Our one true goal: a good life
When it comes to goals we all fall somewhere into the “to set them” or “screw them” camps. But somewhere along the way we all stop to ask ourselves these unsettling existential questions:
- What is the meaning of my life?
- How can I be happier?
- Is this all there is to life?
- What is my purpose?
I sure have. And, I must confess that not having clear answers has had, at times, shaken me up deeply. After all, the psyche feels much better in certainty even if it is nothing more than a grand illusion. I’m not alone in this I suspect or else existential fiction would hardly exist.
Today’s world accentuates our search for clarity, goals, and meaning than ever before. We may live in an age of information but with so much of it, we often get simply overwhelmed by it. After all, our brains are not the latest machine algorithms that can sift through piles of data in seconds. We may be hyper-connected and yet more people report feeling painfully lonely. We may technically enjoy more freedoms when it comes to lifestyles, careers and our individual expression and yet more and more people feel deeply scared sharing what they think or to question the status quo.
So how do we use our minds to pinpoint the true compass so that our best efforts go towards truly worthwhile goals?
How do we identify goals that are congruent with who we are?
And how do we pick goals that will motivate and move us towards something good?
One possible answer
Positive psychology researchers say the best goals are those that contribute to a “good life” as this creates health according to Robert Waldinger, director of the good life study and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. But if this was so simple, why do so many people with great jobs, nice houses and a massive list of contacts report higher levels of disengagements, internal emptiness, loneliness, fear, and emotional exhaustion?
The answer turns out to be far simpler than we realise. Losing connection with themselves.
I felt lost in my life a number of times and it ignited a deep curiosity into a process I’ve been exploring in my coaching practice for over a decade. I call this work mind, heart, body and spirit integration. My spirit has a big element of discovery. So when my parents tried to pressure me into becoming a doctor or a lawyer, I chose a research career instead. I was hugely fascinated by how the mind worked and New York University just opened the first neuroscience degree in the country. I stayed in education and research for close to fifteen years. What made my life good was feeling my mind was engaged and connected to people who shared my curiosity, my heart was happy because I felt supported and loved, my body was relatively healthy and I was true to my spirit. I was a pioneer.
This happy state did not last. Soon enough, the high performance and pressures of top academic environments brought on conflict, bullying and incredible stress from workload and interpersonal rivalries. The experience was deeply traumatic and caused my body to fail. I was not equipped with skills to keep my mind and heart safe. In the process, my spirit waned and I began to doubt my career choice. Was I in research for the right reasons? Was research done the way I wanted to work and live? Increasingly I began to notice that what mattered far more to me was being happy and healthy again.
The major discovery here that has informed much of my current work and helped me deal with many difficult situations is this:
A return to the path towards having a good life always signaled realignment of my mind, heart, body, and spirit.
With time and much additional training, I became a guide and coach. Today I integrate leading insights from clinical neuroscience, positive psychology, coaching, leadership, and spiritual traditions to help those I serve navigate life. I also build tools and investigate how mind, heart, body and spirit alignment facilitates growth and brilliance.
Those I coach need to integrate within
People I see are talented individuals who for one reason or another struggle. They may be having difficulties being noticed, recognised, beak through, get promoted or given access. They may face massive overwhelm not knowing where to start after a major setback. They hurt because they are aware they can be doing better. You could say I coach the proverbial underdog.
And the narrative often boils down to this. Somewhere along the way, the mind disconnected from the heart. Sometimes it even forgot it belongs to a body! And it ran ahead of the rest trying to prove itself. In time, the mind began to pay more attention to what others think than to what really matters or what the right thing is. And then one day it got lost in all of the doing.
The fast pace of life and constant rush to do more and be more. This way of going about things separates the mind from the rest of the body or what makes us distinctly human: heartfelt genuine connection. Too many people today struggle with relating at work and in their personal lives. Many relationships are essentially Ego battlefields dominated by comparisons and evaluations instead of mutual respect and positive regard. Disconnected, the mind and heart tussle for control exhausting the body and killing the spirit of the person. In contrast, an integrated person is a wiser, calmer and more effective. He or she has a better sense of who they really are outside of their job title, their social standing or financial wealth.
5 practical ways to figure out what to work towards in your life
1. Start by getting clear with yourself on one thing – you matter and your life matters! The day you own this belief is the day your life changes for the better.
2. Pinpoint how you’d like to add value, to whom and how come? Being clear on the cause, grouping or set of people do you want to serve helps you connect with those people.
3. Review the last 2-3 weeks for occasions that really made you genuinely happy and dizzy with delight. I doubt it will be a social media posting unless it’s that funny cat video that’s gone viral. If you’re missing them – you need new goals asap.
4. Establish who you enjoy spending time with and make time for in-person touch points. Nothing communicates more respect and love as the gift of our time to those we treasure from clients, friends, family or our next door neighbor.
5. Decide on where and how you will live so that you have the least amount of physical, emotional, and psychological stress. One of the biggest sources of stress comes from having little sense of safety even at home.
How we can help?
The true definition of a good life is deeply subjective. That being true, our ability to create a good life is linked with being able to stay connected with and follow what we truly desire, what we can imagine and want to realise and what ultimately feels good in the present moment. None of this is mirrored by what social media tells us is now in vogue.
I have created short and practical heart and mind retreats to help people learn a process and vital tools for keeping integrated within. Over our day together we create a dialogue with our mind, heart, body, and spirit so that we can connect to their real experience of life as it is! If this is something that sounds useful to you, then learn more about our retreats.
If you want to dive deeper without leaving your home or work desk you can join my year-long Da Vinci inner leadership programme online. In as little as 1-2 hours each month, you could be changing your life becoming more present, centered and resourceful. Take action now and make time count for you!