What’s the meaning of your life? What’s its purpose? What are you living for?
To raise happy kids? To be a great husband, or wife? A good dad, or mum? To reach the top of the tree in your career? To be financially secure? Surf the biggest wave or scale the tallest mountain? To travel the world without a care to consider?
All perfectly good reasons to be alive, for sure. But is that all there is? You raise happy kids, what then? You surf that wave or scale that mountain, what next? You have more dollars than you know what to do with, so now what? Potentially, those are all good reasons to be alive, depending; but, by themselves, they are not enough.
Which is why the person with more dollars than they know what to do with still strives for more. It’s why the surfer who has surfed the biggest wave, or the climber who has climbed the highest mountain still searches for that thing that’s bigger, harder, scarier, more challenging. It’s why the CEO who has no further to climb changes career, just to have somewhere else to go, something else to aim for. There’s an itch that still needs to be scratched.
And that itch will never be satisfied by external factors.
You see, a good dad or mum, a great husband or wife, a CEO, a fearless surfer or climber, or financially set for life is not who you are. Those are merely things that you do.
Who you are goes way beneath the surface of what you do. It sits at your very core. You can always do much more than you have done, but you can never be anything more than you already are – because the person you are is complete – everything you are already lies within you – there are just be bits you have yet to discover.
And you haven’t discovered those bits of you because you have not aligned your life – the things you do each and every day – with the person you are.
So how do you do that?
Well, think back a couple of weeks when we explored the search for real happiness. Remember how I said that the real you, and therefore real happiness, lay in connecting with the meaning of your life – the values that sit at the core of who you are? Well, I want to take that one step further today and explore how your strengths help to peel back the layers and reveal the person you truly are.
Where your values identify what matters to you, your strengths provide the means by which you live those values out. Your strengths – and let’s be clear here, we are not talking about skills, which can be learned, we are talking about strengths which are an inbuilt part of who you are – express the real you – they are an outworking of what makes you the person you are.
You may value community and belonging, and you may have strengths of kindness and compassion, generosity and empathy, that express that value. But here’s the thing: understanding that you value community and belonging, and that you have kindness, compassion, generosity and empathy among your strengths, is just a beginning. To truly live with meaning, you need to put those strengths to work in the things that you do.
Let’s take the example of surfing the biggest wave, or climbing the highest mountain. You have this itch to experience those things, to feel the rush, to breath in the air, to embrace the power and majesty. But why? Where does that itch come from? What value could sit at the heart of those urges?
Well, maybe you value nature – maybe the natural world in all its splendour and beauty is a key value for you, and being a part of that natural world – a truly integrated part, not just a bystander – burns deep in your soul. And maybe among your strengths are risk-taking, physical prowess, determination and courage. For you, an outworking of that core value, and those key strengths, is to surf that biggest wave or climb that tallest mountain (or both).
But the end – the purpose – does not lie in the climb or the surf, or even the adrenaline rush and the sense of accomplishment. The end lies in a connection with the natural world and life that aligns with your values. It is not the thrill you look for, or the adulation that follows your achievement – for those are just fleeting – it is that deep, lasting, eternal connection with what truly matters to you that will scratch that itch, which you seek.
So, what strengths do you have that connect with your values? And what could you do to express those strengths and deepen that connection?
Think back to the notes you made a couple of weeks ago surrounding your values. What strengths have you got that tie into those values? Remember, not skills, strengths. And what could you do today that would be an expression of those strengths?