Let’s start with a simple question
How has your journey along the “river of life” turned out so far?
Are you “living the dream”? Or is your life, like it is for most of us, a confused mixture of good, bad and lots of indifferent. Perhaps very few can honestly say they are living a life of complete happiness. Maybe we all “drift” a bit?
I believe that one of the great keys to happiness is finding your passions, and then planning a well-directed “river cruise.”
No doubt we’ve heard that advice many times before. How do you respond? Too good to be true? I’m sure many people think so: “All this business about discovering your passions and living the dream. I don’t really believe it! The world’s not like that. The best you can do is soldier along, and be grateful if some days are better than others.”
I’m afraid many people have accepted this lesser view of life: “life’s hard, bad things happen, so much is beyond our control. People only ‘live the dream’ in fairy stories: ‘and they lived happily ever after! THE END’.“
The profound wisdom of self-knowledge
I honestly believe that there’s more than that to this business of finding your passions in life. Why? Because there are countless examples of adventurous people who have discovered visions for their life that transformed them. How did they do it? And how do we discover our passions?
That can be a problem: it may be far from obvious what you’re passionate about. That’s why we need to take time out to be quiet and to think, meditate and contemplate. This is your personal inward journey of self-discovery. The ancient adage says it so wisely:
“To Know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.“
So much of our life is lived on the surface, with the demanding realities of day-to-day living absorbing all our energy. We rarely get a chance to sit back, forget all that day-to-day stuff, and go deep inside ourself. We simply must find that precious thinking time, for it can repay you a thousand time over.
Why not ask yourself, right now, “who is the real me? Suppose I had a completely new start today. What would I do, what would I want to have, and above all who would I really be? What drives me? What do I really care about? What are my deepest values? How am I living those values? What do I consider to be really important?”
You could even challenge yourself with the ultimate personal question: “If I were on my death-bed, what aspects of my life would I be most proud of?” That question is so enlightening, because when we are dying, we finally see life’s trivial pursuits with a new clarity of vision. We see them for what they really are: not really that important.
Such self-questioning can be difficult. Yet if we think about it, the answers we discover could have a dramatically positive impact on our life. This questioning will lead us to a greater understanding of ourselves, and this in turn would begin to uncover some of our deepest passions. We would even have a better answer, a deeper insight, into that “impossible” question: what’s the meaning of life?”
My own experience
Let me share with you how I took a major step towards discovering a great passion of mine when I was just 17. There was an old battered book, lying on the 6th form classroom windowsill. The front cover was missing. It was lunchtime, and I was sitting quietly eating my sandwiches. I picked up the book out of curiosity, opened it at random, and it stopped me in my tracks.
It made me think deeply about the meaning of my own life, giving me a vision for my future. The book talked about the greatest vocation possible for a young Catholic boy – to be a priest. I believed every word it said as I realised just how deep my faith was. Those few quiet moments of casual reading, thinking and meditating set me on a course that would eventually lead to a lifetime vocation as a priest and monk.
Life is long, we go through so many phases, so many years. Hence this deep thinking process should be ongoing. I believe the human spirit is so wonderful and complex that we are still discovering the “real me” well into old age. I certainly am! The more we discover, and the more we adapt to who we really are, the better we’ll feel.
This voyage of self-knowledge will lead to greater happiness and fulfilment. Some would even say, “you know what? I’m beginning to understand some of the things that I was born to do, and that makes me feel great!”
Gerry McCann – The Merry Monk