An Age-Old Question
Searching for more meaning in our lives has been an age-old preoccupation for us humans. Why am I here? What am I meant to do? What's the point of it all? And, most importantly in the modern-day world, what is it that will make me happy?
Dissatisfaction, or "Gimme More!"
It is human nature that when we feel dissatisfied with something - be it our jobs, our homes, our relationships, or even our lives in general - we feel there is something missing. And where there's something missing, we naturally decide that we want MORE of something.
The Evolution of "More"
In her book, "Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction", Laura Berman Fortgang makes an interesting observation. She has noticed that the nature of the "more" has changed over the past few decades. In the late 80's and early 90's, people were interested in having more things in their outer experience - more money, more status. We thought that the key to happiness lay in our outer experience, in the external, tangible world.
In the mid- to late- 90's, the sought-after "more" was time, that fleeting intangible. We wanted more time so that we could do more, spend more time with our families, have more fun. We were still focusing on an external experience, though now an intangible one. "Work-life balance" became the catchphrase, with people frantically rushing to get more rest.
More recently, it seems that our cultural sense of "more" has once again shifted. Perhaps it is that we are beginning to realize that we may not be able to fully achieve happiness exclusively through external experiences. We are, as a group, shifting to a more core, internal, and personal definition of meaning. So yes, despite the cliché of it, we are finally beginning to realize that we are human beings, not human havings or human doings.
Perhaps this change was spurred on by the catastrophe of 9/11, perhaps by the changing of the millennium, or maybe it's just another cultural meme. But today, more and more people are realizing that their priorities have been a bit out of whack, that there's a huge unfulfilled potential within themselves.
And that it is this unused, unexamined, and untapped part of ourselves that is the ultimate source of our internal disquiet.
The "If Only" Game
It is a cliché to say that the answer lies within. But, as with most clichés, it also holds the seed of truth. It is common for us to blame our general sense of vague malaise (and in some cases our acute suffering) on external things. It's easy to see this if we play the "if only" game. If only I had more money; if only I got that promotion; if only I knew what I wanted to do; if only I lost that weight; if only she'd love me; if only I hadn't married him; if only I'd had different parents... Then I'd be happy and fulfilled.
The Keys to the Kingdom, or, "Mommy, Where Does Meaning Come From?"
But the path to true happiness really lies in that simple little word: BE. In some ways, easier said than done. The real learning starts when you become accustomed to listening to that small, still voice within, and to follow its guidance. By being yourself, and being true to your unique inner promptings, you are then able to live out your full potential, in full alignment with your true self.
That is where meaning comes from. And that is the goal of Inklings - to share with you tips and tools to better connect with your inner knowing.
Wisdom Through the Ages
What I present is perhaps just a slightly simplified view of human evolution over the past several decades. Many greater thinkers than I have also pondered these issues over the years. I'd like to share with you some of their thoughts.
Socrates: To do is to be
Plato: To be is to do
Shakespeare: To be or not to be?
Sinatra: Doo-be doo-be doo
So what's the bottom line, how can we distill the essence of this great wisdom? Learn to listen for who you really are and, most important of all, don't forget to laugh - and to laugh at yourself!
Plant the Seeds:
Now it's your turn. Take a couple of minutes and think about these questions. You may want to write down your answers. Really. Take out a pen. Open a new file. Your inner knowing will often come out through writing.
1. What is it that you've been pursuing "more" of over the years? How has this changed over time? Be specific.
2. Play a round (or two, or ten) of the "if only" game. What have you blamed over the years for your sense of dissatisfaction? Think back, and be specific. At the end of each round, don't forget to chuckle a little to yourself.
3. What insights into your current situation do you get from your answers to these questions?
4. Try it out: set aside 5 (just five!) minutes every day to just BE. No distractions, no thoughts, no worries, no to-do lists. After a week or two, see what you got from this experience.
Inna Nirenburg is a powerful life coach and workshop leader. She uses her deep wisdom and intuition, as well as a concrete actionable process, to help you answer the question "What's Next?" in all areas of your life. See www.heyWhatsNext.com for more information.