Ever feel like you’re just drifting through life, not really living with purpose or meaning? You go through the motions each day, checking off tasks and responsibilities but not really connecting with anything or anyone in a deep, meaningful way. The truth is, many of us live rather shallow lives, skimming the surface of life without diving into the depths of what matters. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
You have the power to shift your mindset and habits to start living more meaningfully. It begins with choosing to go deeper—with yourself, your relationships, your work, your hobbies, and your impact. Deeper living is the art of purposefully and consciously choosing depth over shallowness in all areas of your life. If you’re ready to break free from the shallow end and start swimming in the deep waters of life, here are a few tips about How to Stop Being Shallow.
Table of Contents
Define What Being “Shallow” Means to You
To stop being shallow, you first need to define what that means for you. For some, it’s focusing too much on appearances and material things. For others, it’s lacking meaningful relationships and life experiences.
Take some time for self-reflection. Think about the areas of your life where you feel unfulfilled or like something is missing. Are you living for the approval of others? Do you value accumulating possessions over life’s meaningful moments? Identify the behaviors and habits that you want to change.
Once you’ve gained clarity, start making small changes. If social media makes you feel inadequate, limit your time on those platforms. Engage in real conversations instead. If you’re too caught up in work or chores, make time for hobbies, socializing, and new adventures. Read books on personal growth or spirituality. Travel if you can; it provides perspective.
Develop your interests and pursue your passions. Having a sense of purpose and things you care deeply about leads to a more meaningful existence. Nurture your close relationships; they are life’s greatest gifts. Express gratitude, help others, and practice mindfulness.
Appreciate each day as a new opportunity. Meaningful living is about embracing life’s beauty and wonder, even in small moments. It’s accepting yourself as you are instead of chasing unrealistic societal standards of happiness and success. Make the choice each day to live deeply and love fully. That is the art of meaningful living.
What are the Signs of Being Shallow?
So how do you know if you’ve become shallow? Here are some signs to watch out for:
- You care more about appearance than substance. If you spend more time worrying about how you seem to others than developing your character and skills, that’s a red flag.
- You lack meaningful relationships. Shallow people tend to have superficial relationships that lack depth or vulnerability. Do you have close friends you can share your struggles with?
- You’re materialistic. If you base your happiness and self-worth on accumulating lavish possessions, you may have become shallow. True meaning comes from relationships and experiences, not things.
- You lack empathy. Shallow individuals tend to be self-centered and lack compassion for others. Do you make an effort to understand different perspectives and show kindness towards people from all walks of life?
- You lack self-awareness. Shallow people tend to lack insight into their motivations, behaviors, and impact on others. Spend time in self-reflection to gain a deeper understanding of yourself.
- You lack curiosity. Shallow individuals tend to be disinterested in learning, growing, and expanding their minds. Cultivate a growth mindset by exploring new subjects that fascinate you.
How to Stop Being Shallow
To stop being shallow, focus on the inner qualities of people instead of their appearances. Appreciate people for their intelligence, kindness, humor, and other positive traits. Challenge yourself to have conversations that go beyond superficial topics. And remember that everyone is worthy of respect, regardless of their appearance.
1. Examine your priorities and values.
To live meaningfully, you need to examine what really matters to you—your priorities and values. Take time for self-reflection to gain clarity on what you care about most.
Identify your priorities.
What do you spend most of your time and energy on each day? The things you prioritize are what matter to you, whether you realize it or not. Make a list of how you allocate your time, money, and attention. Look for patterns to determine your true priorities.
Some common priorities include:
- Career and finances: Do you spend most of your time working or managing money?
- Relationships: Are your friends and family a top priority? Do you make time to connect with them often?
- Health and fitness: Do you prioritize exercising, eating right, and taking good care of yourself?
- Experiences: Do you highly value things like travel, adventure, and continuous learning?
Be honest with yourself. Don’t confuse your priorities with what you think they “should” be or what society values. Your true priorities are what motivate and fulfill you.
Define your core values.
Your priorities stem from your core values—the principles that guide your choices and behaviors. Common values include things like:
- Integrity: Are honesty and authenticity important to you?
- Growth: Do you value continuous self-improvement and expanding your mind?
- Compassion: Is kindness, empathy, and helping others a driving force?
- Creativity: Do you highly value innovation, imagination, and thinking outside the box?
Pinpoint 3 to 5 core values that shape your priorities and bring meaning to your life. Refer to them often to ensure you’re living according to what matters most. Make choices that align with your values, and avoid distractions that don’t.
Be willing to make changes to align your daily life with what fulfills you. Stay focused on what matters so you can move past the shallow and superficial. Living according to your priorities and values will lead to greater happiness, purpose, and inner peace.
2. Pursue your passions and interests.
To live meaningfully, pursue your passions and interests. Make time for the activities and subjects that excite you.
Explore your interests.
