Much of the meaning of life comes down to finding good work and love. Often enough when people ask about the point of it all, they are lacking something important in those dimensions of life. This is why it's vital to clarify your direction in life and to pursue it.
Your direction is what you do with your life, its contents - what do you want in terms of relationships (partner, children, friends and so on) and what do you do for work, for passions and interests. Today's post will help you to reflect more deeply on your direction in life, by tapping into your deeper desires.
The practical value in clarifying your direction by clarifying your deeper desires, is that those desires can be formulated as the goals you aim at. So your life does not happen by chance, you do not mindlessly walk into an old-age of emptiness and regret, but rather craft a life that you really, deeply want.
When you have clear goals you can create a plan, mapping out how you want your life to look. Then, as your proceed, you can measure if you're on track. Many people balk when I say this, as though it's unromantic to plan these things, but what's wrong with taking your life in hand and making it work? Sure, many things are out of your control, but that does not mean you should give up and drift with the current. Rather you need a balance between accepting what is out of your control, and the courage and effort to change what you can. To do that, you need to know what change is worth creating, and how to gauge that you're on the path to it. So let's get to work on clarifying your direction in life, and then formulating a practical plan to make that happen.
Take a paper and pen and find a quiet place. We're going to do a reflective exercise. This is called a deathbed meditation. As you read, imagine the scene I am describing, with yourself at the center, experiencing everything I am describing.
Pause, breathe, and then begin to imagine. Step ahead in time, a short number of decades from now. You are in a hospital room. On your own. White sheets. The curtains are drawn. It is night. Bright florescent lights. A monitor quietly beeps. You are on your back, wrinkled hands at your side. Feel how slow and hard it is to breath. You can't feel your feet. Your body feels heavy. And you feel tired. Deeply tired. You know you are dying. You know that you have little time. You will die during the night. This is your final reflection.
Close your eyes and enter into this experience, which will be yours a short number of decades from now. See it. Feel it.
As you look over your life, you hear a question forming in the back of your mind. "If I could go back in time - say, back to 2019, and start again from there - what would I do differently?"
What would I do more of?
Just float with these questions, with the feeling of them, letting anything come to mind.
What do I wish I had done, now that it's too late and my life is over?
What do I wish I had done differently with relationships and love?
Now slowly return from this reflection and write your answers down. Divide the page into those three categories if you like - relationships, work, passions - but either way just write down everything that came to mind.
Think of these as your lifelong, long-term goals. They are the direction in which you want to go, the shape you want your life to take.
It's vitally important to clarify these goals. But they are useless unless you make them happen. So let’s get used to breaking them down from long-term goals into medium-term ones - into aims which lead to your goals.
Take the three most important of the goals you wrote down, and imagine that a year from now you are doing well in pursuing them and making them a reality. To work out what your medium-term aims are, finish the statements below for each of the three:
Your answers serve as medium-term aims which enable you to move toward your life goals and to measure whether you are doing so.
If you want to enrich today's reflection then I invite you to read my last post and write out answers to following:
Okay, so those are some medium term paths to your ultimate goals. You could write this out and put it on your desk so you can reflect on it over time, and monitor whether you are creating your ideal direction in life or just treading water.
Now you can do the same break-down for the short-term. Just as you designed medium-term aims which are the means to achieving your long-term goals, you can break these medium-term aims down into things you need to be doing today and tomorrow, and a week from now, and a month from now - into short-term aims which are the means to medium-term goals, which themselves are the means to long-term goals. If this sounds complicated, consider how you would approach building your health, fitness, and strength, especially if you are out of shape. And how you would approach starting and building a business or career. It's the same, and why be lazy with the most important, big picture which is your life as a whole? I often see my work as similar to a personal trainer in this regard; it's about formulating the right goals, but also doing the daily work of sticking to them so real transformation actually happens.
It should be clear from today's reflection that you can take hold of your life and make it much better - perhaps even great - through this process. One consequence is that when you look back from your deathbed, you might be filled with pride and gratitude for how your life turned out. But even more important, to my mind, you'll be able to feel those emotions in all the intervening years. Pursuing worthwhile goals transforms the whole journey.