Self-discovery is the journey toward understanding and improving the quality of our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviours. It is a deep contemplative process focused on clarifying the nature of our inner life, seeking liberation from negative energy, and cultivating an authentic sense of identity, purpose, and motivation in life permeated with intrinsic value and meaning. Self-discovery is the foundation of learning to live a life worth living.
An important reason for undertaking the challenging work of self-discovery is the felt sense of not living in a way that is congruent with our true self. Perhaps we feel a gnawing lack of authenticity in the way we are living. Or maybe we are suffering from the angst of an unlived life; that is, we are living in a way that lacks the vital energy of intrinsic meaning and purpose. Self-discovery always involves the discomfort of feeling that we are not being true to ourselves and that our vitality is languishing in the banal.
In an important sense, self-discovery is a break for freedom to pursue that which innately feels genuine, authentic, and vital. The initial challenge is to identify and liberate ourselves from assumptions and expectations that constrict our ability to live a life worth living. Once we have an awareness of that which binds, we can then undertake the creative work of developing new modes of being and living.
One of threats to genuine self-improvement is the problem of self-absorption. A self-absorbed individual merely seeks personal benefit. A basic principle of self-improvement is that it is beneficial to self and others at the same time. It is never an act of self-centredness. More than just feeling good or happy, genuine self-improvement leads to improved interaction, participation, and contribution throughout the confluence of everyday life.
We have an innate need to feel that our lives have purpose. I believe that within each one of us is a vocation that lies at the core of our identity. A vocation is an inner intuitive calling that compels dedication to a valued cause. It inspires a passion for work that is its own reward. A vocation imbues the feeling of being alive with a deeply felt sense of purpose. It is a sacred space in which spirituality and work become one.
In contrast, striving to survive inside the modern workforce can impose uninspired forms of work that fail to offer a genuine sense of purpose. Instead, we adopt a false identity that is closely tied to type of work we perform. This approach to work is more akin to theatre and the performance of roles. When the work we undertake fails to offer a sense of purpose our wellbeing inevitably deteriorates.
Some advise us against pursuing a vocation because it can be impractical and misguided. What if we have a strong sense of vocation but lack the skills and talent to earn a living? This is a utilitarian perspective that offers a necessary caution. We need enough self-understanding to honestly assess our skills and talents. A vocation has nothing to do blindly pursuing a form of work because it feels good. However, pursuing a vocation always involves some degree of risk and sacrifice. And we either answer the call to adventure or ignore it at our own peril.
The peril that we face is an unlived life and irredeemable regret. It is possible to become skilled and successful at a form of work yet lack a sense of purpose. Many people suffer the angst of feeling as though life has passed them by, that it’s too late to change, or that they never embraced their vocation. Given that our time here is both fleeting and fragile, the pursuit of our vocation is fundamental to the ideal of living a life worth living. Even when we are incessantly busy, our lives feel empty without an intrinsic sense of purpose.
A primary focus of self-discovery is finding and cultivating an intrinsic sense of purpose in life. This is not a task we have been prepared to undertake. Education tends to focus on conditioning for participation the workforce rather than life. The assumptions we hold about success and progress are impersonal and coarse. Without a deep sense of purpose, however, we risk an unlived life and the irredeemable regret that inevitably invade our spirit.
Self-discovery is about finding and pursuing an authentic sense of purpose in life. It is a way of connecting body, mind, and spirit to our life’s work. Without an enduring sense of purpose, we don’t know who we are or what we are supposed to do. This is a recipe of ill-being. A vocation requires a reconfiguration of what we mean by success. Success in the workforce is not about material gain, it is about authentic being. Wellbeing is cultivated when we live in a way that is congruent with our purpose in life.
- An Artist’s Journey is an interview I had with Jerry Wennstrom, an artist immersed in deep acts of self-discovery and embracing a sense of purpose that transformed his art and life.
- There is an intimate link between self-discovery and the quality of our wellbeing.
- In Wellbeing: The Art of Living, Mark Vernon discusses the need for a sense of the transcendent in establishing purpose in life.