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Think you know who you are?

Very many people in the world today seem to have little or no idea of their purpose in life. They muddle along from day to day, often quite aimlessly, doing things that they think they should do. They work long hours in a job that they don't particularly like because working hard, earning lots of money and acquiring more stuff and more status is what they think life is about. They get married, buy a house in the suburbs, have 2.4 children, and their life's trajectory is set. This, they believe, is what the world expects of them. They should live life this way. It should make them happy. Should, should, should.

And then one day they find themselves on their death-bed wondering what it was all for. What was the point?

This is the unhappy tale of Mr and Mrs Mediocrity, who never questioned all that should and who never asked themselves life's hardest questions: who am I? and what do I want?

Asking those questions is hard, and figuring out how to answer them is harder still. It requires curiosity, commitment, and the courage to go deeply into one's core identity. It takes a lot of mental effort. That is why most people don't want to go there. Consequently they never discover their true identity and they never find their purpose in life: their why.

If you think about that for a moment, you can probably see why so many people in the world today are unhappy. They don't know who they are, and they don't know what they want, so they don't have much chance of getting it or of being fulfilled in their life. If you think your life is a pointless struggle on a treadmill, going nowhere and achieving nothing much, then it's not surprising that you might feel unhappy.

This is bad enough. But, because so many people don't know who they are, they tie their identity to what they do. They see themselves as a CEO, or a Teacher, or Chief Superintendent this, or Captain that. Or they make their identity out of being a parent, with their life defined by their children.

What happens when the role to which you have tied your identity comes to an end? When retirement or retrenchment means the title and the status and authority that went with it are gone? When the children have grown up and left home? When there's no need to set the alarm clock and get up and go out to work each day?

Who are you then?

Too many people reach this point in their life without ever having considered the deep question of who they really are, and so they wander around aimlessly, lost and without a sense of purpose. Depression sets in because there really is nothing to stop it.

It's very common for men, particularly, to feel this way when they retire from their career and find themselves with nothing to do except play another round of golf or mow the lawn or ... or ... what? My own father was a case in point. Aged 61 he took early retirement from the career he'd begun at age 14, but then found himself at a loose end, with nothing much to do. He died of boredom at 69.

Wouldn't it be better to figure out who you really are - what motivates you, what guides the decisions that you make and the actions that you take, what makes you angry, what makes you happy, what makes you weep? Wouldn't it be better if you understood why you do the things that you do, so that you could do more of what gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction in your life and less of what drains your energy, bores you, or makes you feel like you're wasting your time?

I can tell you from my own personal experience that having that kind of understanding not only gave me a sense of purpose, it also led me to choose a career that most closely fit with that purpose. That led to a feeling of fulfilment in life: I was doing something meaningful, that helped me to achieve things that were deeply important to me. But, most importantly of all, I understood that my career and the title, status and authority that went with it were not all there was to me. I didn't tie my identity to them. And so, when my career ended, my sense of identity and purpose didn't end with it. They continued, just as strongly as before, and that allowed me to change direction and put my efforts into something equally worthwhile and equally if not more in alignment with my true self.

The way to a long and happy life is to - in the words of the inscription at the Oracle of Delphi - know thyself, and thereby gain a sense of meaning and purpose in life. And then, be guided by that knowledge and that purpose, in everything that you do, at every stage of your life. That way you will never be bored, never find yourself slaving in a job that you hate, never find yourself on life's scrap-heap, cast adrift with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

So... If you're reading this while struggling with feelings of emptiness, lack of purpose, boredom, that there must be more to life than this, that there must be more to you than this, be reassured: you can find your purpose, and it's never too late to start. Get in touch and I'll tell you how.

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Tricia Dale
Tricia Dale
Feb 19, 2023

Do we ever fully understand who we are as our personal lives change with life changes and challenges. Over time our values change but our beliefs stay the same, how can one determine what living is, is it challenging ourselves, living in the moment, or just cruising to what makes us happy.


Lesley Hardy
Lesley Hardy
Feb 06, 2023

Well said Bernard. I think we don't factor our values enough in our working or personal lives. What we stand for can be our greatest moment, or our biggest fail.

Tricia Dale
Tricia Dale
Feb 19, 2023
Replying to

Life failures are our strengths to change a pathway to learn from to extend our thoughts and fears. Our values on how as an individual we see the reflection in a mirror.

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