Finding your purpose in life

This thought kind of follows on from this one, where I question the reliability of asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. While I still think it’s near impossible to answer this question – and indeed find your purpose in life – I do think there are some questions you can ask that will help you on your way.

This list of seven strange questions from Mark Manson is particularly interesting.

I especially like questions #2, #3, #4, #6, and #7…

  • What is true about you today that would make your eight year-old self cry?
  • What makes you forget to eat and poop?
  • How can you better embarrass yourself? (This one needs some explaining, so read the article by Mark).
  • If you had to leave the house all day every day, where would you go and what would you do?
  • If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

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Probably still not going to give you reliable answers – because your thoughts will always be coloured by recent experiences – but an interesting exercise in navel gazing nonetheless!

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Finding your purpose in life

Why you don’t really know when you were at your happiest

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently. She was advocating the practice of sitting quietly and asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. The idea is that when you find that moment, you should plan your life to go forward in that direction.

While this is a nice idea in principle, I think it’s fundamentally flawed because we can’t reliably determine when we were at our happiest.

At any given moment, our thoughts and decisions are coloured by what is going on, or what has recently gone on around us. This uncontrollable mental filter changes the way we think, so with such grand questions it’s highly likely we will come to different answers on different days.

 

The only way to reliably determine when we are/were at our happiest is to engage third parties for triangulation. Yes, we can come to a decision on our own, but would independent observers reach the same decision?

Keeping a journal or blog can help, but our interpretation of what we have written can again be coloured by recent events.

An independent viewpoint is key. The difficult part is finding the observer who has known you long enough, and well enough, to be objective and honest.

Why you don’t really know when you were at your happiest