For some, it means finding their authentic selves. For others, it’s all about looking for meaning and purpose. For many, it’s about finding yourself.
Whatever you think soul searching means, it comes down to one simple thing:
It’s a journey to alignment—a desire to feel as though you and life are exactly as they should be.
But for many, soul searching can turn out to be quite more challenging.
We are constantly exposed to external influences that distract us from “nourishing” our souls. In such an information-driven and socially-manipulative world, it’s easy to forget what truly makes us happy.
So how can we soul-search? Here’s your epic millennial guide to soul-searching.
Why do we go soul-searching?
Every person, at least at one point in their life, ends up questioning their existence:
Why do we do the things we do? Are we truly happy? Is this what we want in life?
These questions can be quite daunting. But it’s good that you have them.
It means you’re ready to define what makes your life complete.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines soul-searching as the:
: examination of one’s conscience especially with regard to motives and values.
Sounds straightforward enough. But why do we have the urge the go soul searching?
According to Kelley Kitely, bestselling author of MY self: An Autobiography of Survival:
“Most people engage in soul searching (or should) when life seems out of sync, or when they’re in a rut, experiencing negative feelings towards their careers or relationships.”
Have you been feeling “out of sync” lately? Like nothing is really going right in your life?
Admitting that something is missing can be hard. Especially if you feel like the thing missing is you.
The good news is, recognizing that your soul needs nourishing is already the first step in soul searching.
As Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, founder and spiritual director of Ligmincha Institute, says:
“Recognizing depletion is the first step in soul retrieval—you need to know what is missing before you can retrieve it.”
Steps for soul-searching
1. Look within yourself
Here’s a tough question you need to ask yourself:
If you sit by yourself for one minute, do you like what you see or hear within you?
Most of us are not aligned with our inner selves because we have deep internal conflicts.
Either we don’t know who we are, or who we’ve become is against our true values.
“If you feel that same lack of ease when you’re alone, perhaps it’s because you don’t truly know yourself, and are therefore uncomfortable being by yourself.
“Recognizing your discomfort with yourself is the first step in the healing process.”
2. Take time out
Sometimes you don’t realize how much help a break can give to your soul.
Life is already so hectic in this success-driven world. The pressures of everyday life can sometimes get to you without you realizing it.
In these moments, it’s crucial to take a little time-out for yourself.
According to Spiritual PA and author of The Soul Searchers Handbook, Emma Mildon:
“It’s time to take a break from life and allow yourself a window, every day, however big or small, to gather yourself.
“Whether it be the art of making a cup of herbal tea for yourself, closing your eyes to meditate for a space of time, or giving yourself a moment of calm in the midst of a manic day. Allow yourself permission to take a T-sign break. Your coach, aka your soul, will thank you for it!”
Taking breaks is not something you do to spoil yourself. It’s a necessity you are allowed to have.
3. Take stock of the people surrounding you.
You’ve sat with yourself and decided whether you like what you see or not. Now it’s time to do the same to the people in your life.
Are you surrounded by positive, encouraging, and kind people? Or are they toxic, malicious, and selfish?
Who you surround yourself with defines who you become.
That is just how important the people in your life are.
It’s tough to cut off people you’ve had relationships with for a long time. But the moment you decide to let go of the people that are hindering your growth, you will start living a better life.
Only surround yourself with people who empower, inspire, and love you—whoever you end up becoming and whatever you end up having.
4. Reflect on your work life.
Not surprisingly, statistics show that 53% of Americans are unhappy at work.
That’s right, more than half of the country’s population don’t find any satisfaction with their work life.
It may be that you belong to the unhappy group as well.
If you are, who can blame you? If you don’t like doing what you do, it must be difficult to do it 40 hours a week.
Ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Do you honestly want to spend years of your life doing something you don’t find fulfilling?
Again, recognizing the problem is the key step in soul-searching.
5. Let go of what doesn’t serve you.
Once you know the things and people that are not adding value to your life, it’s time to let them go.
According to Mildon:
“Part of your holistic development will see you naturally outgrow relationships and organically meet new people who are making shifts to live in a more holistic style like you.”
But this also applies to the small stuff. If you don’t like going to certain social events, don’t go. Don’t talk to that creepy co-worker if you don’t want to.
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“When you get a gut feeling, inkling, or an unexplainable urge to skip a lunch date with someone, cancel on a friend, or simply not make time for a person anymore — listen to it. Save yourself the detour later.”
