Here’s what it really means to live the examined life

‍“I say that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

This quote has inspired many people to avoid the unexamined life.

But what does it really mean to live the examined life?

We’ll dive deeper into this philosophy today:

You are thinking about the “why”

One way to live the examined life is to think about the “why”.

What’s the purpose of your actions?

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

Is your purpose aligned with your values and beliefs?

When you answer these questions, it will help guide you. And it will also help make decisions easier.

You see, so many people go about life, living on autopilot.

They do things because society tells them to, but they never ponder the deeper “why” behind their actions.

And this is a problem!

If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, then it’s very difficult to make good decisions about your life.

Let me explain:

If you don’t know why you’re doing something, then your decisions will be based on “feelings” and not facts.

But that’s not all. Knowing your “why” will also be a huge motivation to achieve your goals. You’ll become more motivated to achieve what you want.

You also won’t be easily influenced by others because you will think for yourself and not follow their “shoulds”.

This is why knowing your “why” is such a powerful tool: it will help you live the examined life, while also making you a better person.

You ponder your values

You should spend time contemplating the values that are most important to you and what it means to live a meaningful life.

It sounds like an easy task, but for many people, values are thought about only on special occasions.

For example, think about how many times you’ve said “I want to live my best life.”

The motivation behind this statement is usually because someone else has something we want or because we’re unhappy with our current state of life.

In order to truly examine your values, you need to spend more time thinking about why you want them in the first place.

This can be difficult because of the constant bombardment of messaging that society constantly throws at us.

We’ve learned to live according to someone else’s values instead of our own.

We created a list of what we feel is important and deemed those as our values without really understanding them.

In order to live the examined life, you must take time out of your day for self-reflection.

You must spend time thinking about the things that matter most to you and why they matter so much when other people may not see their value at all.

This will lead you down a path in which your goals align with your values and will allow you to find peace in knowing that what you’re doing is right for yourself and not just following society’s norms or pressure from friends or family members.

You don’t give into toxic habits

Living the examined life means being aware of toxic traits and habits that are all around us.

Especially the spiritual community seems to be full of them.

When it comes to your personal spiritual journey, which toxic habits have you unknowingly picked up?

Is it the need to be positive all the time? Is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness?

Even well-meaning gurus and experts can get it wrong.

The result is that you end up achieving the opposite of what you’re searching for. You do more to harm yourself than to heal.

You may even hurt those around you.

In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. He himself went through a similar experience at the start of his journey.

As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core.

If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.

Even if you’re well into your spiritual journey, it’s never too late to unlearn the myths you’ve bought for truth!

When you want to live the examined life, this is a great place to start!

You think about the greater meaning of existence

One of the many benefits of living the examined life is that you think about the greater meaning of existence.

You become more aware of your surroundings and how your actions affect other people.

You see, life is strange and nobody really knows why we are here, floating on this rock in the middle of space.

The thing is, most people don’t want to think about the greater meaning of existence because it is scary.

What if there is no meaning? Or what if the meaning is something you don’t like?

Well, living the examined life means diving deep into this philosophical question and asking yourself over and over again: “what is the greater meaning of this?”

You exercise self-control

Living the examined life means exercising self-control.

Socrates supposes that because we are alive, we should be questioning our lives and examining ourselves.

One way to examine oneself is by having control over what one does, which can be achieved through discipline or self-control.

In order to have self-control, you need to be aware of your actions in the first place. This is where the examined life comes in.

A person who never second-guesses their decisions usually exerts poor self-control.

They don’t think about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it because they believe that a person should do whatever they want to do.

Living the examined life means thinking about what you are doing and why you are doing it before making a decision.

You live an examined life because you have self-control and therefore have control over your actions.

You ponder what is truly just

One of the most basic parts of living an examined life is considering what is just and unjust.

In other words, you should be analyzing and questioning your moral code.

In this sense, living the examined life means making sure that your morals are in line with your beliefs and that you’re not compromising your values to fulfill any personal desires or wants.

You see, society has very precise ideas of what is “just”.

Living the examined life means challenging those ideas and making up your own mind about what is fair, and what isn’t.

Justice is subjective, so nothing is stopping you from pondering what is just in your eyes.

You take a look at what you’ve done in life so far and use that knowledge moving forward

Socrates was a philosopher who believed that a person’s life should be examined.

This examination doesn’t just mean looking at your past mistakes, it also means looking at your successes.

The idea of living an examined life is to take a look at what you’ve done in life so far, use that knowledge moving forward, and make changes if needed.

This quote from Socrates is inspiring for those who want to live their lives with more awareness and understanding of themselves, their surroundings, and the world around them.

You see, some people never take the time to evaluate what they’ve done in life, what has worked for them, where they went wrong, etc.

But in order to live the examined life, this is crucial information!

You see, your past is your most valuable asset – it gives you the unique set of knowledge only you possess.

So, use it to your advantage!

You live for personal and spiritual growth

The examined life is about personal and spiritual growth.

Simply put, when you choose to live the examined life, you’re choosing to grow.

As humans, we are constantly changing.

We are always learning new things about ourselves and the world around us.

When you examine your life, you’re learning what makes you happy and what doesn’t.

You’re making the right decisions for yourself. Living the examined life is about being in tune with yourself and working on what needs attention.

A person who lives by this philosophy also lives for constant personal and spiritual growth.

You use fear to help you grow

The examined life is a philosophy that encourages people to live their lives in a thoughtful, reflective manner.

This can be done through self-examination and the examination of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.

In order to live an examined life, you can use fear as your guide for growth.

Fear is a powerful tool to help you grow. Some people try to get rid of all their fear, but to be honest, we wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for our inherent fears!

done4 Here's what it really means to live the examined life

When we experience fear, our minds are suddenly more aware of what’s going on around us so that we can avoid danger or bad situations.

For example, if you’re walking home from work late at night and see someone hiding in the bushes beside the path, it may cause you to feel nervous or frightened.

That feeling will alert your brain to the possible danger ahead so that it can take evasive action – like turning back around and heading back home before something bad happens.

The only difference between people who live the examined life is that they use their fear as a tool to grow.

You see, they look at their biggest fears – perhaps failing at launching a business or speaking in front of people – and then they tackle these fears.

The thing is, your fears are where you have the most room to grow!

Are you gonna live the examined life?

Did this article inspire you to see life through different eyes?

Maybe you will start living the examined life, yourself.

After all, according to Socrates, it’s the only one worth living!

Picture of Anna Scheucher

Anna Scheucher

Freelance writer specializing in holistic health, wellness, and psychology. Check out my blog to find out more!

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