Use this thought exercise to gain clarity over a life decision that is troubling you. I don’t promise clear-cut answers or solutions, but I reasonably expect that you will gain some clarity from it.
Read the following context prompt and try as much as you can to hypnotize yourself into thinking that you’re actually in the scene. The degree to which you engage with this imaginary exercise and transport yourself into the narrative will determine the effectiveness of the exercise.
Imagine that you wake up in a hospital bed.
With blurry eyes you look around to see that there are nurses, doctors, and your loved ones surrounding you.
Alarm bells are starting to go off in your head, but you’re trying to stay calm.
Not a chance.
You look down to see your whole body horrifically bandaged from head to toe.
You’re informed by your doctor that you’ve been in a near-fatal motor vehicle crash; you will never move again.
Your brain is fully functional but you are destined to live the rest of your life as a vegetable until you or someone else close to you deems it unfruitful for you to go on living in this state.
Picture this scene for a moment. You’re the central character in this narrative.
What thoughts are running through your head at this moment?
What moments in life are you recalling?
Write them down if any are emotionally charged. Doing this is both therapeutic and also an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your unique emotional levers: knowing about these could prove useful at a later point.
Now – imagine that, for whatever reason, in that particular moment a very odd but specific sequence of neural networks decided to fire in your brain, catapulting one very particular memory into the forefront of your mental theater.
That moment is the one you are actually in now in real life: confronted with a life decision of sufficient magnitude to determine a sizeable portion of your future life.
In this vegetative state – which course of action would bring you more regret: if you were to go through with option A, or if you were to go through with option B?
My personal experience has been that running through this thought exercise will bring about a very clear personal preference when confronted with a life decision that has binary options.
It’s rather futile for me personally to try sort life decisions out through logical reasoning – I’m just not wired up like that – so I have to resort to this type of thinking exercise to stimulate an emotional response to see what decision course really speaks to me at my core.
Maybe it will be helpful for you. Whenever I have had to use this technique, I’ve never looked back from my decision.
Reflection Adaptations: The Bucket List
You’re back in that hospital bed. All details above are the same.
Except this time – think about all the things that you didn’t do in your life, that you wish you would have done but now cannot because of your vegetative state.
If you really engage properly with the exercise, your mind will deliver bullet point answers to this meditative prompt faster than you can record them.
But do record them. Write down as much as you can – write furiously.
Once you’ve exhausted your mind – look at the list.
You’ve now compiled a bucket list for yourself.
The easy part’s over. Now comes the hard and dizzyingly exciting part – going out and actually doing the things on your list and checking them off.
Reflection Adaptations: Life Purpose
This one is very similar to the above, but it requires a more sophisticated approach. It involves an extra nested layer of mental simulation.
You’re back in that hospital bed. All details above are the same.
Now – think back over your life that you have lived.
But as you think back over your life, I want you to populate it with imaginary experiences and things that you have done which you may or may not have done yet in real life.
What experiences, what jobs, what career, what types of people etc. make you look back over your life with a smile and conclude that it was one worth living?
From another angle, you’re asking yourself: ‘what would my life have to be mostly populated with for me to be sitting in that vegetative state with a smile on my face, thinking to myself that I engaged with the world in a way that I was meant to?’
What would that look like? What would that feel like? What does a typical week look like to you? Where do you live? Who do you live with? Do you have children? Do you have lots of money? Do you have pets?
Flesh out all the details for these dimensions, and for every other dimension you can think of: love, relationships, family, health & exercise, drug & alcohol use, career/job/income generation, passion projects, social life, spiritual life. Write them out.
If you look and filter through these things that you came up with from this exercise – there will be a common thread uniting most of these in some way.
Take your time to try and figure out what it is. When it becomes clear to you, you should be able to sum it up in a simple, succinct sentence.
You’ll know it’s the correct one because you’ll see and hear it articulated in words and something within you will shift into alignment; a feeling of unity will wash over you.
A feeling similar to that of falling in love.
It’s not something you can think your way into. It’s a gut instinct, and one that will announce its satiation with a feeling of alignment when your consciousness articulates your life purpose in the proper words.
Airy fairy stuff, I know. But if life purpose is what you’re after then sorry, you’ve strayed into the spiritual dimension of desires.
Airy fairy is the name of the game here. You’re not reasoning your way to an answer here, Mastermind.
Exception Handling: ‘Genuinely Engaged With Exercise But Cannot Generate Anything?’
Can’t be sure without context of how you went through the exercise.
The optimist in me says that it’s an indication that you’re already living the life you want.
The pessimist in me says that something within you has prevented you from engaging with the exercise properly. If this is the case, in my experience the most common reason is cynicism and self-directed Tall Poppy Syndrome. Sort that out then try again.
Final Thoughts & Genesis Context:
The roots of this technique lies in the very real and valid desire for all of us to live an uncommon life; a life that is full and bright and beautiful.
If we choose to look deep enough into who we individually are, we each have a unique picture of what that ideal life looks like to us. That picture is as special and as unique as you are as an individual living on this earth.
When we have a grasp of it, we can begin to take steps to bring it into our real, actual lives. At the very least, it gives us something positive to aim for.
You want to aspire to live a life which, by the end of it, causes you to greet the Reaper with a firm handshake, and a cheeky “what took you so long?”.
What you don’t want – and which this technique will hopefully help you avoid – is a situation where the Reaper calls your number and you think to yourself that dreaded phrase, dripping with regret: “no, not yet. It’s not my time”.
Expect the Reaper. Whether you like it or not your number is set in stone on his list; so beat him to the punch and live the life you want before he comes knocking.
One life. That’s all you get.
The amount of days left for you on this earth is predetermined and you have no influence over it. The only point of mystery is that you don’t know what that number is. No one does.
You DO have influence with what you do with those X days left of your life. So live it to the fullest.