Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself what it is that you actually want from life? Have you ever stopped to really think about it? Or do you just rhyme off some pat answer about “world peace” or “success” or something else that you think would be socially acceptable?
I think one of the biggest contributing factors to rising mental illness rates in the Western world is the fact that we DON’T think about this question enough. So today’s mantra is: ASK. And I’m challenging you to take some time this week to ask yourself the difficult questions that you’ve spent a lifetime trying to avoid.
The acceptable path
From the time we’re old enough to start school, we’re conditioned to orient ourselves towards “acceptable” paths in life. There are careers that we are pushed towards because they’re considered “safe” or “always in demand”. And we’re pushed away from those that our families consider ill-conceived.
We’re made to fear the worst should we ever seriously consider those other paths. We’re filled with thoughts of scarcity and lack and taught that what we want is not possible.
We’re taught to avoid the risk because if we fail disaster will ensue, and we will suffer greatly for it.
So we dutifully follow the paths that those we trust most have laid out for us. Despite the whispers within us that pull us in other directions, we begin to create a life based on other people’s values and beliefs before we’ve even had a chance to figure out our own.Are you following a path not meant to you b/c someone else thinks you 'should'? Click To Tweet
And always, that little niggle pulls at us. Something always feels not-quite-right in our lives, no matter how many outward signs of success we might accrue.
So we try to tune that little whisper out.
And in so doing, we move even further away from our best paths. We lose touch with our innermost Selves.
And that’s when we really start to feel lost. That’s where that forlorn, despairing feeling of “There has to be more to life than this…” comes from.
Because we will never be truly happy while following someone else’s path.
And what happens is that we get caught on these hamster wheels of endless activity. And we run, run, run for so long that we don’t even know why we’re doing it anymore.
…and drifting aimlessly
We burn ourselves out for things that we really don’t care about, but pretend to because we think we should. Because other people expect us to. Our reasons for being on this path in the first place were never ours to begin with, so we lose that ineffable “something” within that gives us our reason to keep going.
And so we drift.
And we feel more and more alienated from life, and from the people who mean the most to us.
Get off the treadmill
The problem is this: Being on someone else’s path is like being on a treadmill. You can go as fast as you want, for as long as you want, but in the end you haven’t really moved at all. You’re still in the same place.
If you want to live a life of meaning, you must be doing something that matters TO YOU. Not to your parents, or your grandmother, or your sister, or your teachers.
All those people are interpreting the world through their own experiences and values. And all of their beliefs about what’s best for you are filtered through those lenses.
Meaning is a personal thing
Meaning is a very personal thing, and without a sense of what’s important to you, you cannot be truly invested in anything that you do. And that’s a fundamental thing for humans – feeling as though we are contributing to something that matters.Without a sense of meaning in life, we drift. Are you asking the right questions to find it? Click To Tweet
Without understanding your OWN values and touchstones, you will always be at the mercy of the opinions of others. You will always second-guess yourself. You will always feel as though something is “missing”. You will always be living a second-hand life.
Asking the questions
The only solution is to figure out what’s meaningful to you.
To sit with your Self and ask the questions that you have never asked — the questions that you are afraid to ask:
- Who am I, and who do I want to be?
- What do I hope people say about me when I’m not in the room?
- What are the things and experiences that bring me the most joy and allow me to experience and express my best self, such that all others who see me are inspired to become their own best selves, too?
And, once asked, to open your heart and listen for the answers that are already there – the answers that have always been there, waiting for you to find them.
And getting the answers
Once you have your answers, you will begin to understand who you really are.
Once you begin incorporating those answers into the life that you have already created you will begin to understand what it was that you felt was missing for so long. And an unparalleled sense of joy will become your new normal.
But you must begin by asking yourself the right questions.
So, what do you want from life?
photo credit: pixabay.com cc (modified by me)