Consuming is easy. But consumption produces just a short-term burst of happiness.
Buying something and browsing social media are examples of consumption. They come naturally to us and produce short-term happiness but don’t generate long-term meaning.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consume. Some consumption, like food, is necessary to survive. And many types of consumption are entertaining. Examples beyond buying something and browsing social media include listening to music, reading books, and watching movies. And entertainment contributes to a happy life.
However, long-term meaning comes from producing, not consuming.
And producing is difficult. Especially producing something valuable that other people want. It requires sacrificing some of the short-term happiness of consuming.
Examples of production are just the reverse of examples of consumption. If someone is buying something, then someone else must have built the thing that is being bought. If someone is browsing social media, then someone else must have created the content that is being browsed. Building things and creating content are examples of production.
Producing something valuable takes careful thought, planning, building your product, putting it out there, taking in feedback, and continually refining it. It’s painful and you need to be dedicated and disciplined to overcome the pain.
Because production demands dedication and discipline, you can’t produce in many areas of your life. The best of us produce in one or two domains during a given period of our lives.
One way to find the thing or things that you are likely to be dedicated and disciplined enough to produce is to think about what you, for whatever underlying reason, find meaningful.
The other way is to think about those things which you find less painful to do than most other people. Perhaps you even find them pleasurable.
Taking these two approaches together, you can produce something where the meaning is worth the pain.