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The Unexamined Life: Are We On the Same Path Towards Mindfulness?

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“Self-examination is essential for a fulfilled life.”

Let’s take a familiar scenario. One that is broadcast over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, broadly. Moms are overworked, underappreciated, and frazzled beyond belief. The overwhelmed single mom is a thing too. It is a reality, I understand, but it’s not an award that you wear on your sleeve. If how you greet your partner at the end of the day is, “I’m exhausted,” there might be some necessary examining that needs to happen.

Your Life’s Work

Have you thought about your purpose much? When I’m working with some coaching clients I like to ask several open questions to discover and uncover some of their plans and unconscious programs.

If money were no object (we just put 10 million dollars in your account) what would you start doing more of today? What would you let go of? Where would you be on the planet? What’s your dream escape, or evolution towards self-actualization.

This first question gets to the heart of what we love to do, what we long to do, and what we do for money. If there is too much distance between and of these objectives and necessities, we might be experiencing burnout, hopelessness, or ennui. What do you do? What do you want to do? What can you not live without doing? What would you rather never do again?

Your Passions

The next question is a bit simpler. If you were asked to do a TED Talk about your life’s work, what would your ONE presentation focus on? Do you have the presentation ready to go? What aspect of living or relating would you focus on? Your TED Talk is your moment to take the stage and claim your dream and your purpose in life.

Do you have any ideas? Does the TED Talk idea get you excited or does it make you nervous? Or are you indifferent to this challenge? “What’s the point? I don’t really want to change the world, why would I do a TED Talk?”

Okay, but…

What are you passionate about? What keeps you up at night when you can’t sleep? Have you overcome some trauma or challenge that has given you renewed strength or purpose? Do you have an idea of what your purpose is? Can you live a purpose-driven life?

I’ll give you a few of mine:

  • playing and writing music
  • writing
  • tennis
  • self-work and exploration (mindfulness)

Do you have a shortlist of things that get you jazzed? Even if you can’t get to them all the time, do you know what you would be doing if you were given back all of your time during the day?

Examining Your Life

Since my early days in recovery from being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I’ve been striving to get clearer and clearer on my direction in life. I have learned I cannot really ask someone else to change their life. I have to focus exclusively on my own life, my own issues, and my own growth. And my life, since my early twenties has involved an ongoing quest for self-discovery and awareness.

Martial arts, meditation, prayer, mindful exercises, therapy, journaling, I have a number of tools that I can use in my daily walk of life to keep myself centered and in the moment. Sure, I get lost. And, I make mistakes. And I get back on the horse each morning, with prayers and affirmations, and I get back to the work of getting clearer about my purpose in life. I get closer to presenting my TED Talk about my life well-examined and well-lived. I want to be of service. I want to make a difference.

I am examining my life and striving to grow and develop in every aspect of my life.

  • career
  • mental and physical health
  • love
  • the creative process (time, energy, and completing projects)

I expect that my partner has a similar trajectory. I’m not looking for a perfect woman or an omega woman, but I am looking for someone who has spent a good portion of their adult life in some form of spiritual inquiry, or spiritual/emotional growth work. If I spend all this time getting clearer and more intentional in my actions and words, I hope that my partner is meeting me somewhere in the middle.

“Emotional growth is painful.”

It is hard work to dig back into the things from your past that continue to prick and poke you. The pains of your broken marriage, for example, could very well be tying you to people with broken relationship styles. You’re mirroring the failed marriage, making the same mistakes and hoping for a different result. Nope, that’s not how growth works. You need to tear off the bandaid and get to the heart of what is hurting.

There might be underlying anxiety that’s driving some of your decisions. You may be choosing relationships or activities that remind you of what caused you great pain in the past. The anxiety comes when your heart and your head are out of balance. If your work consumes all of your energy and time, how can you build the rest of your wonderful life? If you’re trading all of your free time in a relationship that is not fulfilling, what are you missing out on? What would it feel like if you just stopped working to please anyone but yourself?

We’ve got to know what is pleasing to our inner souls. We’ve got to get in touch with what makes us happy, with what makes us feel sexy or energized, with what makes us feel satisfied. What would your life look like if were living your dream?

After my divorce, my first girlfriend asked me, “What are you like when you’re really happy?”

It was an amazing moment. I paused. “I don’t know,” I said, a bit disappointed. “It has been a long time.”

Arriving At Now, Again

Ah-Ha Moment: This life is Joy. If it’s not joy, then you’ve got to do what it takes to change things. Shake things up. Ask for what you want. Be direct with the world and with everyone around you. Be radically honest. Say the truth 99.9% of the time. And when you feel the urge to fib even a tiny bit, ask why. Who are you trying to protect? Who is going to be disappointed when you choose what’s best for you alone?

If you end most workdays with a loss of motivation and deep exhaustion, I’d like to invite you to dig deeper and get to the heart of what keeps you there, and what you could begin to change if you knew where you wanted to go. I get it, we’re all busy. But, don’t you think setting aside some time for your growth and reflection might be a good idea? If you don’t know where you want to go, you’re probably going to have a hard time with the TED Talk or Money-No-Object exercises.

What’s your TED Talk?


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Here’s where the “unexamined life” concept comes from.

The Art of Self Examination – Personality

In regards to self examination, many people do not even know where to begin. We don’t even realize that self examination is essential for a fulfilled life. We equate self examination with self centeredness, morbid introspection, or even narcissism when actually it is just the opposite. A self centered person is too self focused to see himself or herself objectively. They are to lost in themselves, to see their purpose in relationship to other people people, their environment, and God. Proper and periodic self examination is the mark of a healthy individual. But it takes a lifetime and it occurs on on various levels of complexity. We all have a sense of trying to find our purpose, where in the world we fit in. – Socrates and the Unexamined Life

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