Soul-searching is about doing what your gut tells you to do and making decisions that feel right for you. That’s how you get the results that are in alignment with your soul.
6. Learn to fall in love with nature.
Even science confirms the restorative powers of nature.
We’ve all spent countless hours of our childhood playing in nature—summers in beautiful places, holidays camping in the wilderness and letting our imagination run wild.
Yet somehow, most of us neglect our relationships with nature as we grow older. Instead, we are glued to our comforts and technology.
But nature is something that grounds as. It has a magical way of soothing our soul.
“Connection to the peaceful, joyful experience of who you are, is directly accessible through the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of nature.”
With nature, we are confronted by the overwhelming yet magnificent reminder that we are nothing but a small dot in an infinite universe. Therefore, all our worries are inconsequential.
Nature has the unique capability of reminding us of what is important.
7. If there’s no way forward, make a U-turn.
Humans are stubborn creatures. We don’t like admitting we’re wrong. We don’t like giving up either.
But sometimes, there comes a point when we’re up against a wall.
And it takes amazing humility to turn around and say, “I was wrong.” Or even more courage to say “I will find another way.”
As Mildon puts it:
“It is the ability to admit that what you once said, thought, or did may not be right.
“Acknowledging, confessing, forgiving, and making yourself vulnerable are all like Formula One’s fast lanes for your soul’s development. It is a sign of a wise, holistic, and awakened being when one can admit — whoops!”
8. Travel somewhere unfamiliar.
We all dream of going to an exotic faraway country for soul-searching. Who doesn’t want to meet a shaman and undergo a complete spiritual overhaul?
However, you don’t really need to go somewhere far and exotic to feed your soul.
You only need to go somewhere unfamiliar— somewhere that doesn’t remind you of home and everything you are comfortable with.
Because traveling shouldn’t be about escaping yourself. It’s about creating something new about you.
According to author Robert W. Fuller Ph.D.:
“Travel breaks stereotypes. We get to see for ourselves, form our own impressions.
“Fear is part of what makes travel so enlivening and revelatory. You’re perpetually off-balance and on guard.
“Travel is like truth serum. As we struggle to reconcile what we’re experiencing with what we take for granted, we strip away what’s arbitrary in cultural practice and approach what is universal.”
9. Stop “searching.”
This might sound confusing, but soul-searching isn’t actually about chasing after something external. It’s about getting to know what’s inside, through external experiences.
According to soul-alignment coach Ali Daniel:
“We are not tasked with having to define our true selves. We are not tasked with having to find our purpose or make up our true, authentic selves.
“We already are our true, authentic selves. Instead, all we need to do is figure out which pieces of ourselves that we’ve accumulated over the years aren’t truly us.”
Stop chasing after ghosts and ideals defined by conventions. Look into yourself and search there, not outside.
10. Don’t wait for life to happen. Make life happen.
If you’re going to wait around for life to happen to you, you’re not going to find anything. You are equipped with all the tools you need to find your authentic life.
But that doesn’t mean it’ll just automatically come to you.
Listen to your gut. Then do what it tells you.
“Don’t wait for the universe to kick you in the ass. Do it yourself. Stop being a passenger in your own life, start piloting that airplane like a boss.
“Stop waiting for stuff to happen to you and go after what you want. No one is going to give you permission to do what you want, to be what you want or to have what you want.
“You need to give yourself permission. You only live once, this life is so short and so unpredictable, you don’t know how long you have. Why not live your life on your terms?”
Soul-searching is about learning to be comfortable with solitude.
The key point is this:
Solitude is golden.
It is in being alone, sitting with your thoughts, and listening to your own heart that points you in the right direction.
But we confuse ourselves with being alone and our fear of being lonely. And there we commit a mistake.
According to author Hara Estroff Marano:
“Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely – perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.
“Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.”
What makes the soul hungry is a lack of solitude. It is our inability and fear of being alone that stops us from truly knowing ourselves, finding our purpose, and living our lives on our own terms.
Instead, we surround ourselves with other people, material things, and social rewards that only soothe our souls for a second, but never more.
The truth you will come to find…
Right now, you are full of questions and thirsty for the answers.
But as you go through your soul-searching journey, one thing will become evidently clear:
You may never get the answers, but you will find the joy and comfort in not knowing.
You will learn to open your eyes to the world. You may even come to understand it. But just when you thought you’ve found the answers, more questions will follow.
And you will find the beauty in that—life is an endless river. Best if you become a willing passenger.