Think about the topics that spark your curiosity or creativity. What do you geek out about? What could you spend hours reading, watching, or doing? For some, it may be art, music, gaming, or cooking. For others, science, spirituality, or entrepreneurship Whatever interests you, dive in and learn more.
- Read books on the subject, follow experts on social media, and take an online course.
- Join local meetups or online communities to connect with like-minded people.
- If possible, take a hands-on class or workshop to gain experience.
Develop your passions.
Passions are interests you feel strongly about and are compelled to pursue. They energize and fulfill you. If you have a passion, make the time to actively cultivate it.
- Set concrete goals to improve your skills or knowledge over time. Even practicing for just 30 minutes a week can help you progress.
- Look for ways to share your passion with others through teaching, volunteering, or community organizing. This amplifies the meaning and impact.
- Don’t be afraid to turn a passion into a side gig or full-time job. Many successful businesses were born from a founder’s passion and interest.
Living meaningfully is about focusing on what excites and motivates you, not what society or social media says you “should” do. Pursue your authentic interests and passions, then watch as your life fills with more purpose and joy. Choose to go deeper into the subjects that stir your soul. Discover hidden talents and new parts of yourself along the way.
Meaningful living starts with following your inner compass, which points to your true passions and interests. So stop scrolling and start exploring. A life of purpose awaits!
4. Foster deeper connections.
To foster deeper connections in your life, make an effort to truly listen to others and be fully present in your interactions.
Put down your phone.
When talking with friends or family, put away your phone and other distractions. Make eye contact and pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. Listen for the meaning and emotion behind their words, not just the words themselves. Ask follow-up questions to show you understand and care about what they’re sharing.
Share details about yourself too.
While it’s important to listen to others, it’s also important to open up about what’s going on in your own life. Share your meaningful experiences, challenges you’re facing, and dreams or goals you have. Vulnerability breeds intimacy. Let others support and care for you in return.
Do small things with great love.
Look for small ways each day to show you care. Give sincere compliments, offer to help with chores or errands, and send a quick message to say you’re thinking of someone.
Spend quality time together.
Make the time to do things together with the important people in your life, not just quick chats over coffee or texting back and forth. Go for a hike together, cook a meal at home, and work on a project side by side. Engaging in shared experiences together creates memories and inside jokes that last far beyond the activity itself.
Meaningful relationships require effort and commitment. But by listening fully, sharing openly, showing you care in small ways each day, and making time for quality interactions together, you can build connections that nourish you and stand the test of time. Focus on depth over breadth, and watch your relationships blossom.
5. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone.
To live meaningfully, you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Staying in familiar territory may feel safe, but it limits your growth and experience. Challenge yourself in small ways each day to step into new situations that make you slightly uncomfortable.
Try a new activity.
Pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try but felt hesitant about for whatever reason. Take a class on something that interests you, like learning a new language, playing an instrument, gardening, or cooking. Join a local sports league or club to connect with others who share your interests. Pushing yourself into new activities exposes you to different perspectives and helps you discover new passions and talents.
Travel somewhere new.
Visit a city you’ve never been to before. Traveling to new places challenges you in many ways and provides opportunities for learning and adventure. Even taking a short road trip to a nearby town you’re unfamiliar with can lead to rewarding discoveries. Exploring new terrain, whether physically or mentally, expands your mind and enhances your life experience.
Strike up a conversation with someone new.
Start a genuine conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t, like a neighbor you’ve never spoken to or someone at your local coffee shop. Ask open-ended questions and listen without judgment. Connecting with people from diverse backgrounds fosters understanding and compassion. You may find that you have more in common than you expected. Making new social connections, however small, leads to a sense of shared humanity.
Pushing your limits by stepping out of your routine and habitual ways of thinking and doing is how you grow as an individual. Challenge yourself to try one new thing each week, no matter how small. Move past the shallow and dive into life with an open and curious mind. The rewards of living meaningfully await you outside of your comfort zone.
6. Practice Mindfulness
To live meaningfully, you need to stop rushing through life on autopilot. One of the best ways to do this is through the practice of mindfulness.
Pay attention to your senses.
Slow down and notice the little details in your everyday experiences. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste? Appreciate the colors in a sunrise, the sounds of birds chirping, the scent of your morning coffee, the warmth of a hug, or the flavors in your meal. Tuning into your senses helps anchor you in the present moment.
Focus on your breathing.
Take some time each day to sit quietly and focus on your inhales and exhales. Breathe naturally and notice the flow of your breath. If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to your breathing. Even just 5 or 10 minutes a day of focused breathing can help reduce stress and increase awareness.
Minimize interruptions from electronics like phones, TVs, and computers. Spend time engaged in one activity at a time and avoid multitasking. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re exercising, just exercise. When you’re talking with someone, just listen and engage with them. Single-tasking helps you appreciate each moment as it happens.
At the end of each day, spend a few minutes reflecting on your experiences. What moments did you fully experience? What did you learn? How did you grow? Journaling or discussing your reflections with a friend or loved one can help provide insight into living more purposefully.
