Sooner or later all of us question the meaning of life.
Sooner or later all of us question the meaning of life. The sooner we get to it, the better chance we have of finding a satisfactory answer. As a therapist I watch many of my clients pass through stages of personal growth. Once they work through the issues that have held them back, they often begin to ask, "What now?"—which prompts a desire to search for meaning.
"It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are," said Oprah Winfrey, "not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within—that you can begin to take control."
Searching for the meaning of one's life is a discovery process, a learning experience and a creative event. By reviewing the kind of person you are and the abilities that come naturally to you, even if they got you into trouble in the past, you can gain insight into your life purpose.
I have developed a series of questions to help my clients identify their personal qualities, talents, desires, values and recurring patterns or circumstances that repeat in their lives. (There is no "right" or "wrong" answer and one answer isn't necessarily better than another. The exercise is just to help you get a more objective look at your own unique strengths and abilities). You may find it helpful to write your answers down.
To identify your personal qualities answer the following questions:
- Are you friendly, open, or outgoing? Or, are you solitary, quiet, or reserved?
- Are you a good listener and receptive? Or are you a communicator, someone others listens to?
- Are you a dreamer or an intellectual?
- What other qualities do you have?
To identify your talents answer the following:
- Are you good with your hands? Do you excel at a craft, needlework, or carpentry or do you have mechanical gifts?
- Are you artistic? Can you paint or draw? Can you sculpt or throw pottery? Do you dance, act, or direct?
- Are you musically inclined? Can you play an instrument or sing? Do you compose, appreciate, or critique music?
- Are you a skilled communicator? Are you a good conversationalist or writer? Are you a good public speaker or teacher?
- Do you have other intellectual talents? Are you good at math, spatial relations, computer games, or programming? Do you have a knack for solving puzzles?
- What other talents do you have?
What are your desires?
- Do you want to travel?
- Is there a political cause that interests you? For instance, would you like to clean up the environment?
- Would you like to express yourself musically or artistically or as a public speaker, writer, or teacher?
- Do you want to help animals or save human lives?
- Do you want to become a healer or health-care worker?
- List any other desires, no matter how fanciful, that don't appear on this list.
What circumstances seem to repeat in your life?
- Do you often wind up teaching, talking to, organizing, or leading groups?
- Do you find yourself repeatedly working with computers, plants, paintbrushes, horses, babies, heavy machinery, microscopes, or any other item?
- Do people tell you their life stories (whether or not you ask)?
- Write down any other recurring thoughts, patterns, or circumstances.
Now Find Your Life Purpose!
Using the above listed talents, qualities, desires, and circumstance rewrite the following sentence:
I __________(your name) am designed to be a __________(insert personal quality) who can __________(insert talent) and I find myself__________(fill in recurring patterns or circumstances) often, because I am supposed to__________(desire).
Once you've developed this statement, then confirm it with the following visualization.
Is It the Right Life Purpose? Find Out Using Your "Inner Mentor."
In this visualization, designed to help you achieve a helpful perspective on your own future, you create an advisor for your life decisions. Ask a friend to read the following to you, or record it and play it back. The exercise should be read very slowly and quietly. I've used both feminine and masculine pronouns—use your own gender.
Relax, breathe slowly and comfortably, get comfortable in your chair, and picture a mentor of seventy or more. This mentor is just the kind of elder you admire, the one you would like to become. She is financially secure, in good health, surrounded by people who care about her, has good friends and a good family. She or he has lots of interests to keep him busy and she stays active.
Introduce yourself to this mentor as he gives you his name, you notice it's the same as yours—this is you, later in life. Make an agreement with this ideal older self that you will get advice from her about what decisions you need to make, as life goes on, to live to her healthy and happy state of being. Continue your conversation with him as long as you wish, and ask him what his secret is for living to such a robust and wise old age.
Check out the statement you developed with this mentor. For example, how does this inner counselor react to your life purpose? At this age, will you look back on it and think it was worth it? Does your wise self-approve? Does he think your choice will last? What is the difference between what you regard as important and what she regards as important?
All the experiences of your life, especially the difficult ones, have taught you valuable skills—using what you've learned in life to help others can create meaning out of pain. Every trial that you face has something to teach you and can become a source of wisdom. Your inner wise mentor knows this well.
Your "inner mentor" is a very effective tool to help you look at your own life and your decisions from a different and valuable perspective. The decisions you make today affect the rest of your life, and you are ultimately the only person to whom you are accountable and for whom you are responsible. Every new decision is truly a new life's resolution.
Adapted from: The REAL 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page) ISBN #1-56414-548-4 © Tina B.Tessina, 2010
This article was originally published at Tinatessina.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.