The pace of modern life seems to continually hold us back from thinking about the bigger picture.
Instead, we are locked into a world where we focus on simple facts and information. We do not dwell on context or seek a wider analysis in our conversations. It's also a world where we rarely pause to reflect upon more personal conceptual questions, such as who we are, where we are going, and what life is all about for us. These are the kind of questions that require us to 'change gear' in our thinking; to lift ourselves up from asking questions that require simple answers to instead asking questions about ourselves that require us to think.
If we do stop and ask 'big picture' questions of ourselves, we will gain automatic benefits. We will refine our personal sense of self, and will be able to better integrate the wisdom and insights that we have gained as a result of our life experience. In short, we will become more wise as people.
Asking 'big picture' questions is where we find inspiration. Conceptual thinking opens up the possibility of delightful personal insights and 'aha' moments. We can dig deep for nuggety truths that we believe about life. We can fly high for the helicopter overview. We can look back over the landscape of our past, and we can look forward to how we would like things to be. In thinking big picture, we move from a pedantic factual analysis of our current life to a more sweeping strategic overview, where broader themes emerge. We see our lives through a larger frame.
Big picture thinking is where scientists make new discoveries and how artists find their creativity. It's also where we find personal and spiritual meaning in our lives. There are many simple questions that we can ask ourselves to make us pause and reflect on our lives. Ten examples are listed below:
- What was my father's/mothers key advice to me about living life well?
- What are my three core values in life?
- What is my favourite proverb, quote or line from a song? Why does it resonate so strongly with me?
- If I had a personal motto, what would it be?
- What is the story that I tell most often from my past? What does it say about me?
- What have I learned about relating well to others?
- What has been my most poignant life experience? How did I change?
- If my life story was written, what would the title be? What would be the main theme?
- What is my personal vision, captured in a simple phrase?
- How would I like my epitaph to read? What simple message would I like to leave for others?
Each of these questions requires us to pause and think quite deeply, and the subsequent answers often come as a pleasing surprise. We find ourselves identifying core beliefs and essential truths about life that we have held dearly over many years, but have rarely stopped to acknowledge or fully articulate before.
Pausing to reflect upon ourselves is a richly satisfying experience. By coming to know ourselves better in this way, we learn to carry ourselves more confidently through life, and with a stronger sense of purpose. We develop a clarity of vision that can be inspirational for both ourselves and for those around us, and that inevitably brings more energy and insight into our experience of everyday life.