We all have a desire to “live the dream,” this is a natural and compelling aspect of the human experience. The very essence and vital nature of motivation to live a life in the pursuit of happiness is set in motion as we live life and ask important life questions. However, it does not take long before the tables are turned and life begins to ask us questions. As we grow, we quickly learn that the direction and quality of our life is dependent upon our ability to answer questions asked by life.
Personal Life Questions
When I was a young boy I was moving with my parents and two brothers from Sacramento, CA to Salt Lake City, Utah. We had left late the night before, traveled through the night and were making our way out of a small town called Nephi, only an hour from our destination. When, as the early morning light was cresting the rocky mountains, my father feel asleep at the wheel for a brief moment. Our car began to drift, we were all violently awakened as we collided into a semi-truck on a merging road. The point of impact was on my fathers door, which knocked us off the road and through a fence into a farmers field.
My mom, brothers and myself were not seriously injured and after treating us for shock we were released from the hospital the next day. The doctors informed my mother that my fathers heart was severely bruised and that his chances of survival were not good. Before leaving the hospital my mother made the decision to have us visit our father. I will never forget walking into the intensive care room, my young Dad of 28, who represented everything a wonderful Dad does to a six year old boy, laying in a bed, covered by a clear plastic oxygen tent.
As I approached his side, too weak to speak, he turned his head to face me and slowly moved his hand until it was outside the plastic tent. His gesture invited me to place my hand in the familiar grasp that represented both an acknowledgment and his value of me as his son.
I felt the most memorable communication of love, concern, and support. As I looked into his face and saw tears slowly emerge from his eyes and run down his cheeks, I remember feeling that he was saying goodbye and I unexplainably seemed to discern in his expression how sad and sorry he felt that he would not be here to help me grow up.
I remember the feeling of never wanting to remove my hand from his, as if holding his hand would give me the power to stop what I feared was about to happen.
Two days later my father passed away. In the next nine years I would experience the untimely death of my Aunt, Uncle, and grandmother. Everyone was gone on my fathers side of the family but my Grandfather. In my early developmental years I do not remember feeling angry, bitter or resentful. What I do remember, is that my life experiences compelled me to ask deep and spiritual questions about life. Or perhaps more appropriately stated, life was asking me a series of serious questions about me and how I would chose to relate to life!
What is life about? What do I believe in? Upon what do I place value? What am I committed to? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is my meaning and purpose in life?
The eminent historian Will Durant wrote of the human need “to seize the value and perspective of passing things...We want to know that the little things are little, and the big things big, before it is too late; we want to see things now as they will seem forever--’in the light of eternity.’”
Life’s Defining Questions
It is in living life and experiencing challenges that life is actually asking the most important questions that guide us and refine us in living a purposeful life. How we answer life questions can inspire us as well as expose what we do believe in, upon where and upon what we place value, and finally what we are committed to. The primary life questions that distill into a meaningful life are:
1. Who are you?
2. Why are you?
3. How do you feel about who you are?
4. What are you doing about it?
WHO ARE YOU?
Perhaps the most foundational question life asks, and asks repeatedly--everyday, is, “Who are you?” The answer to this question sets in motion the way you see the world and the motivational direction that follows. It is expressed and demonstrated in every response to life’s demands. Who you define yourself “to be” is a very spiritual and personal journey, and one that is ever changing through life experiences. Your answer to the question requires inspiration and an awareness of what feels most important to you both in your self-definition and in the demand quality in every moment. What do you do when the cashier returns to much money? How to you respond when you are wronged? When faced with what seems overwhelmingly difficult circumstances, do you remain resolved and committed in your purpose?
While this question may seem like a general question, life asks this question in a million different and specific ways. For that reason, the meaning found in the moment becomes increasingly important and defining! Every moment holds questions and opportunities, the realization itself determined by your awareness of who you are in the moment and the choices that follow. With a mind that is clear, recognizing what matters most, gleaned THROUGH LIFE EXPERIENCES, you find the motivation to make purposeful choices that supports you in living a meaningful life.
Dr. Hara, a writer for the Huffington Post, recently highlights that we all have a life purpose but many of us either haven't discovered it or haven't enacted our true calling. When we act on our talents, inherent abilities and natural likings, we notice that success comes more easily. In this way we also attach love to what we do. Then, we no longer regard work as a job but as a calling. This lesson reminds us that we have a real reason to be here that must satisfy both our life purpose and provide financial security. Integrate your vocation into what you do, whether it's as a full-time or part-time job, volunteer work or even as a hobby you practice each day.
WHY ARE YOU?
Not so much a question of what has made you, but rather your personal understanding of “why” you choose “who you are” and “why” you live the way you do today! Imperative in this answer to the question is the personal awakening to your call to “why you live life.” At its core, your why must be anchored in the belief that your life provides value to someone or something in the world! It is involves the cognitive transformation of the way you think about your life and why you make the choices you make based upon that value.
Retaining this belief sustains you when feeling doubt, fear, and insecurity. Retaining this belief helps you navigate through loneliness, being tired, and persevere even when you cannot see how things are going to turn out.
Knowing your “why” not only creates the mental awareness of who you are, but the motivation to sustain your course no matter how difficult. Regardless of the outome, knowing your “why” supports the inner freedom so that despite the challenges you have truly lived life!
HOW DO YOU “FEEL” ABOUT WHO YOU ARE?
Understanding of “who you are” and “why you are” refers to making sense of the self, life, and one’s place in the world. A sense of responsibility to life questions and what you feel your value is to the world ensures that you will behave as a responsible and moral person. Joy comes from living true to what you feel is important, relatively free from circumstances and fleeting emotions.
However, in attempting to live true to what is important to you, to feel whole, you must cope with the constant challenge that you are not perfect! Being imperfect in an imperfect world creates emotional conditions of emotional pain and frustration. How you cope with the yearning to be whole strongly influences how you feel and act in life.
How you feel about yourself and life is the result of your self-evaluation of how you are progressing, wether you are moving closer to wholeness and your ideal or moving away. Do you evaluate yourself as improving, being more and more authentic, independent of where others stand in relation to you? Do you feel that despite your inadequacy you are able to live the life you desire? Evaluating where you are now and what direction you are going, either toward wholeness or away, will strongly influence your emotional well being and physical health.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?
The first three questions and their respective answers set the stage for this last question. However, regardless of your answers, in this question the responsibility of choice stands firmly and independently from all else. Do you feel you have a choice and responsibility to pursue what is most important? Have you defined what those things are and make daily commitments?
Does life continue to place you in situations that you are getting “life messages” to do something? Have you felt a call to act in those areas of your life you deem as most important? Are those salient areas dedicated to confer value on something or someone? Do you feel a personal responsibility to be accountable to your life call? Do you feel that regardless of the outcome, you are living with purpose, driven by inner promptings?
It is your choice, your commitment to live life in harmony with who you are, knowing you are of value and that you make a difference, feeling you are progressing toward wholeness by “becoming” better as you “live for something or someone” you value. Such a commitment directs your focus on the goal, not becoming distracted by the challenges and demands of life.
Life will ask you many questions, it is the answer and commitment to live in the integrity to these four questions that will influence the probability of living the good life!