Are you questioning what your next move will be? Or feeling disconnected from yourself? It might be time to do some soul-searching, and we’ve got the tips to help you on your way
Do you ever get the feeling that there must be more than this? Perhaps in your daily life, or in whatever you’re heading towards on the horizon? Or maybe the things that used to do it for you no longer give you the pleasure they did before, or you experience tension and dissonance in an area of your life that used to flow so easily?
Us humans have been obsessed with soul-searching since the first Greek philosopher got up on their soapbox; asking questions about who we really are, what our purpose is, and how we should live our lives. In 2022, it’s safe to say we’re not really any closer to a conclusive answer we can all agree on, but there’s beauty in that. When you go on a soul-searching journey, you’re going into the depths of what makes you you, and coming out with your own answers that don’t need to be signed-off by anyone else to make them legitimate – meaning the possibilities for self-growth are endless.
“An example of a dictionary definition of ‘soul-searching’ is: ‘A long and careful examination of your thoughts and feelings, especially when you are trying to make a difficult moral decision, or thinking about something that has gone wrong,’” says life coach Alison Muir. “For me, this is too limited. Yes, often when faced with a difficult decision we will search deep within us for an answer that feels ‘right’ – which aligns with our sense of who we are, our morals, ethics, beliefs, and values. But what if those aren’t clear for you? What if you’ve lost your sense of self, purpose, or meaning? That’s what ‘soul-searching’ means to me.”
Alison points to Viktor Frankl’s 1992 book Man’s Search for Meaning, where he writes: “Striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”
“Nobody wants to feel like a stranger to themselves,” Alison says. “We seek to understand ourselves and our place in this world to know that there is a meaning to our experience, and that we matter.”
Finding your ‘why’
We all set off on these sorts of ventures starting from different places, but Alison says that she most commonly notes that people begin soul-searching when they find themselves in a position they didn’t expect to be in, or when something just feels wrong.
“This may be because of choices they’ve made, which makes them question themselves,” she explains. “It could be because they’ve experienced trauma or loss, and they need to do some soul-searching to find a way through the experience. It can also occur when someone has spent the majority of their lives putting other people’s needs ahead of their own, and as a result have ‘lost’ themselves.”
Coming to the end of school or university, switching between jobs, or facing an empty nest or retirement – these feelings can touch us at any stage in our lives, but the key is to recognise them and honour them. And there’s a number of ways that you can do that…
The best thing about soul-searching is that it only really requires a bit of time, space, and focus. That said, Alison has the following recommendations:
Spend some time identifying your core values. Often the values you develop in childhood are based on what your parents, family, friends, and society valued. So, if you don’t question whether these are still relevant to you as an adult, you can end up living ‘one step removed’ from yourself.
Be curious about yourself. In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware shares that the number one regret she heard through her work was: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” What would a life lived true to yourself look like?
Find a coach to work with who you feel comfortable with, who specialises in personal and existential coaching, and who has an explorative approach.
Start a gratitude practice. Not only will this help develop your awareness of the things you feel are important, but it will help combat spiralling down into painful self-analysis.
As is so often the case, it can be easy to expect everything at once – and why wouldn’t you? If we could all snap our fingers and make everything all right, our lives really would be a lot easier. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in, and Alison cautions us not to put limiting timescales on what is often a life-long journey. She explains that it can be easy to let your inner critic run riot, stopping you in your tracks, and leaving you lost and disheartened.
So, take some quiet time to yourself, block out the self-doubt and distractions, and tune-in to your hopes, needs, and desires, because, in Alison’s words, the soul speaks quietly
Find out more by visiting life coach directory, or speak to a qualified life coach.