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Giving Your Life Some Careful Thought


There are many things that tend to shape us and the life we live…family activities, responsibilities and experiences at work or school, financial obligations, information on the internet, and the opinions of others to name a few. As a result, we can benefit from mentally “stepping away” from these things, even for a short period of time, to reflect on our current circumstances and give some careful thought to how we are living our life. This lesson, which includes five key questions in this regard, is intended to help you think through such reflective moments.

Look for goodness in others, 
for beauty in the world, and for possibilities in yourself. 

Wes Fesler

Now and Then, We Need to Stop and Think about Things


Most of us “just live life” without ever really stopping to give some serious thought to the kind of life we want to live. Instead, we have a tendency to take things as they come and react to circumstances as they develop. While we may set some short term objectives, we often do so without thinking longer term and answering some important questions about the way we want to live our life.

No question, defining the life you want to live is not easy. It’s not as simple as just saying, “I want to be a teacher” or “I want to be happy” or “I want to have a nice family.”  While objectives like these might be a part of your life plans, there are some

Spirit of Goodness to become an increasingly important influence in your life.

fundamental life-defining questions that should be addressed as well. Here are five of the more important ones:

Question 1

What Is My Life Saying to Me? 

Steve Jobs, the Founder of Apple, gave us this advice:

Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. 
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow know what you truly want to become. 


Considering Steve’s words, it’s very important that you answer the questions in this lesson for yourself and not be swayed by other people’s opinions. Yes, it is helpful to discuss your life goals and plans with people you trust, but just remember that you have to make the final call. Steve also reminds us that it takes courage to “follow your heart and intuition” but reassures us that these influences are already present in our lives and will lead us if we are willing to follow.

We tend to pay attention to the outside world…our “inside world” not so much. But your life has a way of speaking to you through the interests, abilities, and feelings you have or develop. So, as you work to define the life you want to live, remember that your life is offering you certain signals concerning where it wants to go. To ultimately be successful with your life, these signals have to be carefully considered and given some priority in the choices you make.

Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, 
I must listen to my life telling me who I am. 

Parker J. Palmer


Getting the answer wrong or failing to try to answer it at all may result in doing something that you were never “intended” to do with your life. Granted, this is not a question that you can answer quickly. It will take you an extended period of time, certainly months and possibly even years, to arrive at the answer you feel is right for you.

Here are three points that will help you as you work to answer this question:

It will be something you like to do, want to do, and feel motivated to do. In other words, these signals are already a part of you. By focusing on your interests, your basic abilities, and your feelings about something that is important to you, you can, at some point, determine what these qualities are signaling you to do. 

It will have something to do with helping others. In trying to answer this question, we tend to focus on ourselves. But, one of the keys to answering it accurately is to consider how your life might be used to help others in some way. Our belief is that God works through people like you and me to address the needs of the world. Helping others is the way we can assure that we are doing so.

It will be your decision, not something that someone decides for you. We participate in many “go along to get along” moments with friends and family members as we go through life, but this shouldn’t be one of them. This is a decision that only you can make. One of the keys in developing a successful life is to “listen to yourself” instead of those who might influence you in a different way.

Question 2
How Will You Treat Other People Each Day?

Our lives consist primarily of “ships”—kinships, friendships, and relationships of varying types and degrees. It is through our interactions with others that we learn, grow, and have enjoyable times that are long remembered. It is through interactions with others that we develop our family life, our business life, and our social life and grow in many other ways as well. So how you choose to treat other people will be an important factor in your life’s success. In fact, the personal relationships you develop will ultimately be more important factors in what you achieve with your life than the academic credentials you possess.

Spirit of Goodness to become an increasingly important influence in your life.

This one is an exceptionally important question if “being nice” doesn’t come naturally for you. If such is the case, you are going to have to work at becoming more enjoyable to be with or to be around. Some open and honest conversations with parents, close friends, and other adults who you trust concerning their perceptions of how you treat others will be very helpful. When you talk with them, ask them for their perception of how you treat people and for specific suggestions about how you can improve. If needed, this is important self-improvement work because being indifferent toward others is a handicap that can significantly impede success.

The most attractive thing about you should have less to do with your face or body 
and more to do with how you treat people.

Parker J. Palmer

Question 3
How Do You Rate Your Choice-Making Ability?

If you have reviewed other lessons in our library, you have likely noted our belief that God’s Spirit lives in each of us and works in the world through individuals like you and me. It is, however, dependent on the choices we make. If we make good choices, God’s Spirit can work through us to “help and heal” others. But when we make poor or bad choices, the opportunity for the Spirit of Goodness to do good things is diminished or extinguished completely.  In other words, God’s Spirit is always “with us,” but it is up to you and me to make the choices that allow it to help other people.

