Our inner life is a never-ending confluence of thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories, and desires that influence how we interact with the world around us. Human beings are reflective creatures able to ask profound questions about the essence of life. We have an innate desire to live a life imbued with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. We explore our identity to discover our uniqueness, vocation, and true self. And we have an inherent need to belong, participate, and contribute to something greater than ourselves. This is the terrain for the journey into self-discovery
Self-discovery occurs at the intersection between inner life and the outer world. It is an ongoing conversation with the external world of relationship, participation, and contribution. The unique situations and decisions that comprise an individual life course become defining elements of inner life. In this sense, self-discovery is a dialogue that occurs where inner life and the outer world intersect. And it is in this space that we seek to lie a life worth living.
No two people are the same. It’s remarkable that every individual life is utterly unique in its journey. We cannot control the cultural milieu we are born into. We cannot change our genetic inheritance. We cannot be anything we want to be. And, at the end of our life course, we cannot avoid death. Throughout the confluence of our everyday lives we strive to make decisions that contribute to the creation of a good life. And in that same confluence, we can lose ourselves to struggle, adversity, and suffering. But it is the full force of life, not just the pleasant moments, that offers the raw material for the creating a life that matters.
The fundamental purpose of self-discovery is to seek clarity, authenticity, and truth about the experience of being alive. Unlike self-help methods focused on instrumental notions of improvement, genuine learning seeks insight beyond cultural norms, expectations, and assumptions. It is not about being educated, more productive at work, or the best you can be in order to make more money or achieving a particular status. At its summit, learning is about broadening and expanding the feeling of being alive as an end unto itself. It has a purpose that is its own reward. And it is a deeply subjective and personal journey grounded in the abiding presence of humility. The primary objective of self-discovery is living in congruence with that which is good for self and others at the same time.
The underlying ground of self-discovery consists of positive qualities of being; that is, we seek to expand our potential for wellbeing, creativity, transcendence, relationship, mystery, transformation, vocation, advocacy, and stewardship. These kinds of qualities define the quality of our presence in the world as well as the legacy we leave in our wake. In a deep sense, positive qualities of being are the animating forces that coalesce to create our sense of identity in the world. They permeate the decisions and choices we make about what to do with our lives. And they give rise to potent beliefs that manifest as real-world interaction.
In a deep sense, self-discovery provides the energy for spiritual rehabilitation. It is easy to lose our sense of connection to the privilege of being alive. Modern society places heavy demands on our energy and time. Superficial notions of success, progress, and wealth have intoxicated cultural life with material pursuits. Religion fails to inspire. It seems that the more progress we make, the more utilitarian, excessive, and dehumanized we become. Philosophy, transcendence, mysticism, have been marginalized and replaced by the fragile alter of rationale thought. self-discovery is a means to reclaim the spiritual dimension as our own and to pursue the good in life with a renewed sense of responsibility. Perhaps it is the pursuit of that which is good in life that is the heart of the human struggle.
Ultimately, self-discovery is the means to broaden and expand what can be known, felt, and lived. It is intensely focused on the pursuit of a good life, not as an ideal state, but as a practical way to navigate the confluence of our everyday lives. It is inclusive of positive and negative experiences. It does not impose false expectations on how life should proceed and where we should be in five years. Expectations are often catalysts for regret. The primary task of being human is to pursue the ideal of living a life worth living that is good for self and others at the same time. This is the essence of the conversation of being.
In the end, our experiences in life are all we can lay claim to. They are all we have. They are all we can own. Improving our capacity for self-discovery is the best way to move deeper into the nature and quality of our experiences so that we can make better decisions and choices about how to live. Moreover, self-discovery is not a solitary endeavour; it is the pathway toward improved interaction, participation, and contribution to the world around us.
- See An Artist’s Journey for a profound real-life example of the power of learning.