I read an interesting quote the other day. It asked: "The unexamined life is worth living, but is the unlived life worth examining?"
First, I liked the fact that this author (unknown) simply bypasses the age old axiom attributed to Socrates that philosophers have debated for years: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
"Really?!" this writer seems to say, "Let's get real. Most of world live unexamined lives! Moving right along..." Then he (or she) then goes right to the question, "Is the unlived life worth examining?"
I pondered that for a moment. Examining our "unlived lives" could possibly unleash immitigable heartaches, regrets, and disappointments. Would we want to do that, and why? By virtue of being alive, each of us has unlived lives. (All 7.25 million of us living on earth.) By choice and by circumstance -- through what we were born into (wealth, poverty, privilege, race/ethnicity), the natural resources we were both with, the circumstances of our times, the options of our lives, the choices made, the realities we created -- we all have unlived lives in the shadows of our lived lives... the paths not taken, the conditions we are not. We don't pass through life without our unlived lives. Why would we look backwards and into our shadows? Would it not be more prudent to simply to look forward and onward?
Then it dawned on me - "Yes and yes." Yes, the unlived life is worth examining. It is in the paths not taken and in the options that have closed on us that we find parts of who we are -- our original hopes, aspirations, values, and interests that constitute the whole of who we are. It does not mean (necessarily) going back and attempting to re-live or recreate the past, but recognizing and embracing them allows us to choose how we can shape our future. And yes, we should look forward and onward and strive to make our lives ahead better and more enjoyable. In my mind, it is all the same process. Examining the whole of life is to integrate our past and future, our hearts and minds, to become more whole, to welcome a brighter future.
For some people, talk like this is all "psychobabble." So, okay -- you can choose simply to move forward, go forward, focus solely on the future, and there is value in this. But it could become "more of the same," what brought you to this point in life and what is not working or could work better remain the same. Merely looking forward may not invite new possibilities that come from examining that which we wish to ignore or avoid. One of the tasks and challenges that the second half of life presents is to resolve unresolved issues, to become more whole and not to be limited by factors that have come to predominantly define us. In fact, the opportunity that the second half of life offers is the space and perspective to aim for different outcomes, different trajectories to the end of our days. Looking at all of who we are is a gift to revisit our original and unique self.
It's a New Year! Conscious change and growth is an idea you can try. Attention and effort resets direction and trajectories. Best wishes to you! May you be pleasantly surprised to find that what you do for yourself, you will do for yourself and others. Your change and growth will impact those around you - your spouse/partner, your family, your friends, your community, and the extended communities you may not even know of, those people who care and want - and are working for - a better world.
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.