Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Inspiration

In between not posting and not sleeping, I have been thinking again about "what should I do with my life?" Thankfully, there is a book I love called exactly that - What Should I Do With My Life: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson.

It has stories about people in a variety of circumstances who have examined and then changed their lives to better suit their true selves.

I've read this book before, but this time I looked at the reader's guide at the back as well, and found a number of questions that I've decided to use as a guide to helping me figure this stuff out.

Given that I already have half a dozen ideas for posts for this blog that I haven't yet managed to write, it's a little silly to think I will manage to write much on these. But it's worth trying. And if I do succeed at wrestling with these questions, I will share with you here.


FINDING YOUR STORY
(Selected from the reader's guide at the end, also available here.)

19. What have you been called to, over the course of your life? Have you listened to those calls? Which have you acted upon, and which have you chosen not to?

22. Po concludes that it’s in hard times that we’re forced to overcome the fears and doubts that normally give us pause. To what extent have the changes in your life been self-selected, during good times, or been forced upon you, during hard ones? When you’ve suffered hardship, has it altered what you consider important? Has hardship changed your life, or have you fought to get back to "normal"?

23. Po warns against editing out important pieces of our story in order to make our story more presentable to others. "Embrace your luck, pain and ghosts," he suggests in one chapter; in another he writes, "look backward even more than forward, and chase away preconceptions of what our story is supposed to sound like." He contrasts the Resume Version with the Work-In-Progress Version. How do you describe yourself in a public situation? How do you do so differently in a private situation? What failures do you rarely bring up? Do you agree that we should be more revealing of our "real story" in public situations?

24. In the chapter "The Brain Candy Generation," Po says the true search is for what you believe in – what kind of world you want to live in. In what ways are you making the world a better place – even if it’s just one quality interaction at a time?

25. Po tells Tom Scott that happiness is too easy a test; rather, we should ask what will be fulfilling. Leela de Souza found that fulfillment when she stopped asking what would make her happy, and instead asked "to what could she devote her life?" Mike Jenzeh’s life improved when he gave up that it was all about himself. Yet these stories are balanced by the likes of Warren Brown, who stopped suppressing what made him happy, and Kurt Slauson, who had been denying himself permission to enjoy his life. Have the most fulfilling periods of your life also been happy ones? Is happiness essential?

26. Bart Handford tells Po the parable of the three bricklayers building a cathedral, suggesting that even menial work can be meaningful if it’s contributing to something you believe in. Have your most meaningful accomplishments required a lot of menial work?

28. In the chapter "The Ungrateful Soldier," Po recounts C.S. Lewis’s assertion that belonging to an Inner Ring is a powerful, wayward desire. Po asks Tim Bratcher who’s sitting at that table – who’s in his Inner Ring. Are there ways you’ve used status as a surrogate for individual expression? What elusive ring do you long to belong to? Are there people in your life (or in your past) that you don’t respect, yet are still trying to prove wrong?

29. Both Stephen Lyons and Chi Tschang tell Po that if you can develop into a person of good character, your chances of succeeding in life improve dramatically. What do they mean by "character"? What’s an example from your own life of good or bad character?

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