If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my brief time on Earth, it’s that a life worth living should be lived in a way that is in accord with your nature. The trouble is, though, is that our nature becomes obfuscated by the trappings of a life that requires taking on an ever-increasing amount of responsibility. In this fog of life, it becomes increasingly difficult to see that which resides deepest within us, so we rely more and more on social programming to make decisions. To overcome this and really reconnect with that which stirs your soul requires some effort, but it’s well worth it, because it’s important to live as your authentic self.
Living in accord with our nature requires alignment between our inner essence, our je ne sais quois, and our outer actions. When action flows from this place of purity, it will be authentic action and thus a proper reflection of who we are as a human being.
Like everything we do in our lives, this path to discovery is not an exact science, so like the financials say, your results will vary. Getting to know your inner essence is a process of tinkering and experimentation to produce results, then reflection to ensure they are the right results.
So, grab a notebook and a pen. Here are four activities to get you started. Be creative. Play around with them. Tailor them to your life. You may as well have a little fun along the way.
Identify Energy Sources
What gives you energy? Take a moment to reflect on your last few months. Write down all the activities that gave you energy, that got you excited, that fueled your creative being. What left you with a sense of pride, accomplishment, or excitement? Anything that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when it happens is fair game. Make as big a list as you can. Take your time.
What Angers You?
What drives you to compassionate anger? What are the topics and ideas that make you jump out of your seat when you hear about them on the evening news and either defend or refute? Write them down.
Who do you admire?
Make a list of people you admire. Now detail what it is about each person you admire. Is it a particular skill, a way that they approach life, or perhaps a line of work they make look easy? Do some analysis and identify the patterns in your answers.
Recognize the patterns
Now, with your lists in place, review them and look for common themes and patterns. What are the linkages between the activities, events, and ideas on your lists?
These themes and patterns point to the types of work that motivate you, that arise from a deeper personal connection to the subject matter. If something stirs the passions within you, it’s connected to your inner essence and should not be reduced to a trifle. Make another list that highlights these key themes.
Finally, use daily exercise to stay in touch. At the end of each day, spend 15 minutes reflecting on your day. Record three things in your notebook: your high, your low, and what you learned. Your high is whatever gave you energy or was a big win for the day. The low, of course, is what took energy from you. And what did you learn?
At the end of the week, take 30 minutes to analyze what you recorded. This analysis is important, because, again, you’re looking for the patterns among the days. How can you categorize the the things that gave you energy? Learning is an integral part of living a fulfilled life. Are you missing learning opportunities? Are there skills that you would like to learn that you are not? Identify and record the gaps.
I really like this exercise for a few reasons. One, it gets me thinking about what’s inside of me on a daily basis, such that I never lose touch. And two, it gives me a reason to write every day. Sometimes, my musings turn into full-blown journal entries. Other times, they are pithy and to the point. But the important part is that you need not place constraints on your entries but that you simply let it flow naturally.
Like a painting, which changes its meaning depending on perspective, a picture begins to emerge through the lens of your insights. When you can identify the activities that energize you, take your energy, or fill you with compassion, then you begin to understand what stirs your soul.
What I’ve discovered in my own life is that the answers to these questions rarely point to one distinct thing or path. Instead, they serve as a compass, which gives you directional guidance relative to true north and helps you to stay on course. The important thing to take away from these exercises is that you listen and respond to your gut. The more often you can let your intuition guide you, the closer you will be to matching your outer actions to your inner essence and the most authentic version of yourself.
Like a good navigator, you have to take regular readings and course correct as necessary. Consider these exercises to be your readings. Now, if you’re off course, plot your way back. Keep tracking and keep correcting. If you’re focused on the way instead of finding the way, you cannot fail in your journey.