Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thoughts on Life, Self and Purpose


There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase 'to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy'. Collectively we refer to them as being happy or being the best we can be - an end we all strive for in life.

Most of us are given a choice of what we want to pursue in school knowing that the education we choose will better prepare us for the future. Often, these choices are based on money we want to earn and therefore it predicts our future careers. When we think of our future with respect to just money it makes sense to then choose curriculums that are practical in the sense of them fulfilling the purpose of getting a 'good job' with a 'decent salary'. For many, the education and careers we decide on becomes the means to an end with the end being a job that pays. Income alone is therefore not a means to an end because money cannot buy everything that makes us happy. Love and wisdom are two things that help fulfill us and both cannot be purchased.

Does not each and every one of us want to be the best we can be in this life? We know that it is not as simple as just being rewarded financially. Knowledge of oneself is one of the most important things we should have in order to become better people and ultimately closer to being fulfilled. Being our personal best is what we all want and it means looking at our own lives. The early philosopher Socrates once said that ‘the unexamined life is one not worth living.’ Whether you are a student choosing courses or a distinguished figure in business we can all look closer at who we are and what it is we are truly living for - that greatest good in life, the summum bonum. The sad reality is that many of us do not take an examined look into our own lives and instead settle for complacency without even knowing it. "We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present." -Thomas Edison

Do what others aren't doing and examine life. Do not become satisfied with thinking you know everything about yourself at any present time. Self introspect can be a lifetime process that makes us wise, one of many virtues that is an end we all desire. In life we have our individual careers but we also have a second career that we all share and that is being a human being. Perhaps next time we choose studies as a means to an end we should consider the liberal arts? They are practical in the sense that they improve our lives by showing us how to act and making us better people. People who examine their lives, who think about where they’ve been, how they got here, and where they’re going, are much happier people. No one has all the answers and no one’s life is free from trouble and strife but those who have some sense of where they belong in the Universe also have a context for understanding how all the elements of their life fit together leading to fulfillment. The following quote by Stephen R. Covey sums it up quite well.

“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase 'to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy'. The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution."

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