So, many times in my life people have said to me “Do you really know who you are ? or what do you actually want out of life?”. Often times this gets me into a big long analysis in my head about what it is that I like and who am I as a person. It seems that each time I go through this process I seem to have new set of goals and interests and what I want out of life also seemed to have changed. So I came to the conclusion that may be we don’t need to know who we are or we don’t need to have a specific thing that we want to get out of life.
This is specially a big question to younger people or people specially concerned with self help. I think this is often an indication that you are not finding satisfaction in the current state of your life at that given time. I think trying to answer big philosophical question is not really going to help us feel any better. I think instead the question we need to ask ourselves is what can I do right now to grow as a person.
I have learnt that the most import thing in life is my attention and focus. Because this is what allows me to learn new skills. Attention is powerful as my energy flows where my attention goes. So a big part of life is about learning to harness my attention and direct it towards very specific tasks and actions which will help me grow as an individual.
From contemplating, researching and trying out different things, I have found the following key areas to be helpful for me to have a satisfactory life and to curb any big questions that pop into my head about why I am here.
1. Resetting my attention – This is harder than it sounds. Our attention is not often in our control these days. There are many things that grab it around us as well as somethings that are triggered by our basic biological impulses that takes our attention. So first thing we need to learn is how to focus our attention. One of the best methods for this I found is to take the attention away from the mind or any other external object and focus it on the breath. I normally focus my attention on the rising and falling of my stomach due to my breath for five to ten minutes. This help me reset my attention. It is like a cleanse to your attention pallet.
2. Understanding that attention can only be given to one thing at a time – I learnt that once I harness my attention by resetting it, I need to be very specific about what I focus my attention on. Think of our brain as a computer and think of what happens when we run two things in parallel. We all know that this will mean the system will slow down and would take longer to complete one task. So this means that we need to pick one specific thing that we will focus our attention on. This needs to be something that is challenging enough but it is still achievable so that we maintain our motivation though out the process.
3. Having a larger goal – We may be doing small yet challenging activities on a daily basis but may still loose motivation without a larger goal. There needs to be an underlining larger goal or a purpose which really helps us to maintain our motivation. This may be to reach a certain weight goal or to learn a certain skill to a certain level of mastery. It can also be as simple as saying I will work out every day even just for five minutes. Having a larger goal can really help us stay committed in the long term.
4. Variety – Focusing our attention daily on very intentional activities to achive a larger goal can keep us motivated. But this can also reach stalement if we allow it to get monotonous. So we need to introduce some variety into it. This may be by finding new activities to do for our daily fitness regime or by finding new problems to solve which use the skills we are trying to master. This will keep things more fun and enjoyable.
5. Lastly, find a like minded community – It is all well an good that we are making improvements in our own lives and finding meaning. But what can be more meaningful than sharing it with folk who have similar goals. That is where a like minded community becomes important. This is also a way to compare notes to get new ideas from others as well as be a mentor to someone who is just starting the journey. These days this can be a virtual community if there is no physical one available where you are.
So to end, I have come to realise that knowing who we are is not really a thing any of us can actually achieve. But it is rather about who we are becoming each and everyday. Interesting thing to is that when I was pondering the question “who I am?” my background, my race, education etc didn’t even cross my mind. Because we all think of the person we want to become when we think of that question and this is something that is completely in our control every second of every day. So the next time I get asked the questions “who are you? and what do you want from life?”, I think I will say, who I am is a moving target and what I want is to grow. ~~
Image reference : http://clipart-library.com/pictures-of-question-marks.html