What is soul searching? Soul searching means taking a long, hard look at your “self”. It’s a phrase which seems to have entered the common lexicon in a casual sense – “oh, I’m going away over the weekend to do a bit of soul searching”. Although it’s rarely meant as anything other than a half-joke or in relation to getting a little time for yourself.
But what does soul searching mean – for real?
Understanding soul searching
“Is this what I want to do with my life?” is often the quandary which prompts someone to start asking questions that lead them on a journey of soul searching. Like with many things, the first step on this path is usually to take a look around and see where you are right now:
1) Think about yourself when you’re alone
Let’s start with the hardest thing to do. How you feel as you – on your own – is one of the most important things to know when it comes to how to soul search. When you’re alone do you feel content? Relaxed and revitalized by being in your own company? Or do you constantly feel like you should be doing something?
2) Consider your family and friends
Now do the same thing with your relationships with your family members, close friends and, if you have a partner, them too. First of all, do you feel pleasure in their company? Are they, in a sense, a net positive rather than a net negative? If they are your friend, do they react to a change in your status that isn’t linked to what makes you “you”? Like if you suddenly got mega-rich or lost all your money? Or if you suddenly lost all your weight or put on a whole lot, would they still be there for you?
3) Evaluate your work
Do you love your job? Or does the thought of going into work tomorrow fill you with dull thoughts or, worse, unaccountable dread?
4) Remember the last time you were in nature
Even if you’re a “city person”, even if you weren’t lucky enough to grow up in the countryside or beside the sea, it’s important to remember that human beings are animals – we came from nature. Try and remember the last time you enjoyed some time surrounded by greenery. The last time you could see the stars without the haze of pollution. How long ago was it?
This is one of those hidden factors which can have a huge effect on our lives without us really knowing it.
Tips on how to soul search effectively
For some people looking inwards can be difficult, for others they don’t know what to do once they have this information. Or they end up reacting or making rash decisions with partial information. So how can you effectively use new knowledge that comes up through reflecting on yourself? Below we outline a few steps you can take to start forging your way ahead:
- 1 Take a break – even if it’s as simple as making yourself a cup of tea and taking five minutes to yourself on a daily basis. Try to completely absent yourself from the worries of your day. If meditation works for you, it’s time to do that. You are allowed to take a break.
- 2 Start skipping the things you don’t want to do – does this lunch date with a friend, play date with another person’s child, or casual evening social activity feel more like a requirement than a pleasure? Will skipping it help you save time to do something you truly enjoy? Save your energies for the things which really matter.
- 3 Get out but don’t give up – if you’re noticing a tendency to regularly want to skip meeting up with a certain person, consider whether you have outgrown your relationship with them. For example, if you give and give and give with no return, are they a healthy person to have in your life?
- 4 Don’t be afraid to give ground or turn around – it’s incredibly hard to truly admit we were wrong. Or that another person might be right about our relationship or behavior, or the way we have always thought about something. Let go of your ego and start to really consider whether you need to fight this fight. This doesn’t mean you are giving up. The next, better partner, plan or opportunity might be just around the corner.
- 5 Find a guide or teacher – There is nothing wrong in admitting that you have no clue about what to do with your life. Finding someone you respect and who has experience in guiding people to find direction in their life can be a very effective approach to finding your essential self. This does not mean the other person will resolve your life problems, but they can certainly give you great tools to help you on your way and stop you from procrastinating and wasting time on things that are not in alignment with your path. It is important to be cautious with people who make promises to fix your life, only you have the power to do that.
- 6 Get off the beaten path or onto the open road – go even further than point one by really getting away from it all. There are all kinds of relaxing holiday options – and if you can pick something which will revitalize your connection with nature as well as giving you some time to be yourself, so much the better. Some people choose meditation, yoga and ayahuasca retreats, or camping in the wilderness. You could even just spend the day in your nearest National Park or some place of outstanding natural beauty. You deserve to get away from it all – just for a little while.
The only place you can really get to grips with your own soul is in solitude. Whether that means in the few minutes you’ve battled to claim for yourself out of your daily grind. Or whether you’re taking a serious break or a weekend to make it happen. If you’re asking yourself “what am I doing with my life?”
It’s time to search your soul and find out.