So, this question is included here so that you can honestly evaluate the quality of your choices…generally speaking, are you a good choice-maker, a poor one, or somewhere in between? Most of can significantly improve our choice-making if we acknowledge (and believe) that, in effect, our choices define our life and ultimately what we achieve.

Destiny is no matter of chance.
It is a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for;
it is a thing to be achieved.

William Jennings Bryan

Question 4

How Will You Help Someone Else Have a Better Life?

We’re not talking about a financial donation to a worthy cause here. We’re not talking about becoming a member of some large organization that helps others in some way. Granted there are many national as well as local groups that are doing good work, and you may choose to actively participate in one or more of them. In fact, we hope you will make such a choice. But with this question, we’re talking about you, and you alone, and what you might do specifically to help someone in need in some special way.

It could be a student at school or an associate at work who needs a friend or someone to show some concern for them. It could be the lady coming out of the grocery store who needs some assistance getting her groceries loaded into her car. It could be a homeless man on the corner who could use a few dollars and a kind word. It could be an elderly couple in the neighborhood who just needed someone to check on them every day or so. As you live your life, you will encounter hundreds of moments like these when your assistance, your kind word, or your show of concern can make a major difference in someone’s life. We tend to think about “the big things” in life, but it’s these small acts of kindness that are not only important to others but round our life out in important ways. 

Obviously, you have to use good judgement in how you handle these opportunities when they present themselves, but, collectively, they will make your life far more important than being “president of some big company” ever will.

No man has come to true greatness 
who has not felt to some degree that his life belongs to [others},
and that what God gives him he gives him for mankind.

Bishop Phillips Brooks

Question 5

How Will You Improve this Country?

Spirit of Goodness to become an increasingly important influence in your life.

We’ve never lived in such a time of political ineffectiveness as we do today. The United States is spending more money than ever before and accomplishing less with it. The approval rating of the U.S. Congress by the American people is less than 20 percent. We have far too many politicians whose only interest is to get reelected and to “get the other guy” in the process. This poor political performance is, in fact, getting worse as our national debt zooms past $28 trillion or over $180,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. 

We include this question on the list because the need is so great. We need individuals who will go to work to fix things before our financial and political situations get totally out of hand. We need leadership (the ability to decide what is best for the country over what is best for you) and honesty (telling the truth to the American people who have proven they can accomplish anything if they have the facts to act on). Never under estimate your ability to make a major difference, to be “the one” who can get us heading back in the right direction. Rev. Edwin Chapin reminded us of the difference one person can make with these words:

Not armies, not nations, have advanced the race; 
but here and there, in the course of the ages, 
an individual has stood up and cast their shadow over the world.

You May Have Questions You Want to Add

As you work on defining the life you want to live and your plans in support of it, you will have other questions you would like to add to your list and answer as well. Some of these additional questions might include:

What are my religious beliefs, and how will they help me live a productive life?

What are my academic and gain-some-experience plans?

What are my family plans, and how do I view the importance of family in my life plans?

Who can I discuss my life plans with from time to time?

It Helps to Put Your Thoughts in Writing


A lot of us like to keep journals or diaries where we write what are, in effect, words or messages to ourselves. It helps us to be able to go back and see “what we were thinking” at a certain point in time. One of the suggestions we have made on this site is to start and keep a “goodness notebook.” If you have done so, that would be an excellent place to record your thoughts and answers to these questions and any you may decide to add to the list.

Concerning your answers, you will benefit greatly from being able to sit down, reread what you were thinking earlier, and refine or update your plans and insights in some way. We can assure you that no one gets things right the first time. The most effective plans are those that have been revisited and reedited many, many times. Your answers and plans will benefit from these ongoing reviews and edits as well.


I want to urge you to take these questions, and any others you might add, seriously. Don’t shy away from the tough questions. You are special, and your life can be special. But you have to define the life you want to live in a meaningful way and make the choices that will turn those life plans into reality. You are the leader of your life, how you use it is up to the leadership you provide. May God bless you as you work to use your life to help others in your own special and unique way.

A Final Comment

Spirit of Goodness to become an increasingly important influence in your life.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep 
from being overwhelmed by the tribe. But no price is too high to pay 
for the privilege of owning yourself.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Questions/Discussion Points



Have you spent much time thinking about your life-long term?
How would you describe “where you are” in that thinking right now?


What do you think your interests, abilities, and feelings are signaling to you now?


Have you started doing small, helping things for others?
If so, how did the people involved react to what you said or did?

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