Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. Sooner or later we will ask ourself a question such as , “What am I doing here?’, or “What is my life about” or the big one “Who am I”. Are we trying to make as much money as possible, find security, be happy, just get by? Understand that we are quite capable of living each day of our life working hard, accomplishing things, expending huge amounts of energy and yet have no real idea why we are doing it. But if we have never reflected on our life and our motivations then what exactly is guiding our life from day to day?
It is one thing if we are fortunate enough to be relatively happy even if we are unclear why do what we do. If life progresses relatively smoothly then the need to ask the big questions make slip by without notice. But what if we are unhappy with our life, our relationships, our job? What if we are confronted by events and issues that we simply are unprepared for?
For most people, taking stock of their life and asking questions seems to occur when their life goes out of control for one reason or another. Health issues, death of a loved one, a failing relationship or any one of a thousand other unwanted surprises. As we try to come to terms with such events it would be helpful to have a clear direction so that we could plot a meaningful course of action. But where will that direction come from without having taken the time to ask the very questions needed to give us those answers?
Where do we begin to make changes, what gets changed and what gets left alone, and exactly how do we go about doing this anyway? When I think about this question I can’t escape the conclusion that if we do not begin the process of consciously learning how to live our own lives, then we must unconsciously be living someone else’s. Perhaps that acquired system flows from our parents, our culture, our social values. I am not necessarily criticizing those sources of learning. I am saying that they probably do not accurately reflect your personal and unique needs and therefore cannot provide the best source of nurturing and direction for you.
The most important things that we can learn can not be taught to us by anyone else. Each of us possesses the ability to do the learning once we see how to do it and, assuming our day to day survival needs are satisfied, that is our primary responsibility. Unfortunately, a complex and frustratingly difficult journey. But as narrow, long, and twisty a road it may be, it all begins and ends with our choice to travel on it, or not.