Asking questions about why you’re here and what will make you happy is too often neglected. When planning for the future, there can be significant pressure to obtain the highest paying job or get into the most prestigious school. The result is that we forget to examine why we want to pursue these options in the first place and never ask the most important questions. Will being a lawyer make me happy, or should I be a stay-at-home father instead? Is it worth it to go to Yale if the love of my life, the person I hope to marry, cannot go there with me and our relationship comes to an end?
Failing to consider our purpose in life isn’t a new problem. As a young man 500 years ago, St. Ignatius of Loyola never took the time to consider his future. Instead, he spent his time chasing women and obsessing over fancy clothes. He also loved the bravado of shiny swords and military exploits. Eventually his way of life caught up with him when he was seriously injured by a cannonball during a battle. While in bed healing, he had time to think about his life and discover his purpose: to begin a new religious order. From that moment on he was a different man.
In hopes that it would help guide others, Ignatius wrote down some of the steps he took to discover his purpose in life. Here is some of his advice based on a chapter titled “Making a Good Election,” from his book of Spiritual Exercises.
Fr. Rennier elaborates on each of these:
- Pick the right time to think about it
- Imagine yourself in the future
- Ask the people who know you best
- Think about how the rest of your life is affected
- Pretend you are another person giving advice to yourself
- Imagine you are living your last moments