The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. While still an astute observation roughly 2,500 years later, this little nugget of ancient wisdom has taken a backseat to the more popular idea proposed by the Roman poet Horace: “Carpe Diem.”
The idea of seizing the day pops with excitement. It reminds us that we are the captains of our own ships and the architects of our own destinies. It reminds us that life is not just something that happened to us, but that we are a powerful force that is happening to the world.
No argument here.
But sometimes in our ambition to master our fates, we focus so much on who we want to become, we lose sight of who we are. We focus on the road ahead, and forget the journey behind us. We don’t take the time to reflect on how the past can move us forward.
While the past should not be obsessively dwelt upon, it should also never be dismissed. Every now and then, at least once a year, it is important to look back and take stock of who we are and why, what really matters, and whether or not we are fulfilling our true selves, or supporting an image of who we think we should be (or who others want us to be).
Looking beyond the mirror into the depths of our beings isn’t always easy. Here are a few major factors to consider while reflecting on life, and making it all the more worth living.
Passion: Nothing better illustrates the importance of looking back in order to move forward than the word passion itself, which comes from the Latin pati, which means suffering. So much (but certainly not all) of what motivates individuals is rooted in the struggles and fears of the past. The child who grew up in squalor strives for financial success. The scrawny kid who got bullied at recess longs for physical prowess. The teen who felt invisible fights to make his or her voice heard. Ask yourself and reflect on, What inspires me? What drives me? What do I love about myself? Why are these things important to me? Am I fulfilling my passions or just my responsibilities?
Purpose: When passions evolve beyond inspiration and emotion into pragmatic, physical applications, they become our purpose. Our purpose is our North Star; it is the culmination of our passions, talents and aspirations. That child who grew up in squalor starts a company. The scrawny kid who got bullied at recess earns a blackbelt in karate. The teen who felt invisible runs for public office. Ask yourself and reflect on, How can I best be of service? What activities make me happy? What do I not enjoy? How can I leverage my strengths to help others?
Health: If we want to express how we feel, we must know how we feel. We are more than a collection of thoughts and dreams, we are physical bodies. Physical health is inextricably linked with happiness, depression, and the ability to interact with the world. Our health not only affects the way we see the world, it affects the way the world sees us, and the way we see ourselves. Physical perfection is unattainable and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a healthy diet and proper nutrition can stave off stress, increase productivity and maximize personal satisfaction. Ask yourself, How do I challenge myself physically? How does my energy level influence my performance? What does my body crave that my mind knows is harmful? When do I feel at my best?
Environment: Your environment encompasses your relationships: your relationship with the world, your community, friends, and family. Healthy relationships are crucial to personal satisfaction, and it’s difficult to properly understand your past without closely examining the small group of people who helped start your journey. Ask yourself, Who are the people I care about most? How do I enrich the lives of those closest to me? Where do I go to reenergize? How am I impacting the environment? How can I repair damaged relationships? Do my friendships reflect my values?