“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.”
– Shannon L. Alder
“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.”
– Leo Babauta
“It’s not the quality of the answers that changes our lives, it’s the quality of the question”
– Steven Aichison
Do me a favor. Read those quotes above (if you haven’t already) and think about them. I mean really think about them. Now, ask yourself: have you ever asked yourself the hard questions?
Okay, I understand that is pretty vague and a bit cheesy. I mean, what are the “hard questions”? The answer is pretty simple: they are the questions that interrogate your human core, your innermost values. They are the ones that define your purpose for living.
Now, trust me when I say I am not a super deep or intellectual person. I don’t see the “deeper side” of paintings at an art gallery, and I certainly don’t post inspirational quotes on Twitter or anything like that. But that’s not the point of me writing this. My mission is simple: I believe that everyone needs to truly challenge themselves by asking themselves these hard questions. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be fun, but again, that’s not the point. No one wants to ask themselves these things, but I believe everyone has to.
If you feel so compelled, I encourage you to answer them to yourself. But BE HONEST. After all, you are only lying to yourself if you don’t. It is perfectly okay if you don’t know the answer or aren’t quite sure what to say. The point is to get you to start thinking about why you do what you do, both on a daily basis and on a much deeper level. If you can do that, I believe that it can completely change your life.
I once heard that there are 3 stages in life: the stage when you believe in Santa Claus, the stage when you don’t, and the stage where you are Santa Claus. Fortunately, only the middle stage sucks. But most of you reading this are probably in that middle stage right now, like me. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you get the point: life is awesome as a kid, then you have to grow up. But then we get the chance to give to our kids and grandkids, not just gifts, but life.
Now, think about it: if we aren’t young and free like children, and we don’t yet have our own children to inspire, then how do we cope with this stage in time? I mean, these years are supposed to be the “best years of our lives,” aren’t they?
Well, that’s where we come in. By “we” I mean our generation. We find ways to make ourselves happy. We party, we hang out with friends, we go to bars, etc. Or at least, that is what the world tells us to do to be happy. You see, I have always noticed something about fellow young adults that most people seem to misconceive. The fact is, most people in college truly do care what others think about them, whether they admit it or not. They do and say things that they don’t truly want to, simply because their sorority sisters or fraternity brothers tell them to.
See, a lot of people think that high school is the time in life for self-consciousness and loathing, then you get to college and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. You say, “Well I wear gym shorts and big t-shirts to school everyday; I don’t care what people think about me.” But you see, I think that’s a lie. The truth is, I see more self-conscious people in college than I ever did in high school. We seem to convince ourselves that the only way to be happy is to go downtown and get wasted 4 times a week, and anyone who doesn’t do that isn’t enjoying his/her life.
I mean, isn’t the whole point of our rebellious nature to not do everything that society tells us? Then why do we constantly do what others say in order to feel like we are happy? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “You don’t want to be laying on your death bed and look back on your life with tons of regrets.” And you know what? I completely agree with that. What I don’t agree with is the preconceived notion that having “no regrets” entails us doing what everyone else tells us to.
So ask yourself this now: are you happy? I mean actually happy? Or do you just do what everyone else does so that you can fit in?
What is it that you really love to do? What are the things that, when you are older, you will look back and regret not doing more of? If it really is going out with your friends every night, then by all means, do it. I mean, I know how fun it can be, at least on occasion. But I bet if you are being honest with yourself, there is something else, something that you’ve always wanted to do but just didn’t have the courage to do it. I encourage you answer these questions honestly, make the necessary changes, and allow yourself to really be happy.
Let me start off this section with some transparency: this is not a rundown of knowing your “why” and how to discover it. If you have never heard the phrase “Know your ‘Why’,” then you should definitely look into it. Essentially, it means that you should discover not only what you do and how, but why. What is your purpose for life, and why do you think that?
However, I’m willing to bet most of you have heard of this phrase. And, like I said, I’m not here to explain the concept to you, because there are other people out there who can do it much better than I can. What I want to do is to challenge you to not only discover your “Why,” but to live it. Live every day like you are trying to fulfill a purpose.
Again, I am not a very intellectual person, so let me tackle this question from a bit of a different angle. The word “inspire” comes from Latin, and it literally means “to breath life into.” How cool is that? So when you are doing or believing something that inspires you, it literally makes you feel alive. That also means when you are uninspired, its as if you aren’t even living.
I also want to mention that this is not a plea to get you to “choose a career that makes you happy, not one that makes a lot of money,” because if you are like me, you’ve heard that tons of times in your life. I mean, it is completely true and I wholeheartedly agree with it, but that is just not what I am trying to convey to you.
What I want you to question is bigger. What is your purpose for sitting where you are right now? Are you inspired by something? I mean truly inspired? I believe that once you are able to discover your “Why,” you can gear your life, everything you do, around it.
“Treat others as you would want to be treated.”
Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. I know, it’s cliché, but I can’t begin to tell you how important I believe it is. But what really sucks is how few people actually follow this rule. And it’s not even like I am talking about bullying or anything like that, because let’s be honest, that isn’t normally a major issue when you get to college.
What I mean is this: do you put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you say something or make assumptions about them? Or are you so quick to judge that you don’t even consider doing that? You see, most people I know have this tendency to judge other people whenever they think that they are doing something that isn’t “cool.”
People automatically assume that if you do things differently than what they are used to, then they have a reason to judge you. You might even be doing this and not even realize it. Take me for example. I have had people tell me that I am “lame” because I “don’t do anything with my life,” usually in reference to how I don’t go out every weekend.
I simply choose to do things that make me happy, like hang out with my friends or try/see new things. Does this mean that I am not “cool” and that I don’t “enjoy my life.” Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t think this gives someone any reason to judge me. What I find crazy is the same people who claim to have a “free spirit” and who “make the most of life” (in their own eyes) are usually the ones who end up falling into the abyss of societal expectations.
So ask yourself this now: do you really follow the golden rule? Do you sometimes judge people before you get to know them or because they think differently than you do? Has someone else’s judgment of you made you feel dejected? These questions may be the hardest ones to answer honestly, because I bet most of you don’t think you are really judging people when you say and think these things. That’s okay; that’s exactly how I was before I realized what I was doing. But put yourself in their shoes. See the world from their perspective for a bit, and I bet it will make you a better person.
I dare you to take a chance and ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly. I mean truly, truly allow yourself to think about the things that are more important than being in a frat or getting hit on at the bar, because I promise you that you will see life in a whole new way.