Many of us wake up hoping today will be the day that we land on that thing.
The thing that makes us go “A ha! This is what I’m here for! This is what I’m supposed to do!”
And once we have that thing, we’ll know exactly how we should spend our time. We’ll know exactly what we should be working towards.
That would be great, because time is limited. Time is passing as I write this and as you’re reading this.
Many of us waste time.
We hear the voice that tells us we should probably be out there pursuing something meaningful, but we don’t know what that means or looks like.
It’s easier to glue our minds to screens, stuff our faces with food, alcohol, and other vices, and fall asleep hoping that tomorrow will be different, and tomorrow will be the day that thing shows its face.
It’s cozy to fantasize about our life’s purpose showing up on a bed of clouds, holding our hand. But that’s not usually how it works.
So, how does it work?
You must work to find meaning.
It’s not an easy feat or a linear path. It’s challenging and abstract.
The things you find meaningful are different than the things someone else finds meaningful. Meaning is unique to the individual, and there is no universal rule book or answer key.
This is daunting, because you must look to your inner compass to determine if you’re on the right track to finding something that makes your life meaningful.
They don’t teach us how to do this in school. Most of us probably don’t have parents who know how to do it. Most people in our personal and professional circles probably don’t know how to do it. So we’re left running around like unguided chickens with our heads cut off, hoping we land on something.
Try something else
If you’re ever going to get anywhere, you must stop running and looking around you. Instead, you must begin by slowing down and looking inside.
If you’re looking to pursue something meaningful, pursuing truth is a good start.
I learned about speaking and behaving truthfully from Jordan Peterson. His words connected to something inside of me, but it wasn’t until I started paying attention to my own behavior and observing how I operate in the world that I began to feel what he was saying. His infamous line follows me everywhere: “Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.”
The latter half of that statement is important.
If we aim for truthful speech or behavior, can we ever actually determine if we arrive? No. If we had the power to decipher truths vs. untruths, then we would already have all of the answers and there would be no work to do.
So, how do we determine if we are living truthfully, or how do we at least shoot for it?
Lying and truth, like the yin and the yang, operate as opposing forces. If we aim away from lying, we can assume we are headed closer to truth. We move away from one to move toward the other because they cannot co-exist. If one is present, the other is not.
A lie sounds dirty, like we should be in trouble or are doing something wrong. But lies are just learned behavior.
Although not ideal, they are not bad.
They are a tool that can be reverse-engineered to uncover the truthful motives behind speech and behavior.
Why do we lie?
Lies help you achieve a certain objective or outcome.
We tell lies because it’s easier or more convenient than facing the truth. Lies create a reality that match your narrative of what you think reality should be.
In most cases, we don’t want our realities to change. So we tell lies that serve the stories that make us feel comfortable and safe. We lie to ourselves and others to keep an idea going, even if it isn’t good for us.
Lies can also be found in subtle things, like the tone you use, your choice of words, or even the slightest fabrications.
For example, I sometimes construct messages in a way to achieve a certain outcome without being entirely truthful.
If I want to convince someone to go somewhere, I may change my tone to an upbeat one and say something like “so many people love this place!” even if I just heard from one person that the place was good.
Or, if I’m avoiding responding to someone that has been trying to get a hold of me, I may say “sorry, I’m so busy and I missed your message” when I just didn’t want to respond.
Pay attention to yourself
If you say something, listen to it. Analyze it. You will likely find that you may be subtly lying, fabricating, or manipulating your message to achieve a certain objective or outcome.
When you begin to observe yourself lying to others, life gets interesting. The real fun is when you start observing the lies you tell yourself. It’s equally intriguing and horrifying.
We want to believe we’re truthful, pure beings. It may feel odd to admit that you lie, because maybe you learned lying was wrong when you were a kid.
Maybe your parents punished you for lying. So maybe you became good at it. Real good at it. So good at it that you don’t even see yourself doing it.
Maybe your juvenile lies as a kid turned into a subtle art of manipulating everything around you, because you learned that you could and it helped you feel safe, secure, and comfortable.
If it’s hard to admit that you lie, you’re not alone. I still shock myself every time I uncover a deep-rooted lie I’ve been telling myself or others.
It’s also not easy to determine when you are lying. It takes practice and commitment to intense self-observation.
But if you can admit to yourself that you lie, this is a good start. Because by doing this, you are also admitting that there is a space within you that you are betraying as you lie. This is the space that you strive to move toward as you pursue truth and meaning.
How to catch lies
So, how do you move away from lies? It’s good to start with radical self-observation. Pay attention to yourself closely and reveal patterns, untruths, and themes to your behavior.
After observing myself over time, there are three spaces that I have discovered within myself (so far):
- Truthful (or at least not lying)
- Not truthful, aware of it, trying to be truthful
- Not truthful and not aware of it
When I am truthful (or at least not lying), the message feels like it is being generated from my gut. I feel aligned, euphoric, without resistance, and I grow lighter as the message comes out. I am not reactive. I am speaking slowly and calmly with an even tone, and I can think. I do not fear judgment.
When I am not truthful, aware of it, but trying to be truthful, the message feels like it is being generated from my chest area. I feel unease, like there is something that wants to come out and I am trying to land on it, but can’t. I grow frustrated. I shoot in the dark and continue to miss. I become somewhat reactive, but I can usually pull myself back to a slower pace if I focus. This space feels like a teeter-totter. I am self-conscious and hesitant.
When I am not truthful and not aware of it, the message feels like it is coming from my head, and my head feels energetically hot. I am purely reactive and I am not present. Unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, resistance, and fear usually play in this space. I speak with charged emotion and it comes across in my pitch and tone. Sometimes, this space isn’t charged at all. It’s the polar opposite – blank, robotic, and programmed, like I am on autopilot. I am not able to think or develop original thought.
Identifying these spaces took careful self-observation and re-calibration over time. You probably have your own version of these spaces within you. It’s important to identify them so you have a base to compare to and build upon over time.
Note: It can get tricky. You may tell yourself that you are speaking, writing, or behaving truthfully, just to find out in the future that you were not. It takes the discovery of a lie to admit that you were not being truthful. It’s this pattern repeated over and over and over again that gets you closer to truth. Work on not lying, and you will begin to walk the path of truth toward something meaningful.
Why is this important?
To achieve anything that is meaningful, you must be real with yourself. If you don’t build your inner compass, you will be guided by things outside of you that will steer you in a direction that you probably don’t want to go.
You may continue to manipulate yourself to believe what you want to believe in order to feel comfortable. If you do this, you will remain stagnant. You will keep yourself in patterns that hold you back. And most of the time, we don’t even know what’s holding us back. So it’s best to start digging. And fast. Because time is limited.
We do not have the answers, so it would be foolish to believe we always speak or behave truthfully, or even most of the time.
Instead of pretending like we live truthfully (or that we will ever officially arrive there), a better aim is the pursuit of truth.
Choose to observe yourself, challenge what you believe to be true, and course-correct when you find yourself lying. Lies mean you’re off-path.
If you choose to pursue truth, this choice is a symbol of your personal accountability toward your ideal (the best possible version of you that could exist; some call this the higher self).
If you do not believe you are worthy of becoming your ideal, then you must seriously meditate on what you’re living or striving for.
The most fascinating thing about truth is that it is not known, but a part inside still calls us to go for it.
It is different than the controlled, predictable story of you that you replay in your head.
Truth lies outside of that.
If you choose the pursuit of truth, you are choosing to surrender your story over to an abyss that you don’t know, but an abyss that you know to trust. And what a grounds for learning that is!
The late Terence McKenna says it well:
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”