How much do you know about the deepest parts of you? Sure, you know your likes and dislikes, but what about the complex landscape of your heart? Getting to know yourself is one of life's most thrilling endeavors, and it's the only real path to a full life.
Here are 8 essential questions that will help you learn what you need to live your best life.
1. Is my life fun?
Many of us try to arrange fun, but miss the point by are over-planning it. (Weddings, for example, can turn into a lot of drama and debt.) Fun is about spontaneity. It seeks us out and our only job is to be ready! Think of your most joyous memories — most of them are probably of times you said yes to something unexpected. We have to make room for bliss to show up, and choose to embrace it when it does.
2. Am I waiting for my life to begin?
I used to tell myself, “When I graduate high school, my life will begin." “When I graduate college and get my first job my life will start.” “When I lose the weight, meet my life partner, and finally start my own business...”
When I imagined my real life, I was picturing a perfect me. The married, successful psychologist, deeply satisfied and eternally calm. Yes, I now have a strong marriage, a doctorate degree, and a successful career. But I'm still caught in bouts of self-doubt, anxiety and a scarcity mentality
Since I have achieved so much of what I set out to accomplish, my father has passed away and I lost another good friend to cancer. Having a few dreams come true does not make for a fantasy life. At 38 years old, this is my real life, and it is a mix of pleasure and pain. I embrace the gift of no longer waiting for the perfect me. Instead, I appreciate the one that is mine in all its complexity and imperfection.
3. Do I have enough money?
Enough money, like enough anything, is subjective. It is not numerical, nor gauged by a figure in a bank account. Is it a spiritual state of mind? Is it physical, measured by the things we own? How and where are we supposed to be reaching? Enough for each of us is different, but in the last few years I have decided that my "enough" is having some money in savings and some money to invest in me monthly. Enough money to me is whatever amount I need to accumulate experiences that will remind me of my wholeness and make me happy and safe.
4. Do I have enough friends?
How many friends are enough? As many as it takes to provide you with the sense of being seen and known. Some might entrust all of their deepest and darkest to one friend. Others spread the burden (and joy) among many. The most important criteria is that our friendships are a two-way street. Making space to celebrate and shoulder grief with our loved ones day or night. Whatever makes you feel fulfilled is enough.
5. Do I feel my feelings?
Feelings are messy and inconvenient. Maybe you are good at experiencing levity and laughter or good at expressing your frustration when irritated. But many of us have feelings too unwieldy, too loud, too big. So, we lock them up, turn away and never look back. Yet, over time we are awakened to the fact that we don’t get to experience good stuff without also acknowledging the bad stuff.
Happiness is not the result of avoiding unhappiness. If you don’t resolve to feel pain you wind up, in some way or another, feeling it forever. You become a stranger to yourself. Commit to feeling your feelings. Find that therapist, yogi, or dance class that helps you get in touch with yourself. Be brave enough to say, “I love you,” “You hurt me,” and “I forgive you.”
6. Am I overthinking things?
I do not have a quiet mind. I’m a psychologist and a writer so I get paid to turn things over and over again in my head. I lose sleep rerunning conversations in my mind. I think many of us find ourselves at the mercy of our minds but it's astonishing how much easier things get when we actively give our brains a regular break. Thinking is necessary and useful, but when you take time to let your brain relax, you are better equipped to tackle the problems of life.
7. What does the future hold?
The future should not just be about investing in a 401K, purchasing a home, and finding the right partner. It should be about adventure, wandering, and embracing possibilities. Approach the future with an open mind. Fill it with activities and people that light you up. Because you can.
8. Where am I compromised?
We witness friends make certain mistakes over and over again and wonder how can they be so unaware. But there may be a similar pattern to the problems that plague you. Is there specific criticism you receive regularly? Peer closer at the problems you keep running into and see what they tell you. “Stuck points” can be stubborn but this is actually a good thing! It gives us lots of opportunities to do something about them.
Dr. Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. is a doctor of psychology and life coach, helping ambitious, driven individuals achieve the financial, spiritual, and lifestyle abundance they dream about. She holds a bachelor's in business from American University, and her master's and doctor of psychology degrees from Ryokan College.
Dowling has spent years helping people live richer, more joyful lives. She has seen firsthand the magical pairing of psychology and life coaching, which allows people to access their happiest selves.