I answered, “your wife has been spared that, and it was you who spared her, though of course you must now pay by surviving and mourning her.”
In that very moment his mourning had been given a meaning: the meaning of sacrifice. There was still suffering, but no longer despair. Because despair is suffering without meaning.