Here on the West Coast, we drive the I-5 in our own state and occasionally into or across other states. Three things make our trips successfu: having a starting point and a destination and navigating between the two.
Life is a journey from birth to death, but most of us get lost along the way because we never learned how to properly navigate. These days we can use a GPS. in the car, but what about for life?
I've learned that asking five questions can help me find my way. First,
"What's going on?" This lets me identify what I want, what others may want, and what the conflicts are. For instance, I may want my wife to change. Why? Well, something she's doing is bugging me. I'd be happier if she changed. Really? This helps me identify a fundamental problem in our relationship: I expect my wife to make me happy. But we're not together to make each other happy. We're together to help each other grow and share the happiness that comes from that.
"What am I feeling?" I start with my body. I've got enough miles on it so there are usually some aches and pains to notice. What's happening with my thoughts? Are they scattered, incoherent, fragmented? Often, they are. What about my emotions? Can I name what I'm feeling right now? Irritation. Anger. Frustration. Fear. Self-judgment? Finally, what about my soul? What's going on, deep inside?
I call this third question the most dangerous question in the world:
"If I wasn't already doing this, would I choose to?"
You might ask this about your job, your marriage, or the movie you're watching -- and the answer can be scary. "No, I wouldn't choose to marry you right now." Really? Ouch. But, if that's the way you feel, it's your starting point and that's the first ingredient for successful traveling. In fact, you can't navigate towards a new destination without it.
Your answer will be immediate; like an instant gut check. Yes or no. "Yes, I would choose this; no I wouldn't choose that." Don't analyze, just ask and answer honestly.
Now things get intriguing. Fourth question:
"What do I really want?" This gets you in touch with your true intention, usually buried under some surface agitation. What do you really want?
For instance, you may be struggling financially. You think you want more money. But money itself has no value. We use it to pay bills and buy things. But, again, those things have no value in themselves. They create experiences!
So, what experiences do you want to have? At first glance you might answer, "No more bills I can't pay!" Or, "Watching movies on a huge screen with surround sound." Or, "Napping in a sun kissed gondola." Look deeper. Those experiences all involve... feelings!
When you ask, "What do I really want?" the true answer will always involve positive feelings. For instance, "I want to get rid of this anxiety about debt, so that I'm not so stressed out all the time, so that I feel... free."
The fifth and final question is where the navigation happens:
"What kind of person would I have to be, to be having that experience effortlessly?" Well, you'd be a person who already felt free. Nelson Mandela lived in a prison cell for 27 years and went on to become the first elected President of South Africa. He said, "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." Where is the journey from your small apartment taking you? You have your starting point; it's real. You have an imagination about your destination; it's not real yet. And now you have a life compass, these five questions, to navigate by.
Five "I" questions: Identify, identity, immediate, intention, inside. Your own I-5 to travel through states of consciousness. And it can be effortless, certainly easier than struggling with a second job or waiting for others to change. I can truthfully report that strangely wonderful things happen when you develop your internal blueprint first. For example, someone gave my wife and me a house!
The real point of life navigation is not just to get here and there but to grasp your destiny, to expand your state of being. To grow! You're here to grow, to help others grow, to live fuller, freer, with more joy, more happiness, more depth... more life! You're here to travel from birth to death on a journey of personal fulfillment and community contribution.
Instead of pushing through conflict to get what you think we want, you can learn to be pulled by your passion towards the external creation of what you increasingly experience on the inside first. As within, so without.
Life is a highway. When we learn how to navigate from birth to death, it truly becomes the "high" way.
Will Wilkinson is co-author of Forgiving the Unforgivable.
For more by Will Wilkinson, click here.
For more on happiness, click here.