Celine from Indonesia asks:
How do I know that I’m pursuing the right life path? Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m making the right decisions. How can I tell if I’m not wasting away my life?
Desiring to follow the most fulfilling path in life is a universal desire that we all crave for and worry about to great lengths. But our unease is almost always a result of a number of misconceptions we have about “success” which we’ll now examine.
Are You Making the Right Decisions?
One major sign which reveals that you might not be honoring your authentic needs and desires is asking the question, “Am I making the right decisions?” When you constantly stop to ask this question, it is clear that something in your life is making you dissatisfied, lacking or lost, and therefore you unconsciously sense that something is “off” about your choices.
I like to ask the following question when determining whether I am making wise decisions or not:
“Will this path bring me physical, financial, emotional, psychological and/or spiritual freedom?”
It is also invaluable to ask yourself:
“What area of my life is lacking in physical/financial/emotional/psychological/spiritual freedom and what can I do to remedy this?”
Freedom inevitably leads to fulfillment because how can you feel fulfilled when you are imprisoned, enslaved and oppressed?
Apart from logically analyzing your choices, it also helps to honor the voice of your intuition when making decisions. By paying attention both to your logical and emotional side, you will make a much more balanced and informed decision than listening to only one side and not the other. So focus on the feelings in your body and the incorporeal feelings within you when making a decision. Is your body heavy or light? Do you have a feeling of dread or excitement? Are you mildly doubtful or intensely apprehensive?
What Does a Truly Satisfying Life Path Look Like?
Have you ever stopped to consider what an authentically satisfying life path looks like to you? Perhaps it has to do with career advancement, marital success, riches, fame, or perhaps even enlightenment. Before you can really answer the question “How do I know that I’m pursuing the right life path?” you must be able to envision what your ideal life path would look like.
Perhaps you will be a passionate writer who immigrates to Thailand and lives off the internet? Perhaps you will be a well-known and highly respected psychologist who gets to holiday twice a year? Perhaps you will be a happy housewife that lives by the ocean making soap to sell on the side? Perhaps you will live off the grid and be self-sustained and free to do whatever you desire?
Once you have envisioned your ideal life ask yourself, “Will I always find this path satisfying or fulfilling?” Inevitably you will find the answer is realistically, “I don’t know!” or “Maybe,” but the truth is that you can’t predict how you will feel, what you will think, or what you will desire in the future. While one particular path might appeal to you today, this year or this decade, in the future you might have changed your mind many times.
So then, if you can’t really predict whether you will always be satisfied with One Particular Path, you must realize that such an ideal is unrealistic. By embracing the impermanence and unpredictability of life we allow ourselves to be free from the pain of expectations, desires and attachments. Therefore, don’t fall for the misconception that there is only “One” life path. In fact, there are many, and this realization should take a lot of weight off your shoulders.
How to Tell Whether You’re Wasting Your Life or Not
Subjectively life can be wasted in a number of different ways, namely through:
- Addictions (drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, etc.).
- Enslavement to money/status/material gain.
- Misplaced loyalty (e.g. to dead-end jobs, dishonest/abusive partners).
- Action without feeling, also known as dutiful living (to family, partners, corporations, nations, etc.).
- Doing what everyone else says or what is socially “acceptable,” but not doing what you authentically want.
- Pleasing everyone else but yourself.
Objectively, however, life can’t be wasted because life simply IS with or without you. At your core you are Life, and Life is you. Your body, personality, thoughts, feelings, actions, accomplishments, failures, memories, desires and wants all come and go, change and evolve, but in the end the essence of you is unchanging and ceaseless: it can’t be “wasted” just as much as it can’t be “fulfilled” because it is already whole and complete.
Isn’t that a relief? Although you may subjectively fail on an ego/identity/self level, on the soulful/consciousness level you can never fail because you are already pure, unlimited and absolute.
Remember this when you pursue a life path: you are already complete at your core. The more you pursue joy, the more joy paradoxically evades you because joy can never be caught or achieved, joy IS, right here and right now.
So in the end, to be able to truly experience success and fulfillment you must be willing to stop the search for “something else” that will make you happy in the form of a good job, respectable title, loving partner, big family or exotic lifestyle. This doesn’t mean abandoning all of your hopes and dreams for physical and emotional prosperity, but instead shifting the emphasis from fulfillment and joy found in the future, to fulfillment and joy found here and now, without having to do anything, without everything having to be perfect, without any condition.
This is true fulfillment.