No one drifts to their desired destination. The process of creating a meaningful life requires two things: intention; and focused energy applied in the direction of our intention, otherwise known as focused attention.
How do we get started in determining our intention? Sometimes it helps to ask better questions. What do I mean by “better” questions? In moments when we become aware that we’re adrift in our own life, it’s tempting to ask unhelpful questions, like “Why is this happening to me?” Or “What’s wrong with me?” Or “Why is so-and-so doing so well, but I can’t seem to get ahead?” Or “Why do I even exist?”
At times like that, it can be helpful to shift our focus to different kinds of questions: questions that help us evaluate where we are, where we want to go, and how to get from here to there.
Ready? Here’s a sample.
How do I show up in life? Do people light up when I enter a room? Or when I leave it? How aware am I of the way I engage with others? With the way I speak? Behave? If the way I do things is as important as the things I do, how am I doing? Am I even aware that the way I show up in life - in relation to other people and in relation to myself - is a choice? Do I need to shift the way I show up? What are small things I can do to that end?
Am I moving forward in my life & purpose? Am I connecting & contributing? Am I living out my role as a creative contributor? Or am I merely existing as a consumer? Isolated in escapism? Am I engaging my life? Or am I trying to escape it? Do I need to shift? How can I shift from escapism to engagement?
Am I stuck? Am I coasting? Am I cycling in stasis, repeating patterns from the past? Am I hoping things will get better? Or am I making them better? What actions am I taking to produce the results I want? Am I willing to make the leap if it means moving towards my goals?
How do I approach my problems? With doom & gloom? With paralyzing anxiety? With resignation that they’ll never get better? Or with a sense of optimism that my thoughts, words and actions can make a difference?
What does an optimally functional & effective life look like? How about marriage? Vocation? Spiritual life? Relationships with friends & extended family? On a scale of 1-10, how “optimally functional & effective” would I rate all these areas? How can I move the needle in these areas of my life? In all areas of my life?
Where do I actively focus my attention? Where do I passively allow my attention to drift? If our neurology is shaped and built in response to the way we focus our attention, what kind of brain am I building?
What about inputs & influences? What books am I reading? Who am I surrounding myself with? If we become the books we read and the people we associate with, who am I becoming? Do I need to cut ties with anyone? Do I need to seek out wise counsel or better friends? Do I need to read better books?
When it comes down to it, the way we show up in life is a choice: we can make the leap, put in the work, take the actions necessary to move our lives forward, and live life in crescendo, knowing that the best is yet to come; or we can play it safe, assume the role of the victim, stay stuck in past patterns, and drift into entropy, resigning ourselves to the “fact” that the best days of our lives are behind us.
The choice is ours.