11/07/2011 08:27 am ET | Updated Mar 13, 2012

Soul-Talk: Are You Living The Life You Want?

Are you living the life you truly want or simply settling for what shows up? Knowing the difference between what you pursue in life and why you pursue it is a major key to success and fulfillment. As I suggested last week, in order to experience what you truly want out of life, you first have to wake up. As in all things having to do with greater awareness and fulfillment, what you truly want out of life is often hiding in plain sight.

The deeper answer to "what you want" is often found in the "why you want it." The underlying premise: While you may not have the physical world version of the "what," you already have the "why."

If this distinction is new to you, consider this question: Have you ever worked hard to produce something in your life and then once you got it, wondered why you ever wanted it in the first place?

Of course you have. How long did that new job, car, TV set, etc produce fulfillment or satisfaction? Was it worth the effort and sacrifice it took to get there? The difference between what you want and why you want it can be everything from confounding to liberating, from frustrating to fulfilling . Even more paradoxically, the more you know the why, the more you may be able to create the what.

Are You Settling for What Shows Up?

Clearly, all manner of circumstances continue to arise in daily life, many of which are not of your choosing. However, as much as you may not have chosen the particular circumstance or event, you are the one choosing how you respond to whatever is happening. You can respond from the level that I call your "Self-Talk," a reactive, protective state that comes from the mind attempting to justify outer realities. Or, you can choose to listen to that softer, quieter voice of your "Soul-Talk." Your Soul would have you notice that no matter the external circumstances, who you truly are, your Soul, is just fine.

You have multiple layers of choice in any one circumstance, and how you approach each choice will go a long way to determining how you experience what is happening around you. You can react merely to the physical circumstance -- you just lost your job, your house is about to be foreclosed upon, your partner just left you for someone else -- and make choices about what you will do next. One level of choice is rooted in the obvious -- where will you live, what will you do to generate income, etc? You may have a greater or lesser number of choices in any one of these practical issues. Curiously, someone else in a similar situation may discover options that you don't or vice versa. The perception of choice is not so much about what is physically available as it is about your mental/emotional state as you approach the challenge. What makes this so interesting is that the more you learn to listen to your deeper wisdom, what I call your Soul-Talk, the more you will discover practical, real world options. Some will be more elegant than others, but options they will be.

Beyond the obvious worldly choices, and perhaps even more critical, you have other choices which you make every day, choices which dramatically impact both the "real world" as well as how you experience what lies in front of you. As Viktor Frankl, W Mitchell and countless others have shown over and over again, it's not what happens to you but what you do about it that matters most. In virtually every circumstance, the first choice you are called upon to make is an inner choice, a choice about your mental and emotional response. You can blame and complain all you want, and precious little will change, other than you may become even more upset or despondent.

However, if you simply embrace and accept that which is present, much as Frankl had to do in the concentration camps, or as Mitchell continues to do with his burns and paralysis, you will find that your wellbeing is less dependent on external circumstances than it is on how you approach those circumstances.

Frankl didn't love being held captive, but he did relish his ability to remain free internally; Mitchell didn't love the fiery burns or subsequent plane crash, but he did cherish his ability to keep making new choices about what to do next with his life.

Frankl discovered that even in the brutal abuse of Nazi extermination camps, he still had within him the peace and freedom that would sustain him through all manner of atrocity. Mitchell discovered that even though he lost a thousand different physical capabilities, he nevertheless had the power to create a magnificent life.

The underlying question? Are you more focused on what happens to you, or on your ability to respond?

The underlying lesson? That which you truly seek, your freedom and ability to create life the way you want it, is always within you.

If you choose to focus primarily on the external, on what happens to you, then you may well wind up settling for the life that shows up. If you listen more intently to your Soul-Talk, then you will find that you can create more of the life experience you would prefer. For most people, the underlying "why" has more to do with their quality of experience than it does with quantify of possessions or day-to-day areas of focus. Most people would prefer to experience greater peace, security, fulfillment and happiness in their daily lives. How about you?

The choice is always yours -- you can keep listening to the Self-Talk focusing on the what-you-want in the material world or you can listen to your Soul-Talk reminding you that you already possess that which you seek. Next week, we'll dig into how listening to the deeper levels of your Soul-Talk can translate into creating more of what you want in the practical world of daily life.

I'd love to hear from you. How you have found ways to translate your inner awareness about what matters most in your life into the day-to-day reality of the practical world? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)