As C.G. Jung once said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” When it comes to building the lives we want to lead, we’re taught to start constructing from how we imagine we want things to look. Titles rather than roles, images rather than realities, concepts rather than day-in-and-day-out tasks and duties and practices. It’s time to dismantle the ego-frenzied Western obsession with a Big Life, and break down what it takes to actually exist in a way we desire to. Here, all the things you must know about yourself so you can choose the life you actually want, not the one you think you do.
What do you want your daily tasks to be?
We’re instructed to choose the life we want based on what we think we want to be, but we’re only capable of determining that insofar as we are able to think of what it would mean to have the title of a role. We rarely consider the nitty, gritty daily practice that is required for a peaceful, meaningful existence. Instead of “I want to help people each day,” start asking yourself if the way you really want to do that is by caring for people physically, doing the tasks that actually requires. It all sounds flowery and noble when you think of what you want your life to be about, but you must consider the reality. When you go in choosing what you want each day of your life to consist of – how much paperwork, how much time at the computer, how many hours of leisure – you’re able to actually build the existence you want, from the ground up.
What kind of person do you want to be? (As opposed to: what titles do you want to have?)
It’s not about choosing what kind of adjective you’d like as a preface to your job title, but what kind of person you want to be doing it. It ultimately doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher, or student, or editor, or construction worker. It matters what kind of person you want to be while you do those jobs. Are you someone who is kind and understanding? Who spends the better portion of their day conversing with loved ones? Someone who is busy from day break to day end? Someone who is distracted? Attentive? Hard-working? You ultimately are defined not by what you do, but how you do it.
What do you want to be remembered for?
What do you want them to say at your funeral? That you wore a small pant size and had a successful job because of which you weren’t able to actually develop relationships? Or that you were loving, and kind, and cared about your work, but cared about people more? Your impermanence is a thing you should meditate on every day: there is nothing more sobering, nor scary, nor a faster-way-to-cut-the-negative-bullshit than to remember that you do not have forever. What defines your life, when it’s all said and done, is how much you influence other people’s lives, oftentimes just through your daily interactions and the courage with which you live your own. That’s what people remember. That’s what you will be known for when you’re no longer around to define yourself.
What comes most effortlessly to you?
We tend to believe – and induce – a kind of difficulty with tasks we determine to be meaningful or profound or important. If the things we love, and especially get paid for, are also effortless, it seems as though they are unmerited. We believe we have to suffer for the things we have and love, when we, in fact, do not. It’s just as worthwhile – if not maybe more so – to figure out what you effortlessly, naturally do, and learn to capitalize on it while not feigning effortlessness, but just allowing it.
What do you (even unconsciously) believe that your existence is about? Is is random? The act of a higher power?
It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong or totally nuts – we may never know for sure – but it is about developing a personal dogma that serves you. This is the singular most telling belief about a person, because it essentially defines how you approach everything else. If you believe that your fate is yours to choose, you will. If you don’t, you’ll stay victimized, self-pitying, waiting and begging on your knees until some external circumstance shifts and it’s deemed the random work of a higher power. If that’s how you want to exist, that’s your prerogative, but I find that most people don’t. Most people want to reclaim their power and choose for themselves. But that liberation begins with one question: What do you think you’re here for? What’s the point of it all? Explore what you most inherently believe, and then determine how you can live that out to the best of your ability.
Why do you do what you do each day?
Is it to feel a high? For money? For livelihood? There’s no right or wrong answer here, the point is simply just to know what most strongly motivates you. Even if it’s just making a living, you can fuel a passion project with the desire to more comfortably pay bills each month. Longer-term goals and simple survivalist needs are often the most grounding and constant desires to base yourself in. They should be balanced out with meaningful work and a sense of purpose, but if they are, ultimately, why you do what you do, don’t fight it for some morally superior alternative. Use it to fuel something emotionally-mentally-spiritually positive.
In your fantasy daydreams, who and what are you, and how do other people regard you?
The recurring thematics of your daily daydreaming represent what you’re actually seeking from others in various areas of your life. This is your subconsciously motivating factor, because it’s the thing you have yet to give yourself. Whatever it is, it’s a projection of the thing you most feel you lack – and, therefore, subconsciously seek from others. Is it that people admire you for your beauty? Your creativity? Your talent? Your success? Your money? Figure out what you crave, and figure out how to feed that need yourself.
What do you dislike most about other people?
What you most dislike in others is, in some variation, true of you: you just haven’t been able to acknowledge it yet. The more angrily and fiercely you respond “no” to that idea, the more intensely you are trying to avoid it. Anger = recognition. You don’t lash back at things you don’t, in some way, regard as being real.
So figure out what you most need to heal within yourself by seeing what you most want to change in others. Doing so will free you in a way you can’t imagine. Doing so is a necessary piece of the life-you-want puzzle, because all the energy you’re using trying to avoid, deflect, delusion your way into not acknowledging what you need to heal/change/deal is being wasted, at best, and is actually actively keeping you from the life you want, at worst.
What is worth suffering for?
Everything is hard in some way. It’s hard to be in the wrong relationship. It’s hard to be in the right one. It’s hard to be broke and miserable, it’s hard to achieve your dreams. It’s hard to be stuck in the middle, not really feeling anything at all. Everything is hard, but you choose your hard. You choose what’s worth it. You don’t choose whether or not you’ll suffer, but you do choose what you want to suffer for.
What owns you in this life?
Is it your desire for happiness? The past? The relationship that almost-was-but-ultimately-didn’t? Your body hang up? Your fear? Your loneliness? Your lack of self-worth? Everybody has one thing that ultimately owns them, drives them, controls them at some visceral level. It’s the pattern that everything else is rooted in, it’s the issue that crops up again and again. It’s what you insatiably seek, run away from only to find you ran right into. What owns you in this life makes up the majority of what you do, so you need to know what it is. It’s usually not about freeing yourself from these ties that bind you, but learning to wield them for a greater purpose. Finding the shard of empathy and hope and understanding, tucked deeply within your existential suffering. There is a purpose to all things. Your job is not to understand why, but just to find it in the first place.