“The unexamined life is not worth living” – is a popular quote from Socrates. It seems like a radical statement that is hard to accept and believe in. But, why did it become so popular and is still frequently quoted after thousands of years? Is it, because it is not far from the truth? If it is because of the truth component, then how this provocative statement relates to my life? Can we take a moment and think about it? Let us first examine what ‘unexamined’ life is and what the quality of that life is; then, let us think about a better alternative.
Unexamined life is a life lived without a thoughtful revision of its content, without deep and honest analysis of what is going on. It is a life predominantly shaped by circumstances and different external forces; while our internal forces – our talents, aspirations, desires and dreams – are ignored and pushed away. Consequently, we end up living in a reactive ‘doing’ mode, instead of proactive and fulfilling ‘being’ mode, having experiences such us:
Being successful – but not satisfied;
Being rich – but feeling poor;
Being popular and surrounded by people – but feeling deeply alone;
Working hard – but not feeling useful;
Travelling around the world – but having a sense that we have lost our way;
Living – but not being truly alive.
What do you think about the quality of this kind of life? Do you think that it can bring us joy and satisfaction? Did this kind of condition inspire the anxious thought of Henry Thoreau – “when I come to die, discover that I had not lived.” Was Socrates too radical in his famous statement?
In order to have a meaningful and fulfilling life, to be truly alive, we need to carefully examine our lives. We need to take time and ask ourselves the following significant questions – What really matters to me? What brings me deep satisfaction and joy? What inspires and motivates me the most? What is it that I want to do with great enthusiasm and vigour? When am I at my best? What achievement do I consider a real success? What kind of life do I want to have? How do I make it happen?
The contemplation of these questions leads us to the need to explore our core values. Values are hidden but powerful driving force of our personality. Each person has his/her own unique set of core values, with their own unique meaning. They represent our unique individual essence. They are fundamental part of what we call our ‘true self’.
Only when we identify and actualize our core values, we can experience fulfilment and satisfaction. If we embody them in our daily activities, we will get a sense that our life has meaning and significance and we will experience gratification and joy. Maybe we will not be rich, but we will definitely have a rich life.
Coaching is a valuable option to get us into the state of living a rich life. Many researchers agree and individual personal experience shows that coaching is one of the most successful routes to creating significant improvement and sustainable change in individual lives. One powerful way of making this happen is by helping individuals align their daily lives with their core values.
Coaching provides constructive and supportive process for effective exploration of core values. For various reasons they are often hidden from our awareness and we cannot have impact on them until we are well aware of them. A skilful and caring professional coach, through creative processes and adequate tools, can assist us in getting in touch with our core values thus generating a clear picture of them as a unique set.
Coaching can also help us gain awareness about the crucial difference between ‘means values’ and ‘and values’. ‘End values’ are the core values. ‘Means values’ are the things that we believe will give us the fulfilment of our end values. Quite often we give greater emphasis on the ‘means values’ at the same time losing sight of our ‘end values’. Coaching as a process assists us learn how to distinguish between these values, and helps us put them in the right correlation with the emphasis on the ‘end values.’
As much as it is essential to know our core values, it is much more essential to act upon that knowledge. Knowledge that does not lead into action is just information. Knowledge gives direction to action, but it is the action that gives real meaning to knowledge. In this case, it is crucial to make specific actions to make our lives be the embodiment of our core values.
Solution-oriented coaching is focussed on finding out and applying adequate solutions to our life issues. Efforts are directed towards creating a desired future with the intended outcome to be creating specific, realistic and relevant action steps suitable for the individual’s life. They are also intended to help, inspire, support and keep us accountable for implementing that action plan. Only by implementing these actions in our daily life, we make real impact on our lives. Ultimately, our life is what we do, not what we want to do.
Coaching can help us transform our lives – from living a busy but empty life, to living a meaningful and joyful life aligned with our core values. It can give us structure and support to make that transformation a reality.
It is a sad irony that we are inclined to believe in this false marketing idea that the various new gadgets will improve our life satisfaction, so we are eager to invest money in buying them and invest our time in finding out how to get the maximum out of them. At the same time, we are so reluctant to invest our time in activities that can bring us real improvement to our lives.
But let us be bold and wise, let us examine our lives and improve them as much as we can. We owe this to ourselves. We owe this to our loved ones. When we are not at our best, we do not do well to people around us. Making the best of us is giving the best of us to the world. Let us make our lives worth living!
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” – W.M. Lewis
 For example: if my core value is family I can believe that money is crucial for the security of my family. Money becomes a ‘means value’ for my core value. By overestimating the importance of money I can be preoccupied with providing money for my family, that I can end up being so busy and do not spend quality time with my family. By doing that I definitely damage my family, which is my core value and the main reason why making money was so important in the first place.