Look at the big picture: What is the purpose of your life?

August 16, 2011 

“An unexamined life is not worth living”

-- Socrates

There is an old adage, “What we don’t know can’t hurt us.” But sometimes it can. How? We can choose to go unwittingly through life, living by the unexamined values and lessons our parents taught us, automatically. We can continue these automatic traditions and practices and be hurt by not realizing our full potential. We can be hurt by not noticing the impact of our actions on those we love. We can be hurt by pretending unkind words and actions don’t bother us. We can ignore our body’s reactions to stress. We can be blind to human suffering in the world. We can just plain not notice.

Or we can live more of a Socratic life, bring into the light our automatic practices, challenge our beliefs and truly examine our basic assumptions To get a better idea of your life assumptions ask yourself the following questions:

n What are my guiding life principles?

n What is the purpose of my life?

n What is truth?

n What is freedom?

n What is commitment?

n What is right or wrong?

n Who am I?

n What do I want?

n What are my talents?

Then ask, where did I get these notions? For starters, recall life events (both traumatic and wonderful), religious teachings, conscious decisions and influences of special people that contributed to their formation. What legacy would you like to leave when you die? Examine your responses closely. Did your answers to these questions change as you matured or have they been constant? Are you still holding tight to a lifestyle you’ve outgrown? Which of these beliefs do you want to keep? What ideas do you want to try out instead? How would a change in your values impact your family and friends? Could you take a leap of faith? Do you feel better with a plan?

These are big picture questions and answers. Another way of consciously examining our lives is to notice the little stuff, the details of our lives. We can start by taking inventory of our possessions. Right now -just turn your head and observe everything in your view? What do you see? What do you really like? What do you really need? What of your stuff has outgrown its purpose? Or do an instant replay of your day as your head hits your pillow at night. What did you actually do? What did you like, dislike about your day/night? What would you like to do different tomorrow? Recall your day at the end of every day for a week and see what insights you gain. Big pictures can give us some goals, but our daily moments are how we move toward them.

Unconscious living needn’t hurt us. We can expand our awareness, make the unknown known and live intentionally, according to principles we have chosen.

That’s the Socratic idea -- to have a life worth living, examine it. Why not give it a shot?

Joan Dickinson, Ed.D., an Anna Maria Island resident, is a life coach, certified yoga/meditation instructor, health care/wellness consultant and a retired psychologist and behavioral health care director. Her column appears every other week. She can be contacted at 778-8356, P.O. Box 731, Anna Maria, FL 34216 or www.PerfectLifestyleCoach.com.

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