Making these mindfulness practices a habit will transform your life from shallow to meaningful. You’ll start to slow down, focus on what matters, and gain a deeper appreciation for each moment and experience. Ultimately, living meaningfully is about embracing life as it happens rather than rushing through it.
7. Be curious and open-minded.
To live meaningfully, you must open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking. Curiosity about the world around you and the people in it will lead to greater understanding and insight.
We all have implicit biases and make assumptions about people and situations. Challenge yourself to question those assumptions. Try to see issues from multiple perspectives. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes—how might they view the situation differently? Exposing yourself to diverse opinions and life experiences will help broaden your mind.
Meaningful living means continuous learning and growth. Read books on topics you know little about. Take a class on something new. Travel when you can—immersing yourself in different cultures is a great way to gain new perspectives. Have conversations with people whose backgrounds and beliefs differ from your own. Listen with an open mind and seek to understand rather than judge.
Admit when you’re wrong.
It can be difficult to admit when you’re wrong, but doing so is a sign of an open and curious mind. Be willing to accept new evidence and perspectives that contradict your beliefs. Change your views based on facts, not opinions. “I was wrong” or “I don’t know” are phrases that open-minded people are comfortable using.
8. Help others.
To live meaningfully, make a habit of helping and being kind to others. “Lend a Helping Hand
Offer assistance to people in your life who could use an extra hand. Help an elderly neighbor with yard work or errands. Volunteer at a local charity or community organization. Make meals for someone who is sick or has a new baby.
- Helping others gets your mind off your worries and boosts your self-esteem and purpose.
- You’ll form new connections and relationships, combating loneliness and isolation.
9. Practice Compassion
Put yourself in other people’s shoes and be empathetic toward their struggles and suffering. Reach out to someone who is going through a difficult time with a card or message of support. Donate to causes and charities that help those less fortunate.
- Compassion reduces stress and leads to greater happiness and life satisfaction.
- It spreads positive feelings between people and fosters a kinder society.
Be kind whenever possible.
Make it a habit to engage in random acts of kindness each day, no matter how small. Smile, make eye contact, and say please and thank you. Compliment strangers and colleagues. Let someone go ahead of you in line. Pay for the order of the person behind you at the drive-thru.
- Kindness is contagious and spreads quickly. Your small acts may inspire others to do the same.
- It boosts your own mood and mental well-being through the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Ways to develop depth in character
To develop depth of character, you need to move past superficial interests and pursuits. Here are some ways to cultivate more meaningful living:
1. Pursue your passions.
What excites or interests you? Make time to delve into hobbies, activities, or subjects that spark your curiosity. Read books on topics you care about, take a class on something new, or join a local club to find like-minded people. Having pursuits that energize you leads to a more purposeful life.
2. Develop empathy
Try to see things from other perspectives. Read about people from different walks of life. Travel if you can, as this exposes you to new cultures and beliefs. Volunteer your time for a good cause. Getting outside your own experience helps you understand others better and become less self-centered.
3. Reflect regularly
Spend time each day thinking about your life, goals, relationships, and choices. Journaling or meditation are great ways to gain insight into yourself and see where you can improve. Ask yourself probing questions about what matters to you and how you can live according to your values. Self-reflection leads to wisdom and depth of character.
4. Surround yourself with meaningful people.
The company you keep has a strong influence on you. Make an effort to connect with people who share your interests and values. Engage in deep conversations about life’s big questions. Challenge each other to think critically about important issues. Strong, authentic relationships add richness and purpose.
5. Continuously learn and expand your mind.
Read books on philosophy, spirituality, science, history, and psychology. Listen to thought-provoking podcasts. Take a free online course. Exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking helps you become a more thoughtful, well-rounded person. Never stop learning and growing.
Following these steps will lead you to a life of greater meaning, connection, and depth. Choose to go deeper—your life will be so much richer for it.
So there you have it: a few tips to help you start living more meaningfully and move past the shallow. It won’t happen overnight, but with practice and persistence, you can get there. Focus on genuinely connecting with others. Pursue your passions and interests, not what society or social media tells you to care about.
Spend less time curating how your life appears to others and more time living it. Appreciate each moment and experience for what they are. Your life has meaning and purpose; you just have to slow down long enough to see it. Choose to go deeper; you won’t regret it. A meaningful life is out there waiting for you. Now go get started living it!
- The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck: This book is about how to live a more fulfilling life by embracing challenges and taking responsibility for your own happiness .
- Deep and shallow thinking in the long run by Heinrich Harald Nax, Jonathan Newton, First published: 25 November 2022, https://doi.org/10.3982/TE4824
- The nature of thinking, shallow and deep by Gary L. Brase*,Department of Psychological Sciences, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA, ( This article is part of the Research Topic ,From is to ought: The place of normative models in the study of human thought) published in https://www.frontiersin.org/
Call to Action
It’s important to remember that change takes time. Don’t get discouraged if you slip up every now and then. Just keep practicing these tips, and eventually you’ll see a difference.
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