When we look back upon our life, the many events anticipated or unanticipated that took place under all sorts of circumstances, we often marvel at how we made our way through such a maze and ended up where we are now. We can wonder at how we navigate through all of life’s happenings and find our way to some degree of happiness and fulfillment, even acknowledging that life often makes more sense looking at it backwards than it does looking at it forwards.
From another perspective, though, life makes about as much sense as the effort we invest to make sense of it. The average person does not really take the time to reflect on their life as part of their normal everyday activities. We pause when we are forced to do so, when something happens that prompts us to stop and take stock of our life – the death of a loved one, the end of a job for reasons beyond our control, the kids moving away to college, etc. Under those circumstances we wonder: What does it all mean?
There is a proactive manner to reflect on life that is entirely not contingent on events or circumstances, but it requires an investment of time and effort, and the returns are not always immediately evident. It begins with a shift in our beliefs, namely, that we are able to discern a pattern to our life when we purposefully reflect on it. To flip that notion around, when we purposefully reflect on our life, we are able to discern a pattern to it. We are able to reach into our experiences and seize the truth about ourselves.
To discern a pattern to our life, we need to understand that all our experiences reveal some elements of truth about ourselves. We need to adopt an “investigative mindset” that allows us to “observe” ourselves while we go about our life activities, or at the very least that allows us to reflect on what has been or what likely will be. It’s not necessarily a quest to understand the why of our experiences, or to postulate reasons for what occurred or will likely occur. Rather, it’s a quest to figure out what the connecting thread is that flows through all our experiences.
If we are open to learning about ourselves and are not afraid of what we might discover – the good, the bad and the ugly – we place ourselves in a position to grab hold of the “connecting thread” and weave a tapestry that is a reflection of who we are and what we are here to do. There probably isn’t a greater source of personal power than to seize the power of a personal source.
Here is one way of conducting this “investigation”:
1. Write your thoughts and sentiments in a personal journal, but not necessarily in prose form – more so as “scenes in a movie.”
2. In each scene, be sure to capture the answers to the following questions: Who was involved? What actually happened? When did it occur? Where? How did the scene play out?
3. Over the course of time, and with enough “scenes” in your personal journal, go over all the entries and answer this question: What is the main theme of this episode?
4. Once you have all the main themes to all the “scenes,” the question then becomes: What is the common underlying theme to all the scenes. This is the “common thread” you are seeking, from which the “weaving” of your own tapestry ensues.
5. If you wish, you can now review all the “scenes” in your movie from the perspective of the “common thread” you discerned, and write more of your thoughts and sentiments. In fact, you can repeat these steps as often as you deem necessary to arrive at an understanding that feels right for you.
What does discerning this common thread do for you? It allows you to make more sense of your life looking forward because you now understand how it makes sense looking backwards. It’s only by studying your life and discerning its patterns that you can reliably arrive at some layer of truth about yourself. The degree of happiness and fulfillment you experience is largely contingent on how well you know yourself and consequently how well you cater your actions to your purpose for being here.
Hopefully, toward the end of your life you’ll be able to look back and see how everything connected, because connected is how you wove your journey. Too often people end up on their death bed having passed through an entire life only to wonder why they never actually started living. The truth about ourselves is that we are the only ones who can be truthful about ourselves, to ourselves, because of ourselves. Our truth is relative to who we are in as absolute a manner as we choose to make it. And so, let’s choose to make it true.