I remember watching Alice in Wonderland as a kid and being simultaneously amused and terrified.
The movie was filled with interesting philosophical thoughts and mind-bending experiences that left me stuck to my chair, staring in awe. It felt like there were threads of information thrown at me but my mind was not mature enough to grasp them.
There’s a scene when Alice is walking through a forest in the dark and comes to a fork in the road, she doesn’t know which path to take. As she stands there contemplating her next move, the Cheshire cat magically appears. She politely asks him which is the way mister cat? He hovers on a tree branch with a mischievous grin and says, “well that depends where you want to go.” She tells him she doesn’t know. “Well, if don’t know where you’re going… any road will take you there.”
It freaked me out. I didn’t want to be like Alice, she made countless mistakes and got herself some of the most horrifying situations. Like that part when she eats a little biscuit and instantly grows beyond the capacity of the house, legs and arms jutting out through winds and doors. Or when she drinks a small bottle that says, “drink me” and shrinks to the size of an ant and then eats another biscuit and turns into a giant and started crying so much she floods a room and almost drowns a talking door. It’s all just anxiety-inducing situations.
But the Cheshire cat had a very good point. He was playfully saying: tell me where you want to go, otherwise, I’ll tell you where you go. In other words, life will decide for you if you don’t decide for yourself.
So many of us follow the paths of what society dictates as “success.” We end up marching mindlessly with the herd up a steep and challenging climb towards this place called “success” which has been defined by everyone else other than us. Many of us never stop to ask ourselves:
- “is this what success means to me?”
- “is this really what I want?”
- “would working towards this provide me with a deep sense of satisfaction, purpose, and meaning?”
Trust me, I know it’s hard to come up with these answers. It’s like you have to pry them out of the deepest part of your being, shaking it and demanding answers, “what do you really want soul?! Tell me!” (any Buddhist or yogi reading this would probably say, “oh Kim… *gentle laugh* no prying and shaking is necessary, all you need is silence. Only then will your inner voice speak and guide you. Namaste.”
It’s just that for many of us, as we grow older, it’s like we get zapped with some sort of Peter Pan effect. We grow up and become boring old adults, hardening in our ways and stuffing down the child we used to be; the one who is curious and enthusiastic and wants to explore.
It’s taken me a few years of climbing fiercely in the wrong direction to find the right one. Or maybe I’ve always been going the right way, I just took the ‘scenic’ route. Either way, every day I learn something new about myself and where I want to go. I spend time trying to find out what lights me up and what burns me out, I value self-discovery and education and growth. I believe this are good values to continue to strive towards. Every day is a new chance for me to dig deeper into what I really truly want, what feels right for me and what would make my existence rich and meaningful.
Here are some questions I’ve asked myself. If you have a chance, write down the answers and see what comes up for you.
- What sort of person do I want to be?
- How do I want to be remembered?
- What types of environments inspire my best work or feelings of satisfaction?
- What sort of personal strengths and qualities do I want to cultivate?
- What do I stand for/believe in?
- What are my values? (see the list below to get some ideas)
- Who are you inspired by and why?
- What values do I want to pass on to my children?
- What is truly important to me?
Here’s a list of personal core values.
Read them all and then choose ten that resonate with you. Out of that list of 10 narrow down your top 5:
44. Inner Harmony
54. Meaningful Work
82. Service to others
May you take this on your never ending journey through self discovery!