We don’t realize it, and we’re actually searching for answers to life’s questions in all the wrong places. It’s what we’re taught.
We look for happiness and joy in material possessions, relationships, and external validation. We think that success is measured by what we have, what we’ve accomplished, and those who surround us.
What happens when we realize that all of these external factors are not enough to fill the emptiness inside of us? Where do we turn when we’ve exhausted all the options we thought were the answers to our problems?
The Wise Fool
My friend and podcast co-host, Stephanie Allen, recently shared a powerful story about Nasreddin the Sufi, who was known for being kind of dumb and silly.
The story goes that Nasreddin was in a pub one night, and he had a few too many drinks. He comes out of the pub, and he realizes that he has lost his keys. He walks over
to a nearby lamppost and begins searching for his keys. Nasreddin begins to struggle as he searches vigorously for the keys. After a while, one of his friends comes out of the pub and says, “Oh Nasreddin, I thought you had left a while ago! What are you still doing here?” Nasreddin explains that he lost his keys and is looking for them. The friend agrees to help Nasreddin continue to search for his missing keys underneath this lamppost.
Finally his friend says to Nasreddin, “Nasreddin we’ve been out here for a long time. Are you sure your keys are here?” Nasreddin replies, “No, actually I lost them over there in the dark. But if there’s more light over here we’ll be able to find them in the light.”
Where are your Keys?
The truth is, the key to finding the answers we seek lies within us. We must learn to look inward (darkness) instead of outward (the light). It’s in the darkness, the unknown, and the unfamiliar where we find the keys to our true happiness and fulfillment. We have been conditioned to look externally for all that we seek and because it’s what we know – it makes the most sense to us, no matter how silly it may be to look under the light post for the keys (outward for the answer). We must learn to find our inner light and our inner sunshine, even in the midst of the darkness.
But how do we do this? How do we find the answers within ourselves when we’ve been trained to look outside of ourselves for so long?
We start where we are. Let’s look at understanding our why. Take a moment and write down why you are searching for answers? Are you unhappy? What is your mind telling you would make you happier in the external? Is it a bigger house, a better job, or a new relationship?
The 5 Whys
Once you have that, then start to shift your focus inward. There’s a wonderful exercise called the 5 Whys. For each thing you want, ask yourself 5 times, “why?”. Here’s an example from a client who was unhappy at work and wanted to start her own business.
Why1: my boss is ignorant and condescending and has no clue how to manage people
Why2: I never thought of that, maybe he never learned, or is unhappy himself
Why3: I actually like my job, I just am frustrated with him
Why4: because he makes me feel incompetent
Why5: because I don’t trust myself
Powerful. She’s gone from thinking she wants to start a business (running around outside making something happen) to realizing that there are places she doesn’t trust herself (shining the light on the inner). The most powerful thing about this is that she saved herself several years and lots of frustration. At some point in creating her new business, her self trust issue would have come up – and without looking within, she would have found another outer issue to blame.
We’ve been exploring what it looks like in her life to build her self trust and the interesting thing is that 2 weeks later, her boss gave her a promotion. She got a raise, more autonomy and he told her that she’s so good with teams that he wants her to help some of the other managers. She never imagined that possibility – she thought the only answer was to leave.
It’s amazing what can happen when you begin to explore the unknown parts of yourself. Learning to embrace fears, doubts, and vulnerabilities empowers you to use them to guide you towards your true purpose and meaning in life – and fulfillment.
This journey is simple, and it’s not easy, and it’s not a one-time fix. It requires an ongoing commitment to self-discovery, self-awareness, and self-love. It’s a continuous process of learning, growing, and evolving. It’s not something that can be rushed or forced.
So, the next time you find yourself unhappy and wanting the next ‘outer’ challenge, maybe you are searching for answers in all the wrong places. I invite you to take a moment and look within. Embrace the darkness, the unknown, and the unfamiliar, and let it guide you towards your inner light. It will make the outer journey easier and more joy-filled. Remember that the key to true happiness and fulfillment lies within you, and no external factor can ever replace that.
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life with her proven combination of proprietary and third party tools, processes and practices. To learn more about how we can work together one-on-one to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate trainings or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.