Mental Health : Do you know your ‘WHY’ ? (And why you should)
This first post in a series of posts that I have written on interrelated topics ranging from discovering your life’s purpose; prioritising what is important in your life in your daily schedule; reconnecting with yourself; practising self-care in order to reach our health and wellness goals. It comes in the mental health awareness week and am hopeful a lot in this will resonate with you.
Why is it that…
-so many of us live the majority of our lives wandering around in the wilderness with seemingly no direction and no sense of purpose?
-so many of us climb the ladder of success only to find it perched up on the wrong wall?
-instead of choosing to embody the “best version of ourselves” we choose to become a “mediocre” version at best?
These questions had never even been in my field of awareness until a few years back when we were struggling to deal with our daughter’s health crisis. This was an extremely difficult period in my life which forced me to get out of my comfort zone and grow into the person I truly needed to become in order to be able to fully contribute towards my role as her primary caregiver. The reality of the circumstances at that time acted as a mirror that I had no choice but to look into and confront on a daily basis. I did not know it at that time, but this phase of our lives would end up changing all of us and lead me on a path to self-discovery and self-exploration. This journey was neither smooth nor comfortable and was filled with uncertainty. However, something deep inside made me decide to keep an open mind and continue on the path one step at a time- it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
At the end of this path, I found a way to heal my daughter, found my calling as Health Coach to help others like her who are suffering and set up the first Functional Medicine Health Coaching practice in India. Just like me, each one of us has our own life journey with innumerable forks in the road where we have to choose between one of the two paths ahead of us. And we need to choose wisely, as our choices eventually become our destiny. What I found is that as I got to know myself better, these choices became clearer and easier to make even though I never really knew what the actual outcome might be way down the line. But first I had to know myself well enough and trust myself in order to go with my own instinct to make the decisions that I felt was right at that time for me.
So the question you need to ask yourself is: What do I want from my life?
And no, this NOT a rhetorical question. It is a question which deserves time and respect. It needs to be thought through and then written down in a quiet and clear frame of mind (do take some time out ponder and write down answers to this question preferably in a journal as this should give you some insight into which areas of your life is in alignment with your principles and which are not). However, this is just the beginning of your journey into self-exploration.
Research shows us that when we devote ourselves to a difficult but worthwhile task- think of your role as a parent, or as a caregiver for your loved one, taking care of your pet or even pursuing a noble cause or growing a plant- our lives feel more significant. Psychologists call this the “Ikea Effect“- i.e, putting together furniture makes people like it more and it is true even when we apply this to aspects of our lives.
German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’
The pervasive “busyness” of our adult lives can mask the lack of a sense of purpose, something that gives our lives meaning. This “purpose” is our first and foremost reason to get out of bed each and every morning knowing that we are making a difference in this world and leaving our mark. This feeling makes our struggles worthwhile and gives us the strength to push through even when there is no end in sight. This kind of purpose can also to help us to take risks and move beyond our comfort zone to GROW and maintain momentum over long periods of time. But all this is really hard to sustain when we are not clear on our life’s purpose and what is most important to us.
Indeed, there is no one right way of doing this and no one person’s purpose is bigger or better than someone else’s. There is simply no comparison since we are all unique individuals with unique ways of thinking and circumstances. But no matter how different we all are, one thing is clear, as research (AND literature AND philosophy) shows us that true happiness is tied to having meaning in our lives since happiness without meaning usually leads to a shallow and even self- absorbed life. In fact, research also shows that when we have a convergence in a clear sense of purpose, (comprehension) being able to make sense of life experiences and (significance) perceiving one’s life to be worthwhile we have a truly rich and meaningful life.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have found a way to be able to reach a place of convergence where various aspects of our life come together as a beautiful whole. I came across the word”Ikigai” a couple of years back and it has stayed with me ever since. It is a Japanese word/concept which means “a reason for being” and has a profound effect on longevity and the quality of life. To figure out your Ikigai, Dan Buettner (author of the book The Blue Zones) suggests making three lists- your values, things you like to do and things you are good at.
There are five basic pillars to Ikigai (based on the book Awakening your Ikigai by Ken Mogi)
- Starting small
- Releasing yourself
- Harmony and sustainability
- The joy of small things
- Being in the here and now
Knowing that what we are doing with our life is at the intersection of our values, our passion and contribution to society gives us the strength and the conviction to carry on even during difficult and uncertain times and prevents burnout in long run. I am truly blessed to be one those fortunate few who is in the centre of this convergence and I urge you to make an effort to work towards your own beautiful whole.
Unfortunately, many of us end up with a lifetime of regret that is filled with a lot of “I wish I had…” and “If only…” instead of having loved and lived by being the “best version of ourselves“. As a result, we may end up with a life filled with regret and unfulfilled dreams as we have waited until it was just too late.
Don’t you think it would be a tragedy if we…
∼wait till the end of our lives to realise that we have lived our life not being true to ourselves and the way we truly wanted to?
∼never take the time out from our busy lives to reflect upon whether the path that we are on is the one we have chosen with intention?
∼leave this world with our gifts unopened, never having really shared them with the world?
In fact, the top 5 common regrets as recorded by a palliative nurse Bronnie Ware in her book “Top 5 regrets of the dying” are given below. Her patients had this to say as they were facing the end of their lives…
I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
I hadn’t worked so hard
I’d had the courage to express my feelings
I had stayed in touch with my friends
that I had let myself be happier
So let us dream and let us take out the time to reflect on what is truly important for each of us. Let us find the courage to face up to reality and make the changes necessary to live in our TRUTH. To look at ourselves in the mirror every single day and be proud of who we are. At the same time be able to view life compassionately as we deal with our own pain and suffering and that of others.
Let us live our life knowing that we did our best to become the “best version of ourselves”.
If not, we may end up as the poet, Rabindranath Tagore said so eloquently-
The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.
Picture Image Credit: Alexandr Bormotin For Unsplash