This is a seemingly simple question, but it is perhaps, at the core of how we live and how we feel about ourselves. If we are able to be clear about what matters to us, accepting of this, and organizing our actions in support of this, life will likely be meaningful and, hopefully, satisfying. This seems pretty simple. So, then why do so many people seem to feel their lives lacks meaning and coherence? Why do so many people seem unsatisfied?
Ask yourself this question: “What matters to me?” “What do I value?” Maybe you immediately identify principles, people, and commodities that have meaning for you. Or maybe you are left with a blank space and confusion. Perhaps you begin with what you’ve been told should matter to you. Can you consider whether what you espouse is something that really resonates with you, or it’s something that is there to gain approval or to avoid disapproval? Now, spend some more time thinking and reflecting about this. Are you actually being honest with yourself? Are you leaving things out? Are you saying what you’d like to matter, but leaving out what you really prioritize over those things? Please spend some time reflecting and being open to these questions.
Now, when you have arrived at a clear, truthful sense of what this constellation consists of, allow yourself to envision what a life consisting of these elements looks and feels like. “Taste” your vision to see if it is to your liking. Let yourself step into this life. Is it satisfying? Full? Meaningful? If it is, see how it matches the life you are actually living. If it matches, then we’d both probably conclude that your life is what you want it to be. Is it satisfying? But if not, then we have a couple of more questions to explore: Is your actual life less than satisfying because you don’t include some of the things that you listed as really important to you (e.g. because you “shouldn’t” want those things)? Or is it that the way you live your life is not consistent with your stated values? What would you have to risk or do differently in order to create more of an alignment between the life that matters and the life that you live? What about that would be difficult for you? What kind of internal or external support would you need to face that difficulty?
If you have succeeded in this thought experiment, please revisit it. If it is too easy you have likely skimmed the surface. If it seems large and difficult, take solice in knowing that it actually is a large and difficult task. But it is one that is worth the on-going effort, since it will lead you to a life that feels vibrant with meaning and pulsing with immediacy.