What Do You Want Out Of Life, Really?

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How fulfilled do you find yourself these days? Do you even think about living life in a way that is fulfilling, or is it enough to just get by? Does it even matter?

Some people live a life of aspiration, some settle for goals, and still others are doing what they can to "just get by."

Lest we get distracted here, I have spent some considerable amount of my life "just getting by." When my family lost everything (dad died, insurance company denied coverage for his leukemia, insurance company denied death benefit, family forced into bankruptcy, etc) and I wound up living in my beater of a car, I had some experience with "just getting by."

Only, not really.

These were the 60's and my version of getting by was working full time washing dishes in one of the campus cafeterias while scrambling to stay in school. I was also actively involved in the civil rights movement, although not nearly as conscious about the process as I might like to give myself credit for being.

One day, on a protest line, I wound up getting hit by a tear gas canister. As I picked it up and started to throw it back, I suddenly, and inexplicably, found myself looking back at myself, as though I were a spectator to my own activity. And then I heard myself screaming, "why don't you a**holes love us?"

At that moment, life began changing in profound and meaningful ways. As wave after wave of awareness broke over me, I saw the contradiction of my life to that point: my message was love and peace, and my strategy was to yell, scream and throw things.

Up to that point, I had lived my life with a series of goals. Not the most meaningful goals, but goals nonetheless. Get a job (after the first bankruptcy). Make the track team. Win a medal. Get into college. Find a way to stay in college.

I was pretty good at setting goals and achieving those goals. And, still, life wasn't all that fulfilling. Only I didn't notice. There was always something else to do, some hurdle to overcome, and, of course, the challenge of just making it through another week.

And then that tear canister hit me, or perhaps more accurately stated, that tear gas canister awakened me.

As I can see so clearly now, with the benefit of time, experience and insight, that little awareness about loving vs. screaming, opened me up to an expanded realization of what really mattered to me. That moment is one that I characterize today as one of inspiration. I was inspired by a higher source, and inspired toward a higher purpose.

According to Random House, the word inspire means:
• to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence:
• to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence
• to guide or control by divine influence.

Indeed, I was inspired to turn my life into something more than achieving goals, overcoming difficult situations, and surviving to fight another day. My focus on goals shifted toward a life of aspiration.

Random House defines aspiration as:
• strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations
• a goal or objective desired

When you dig a bit further into the epistemology of these words, it turns out that they both share a common lineage, all stemming from a 13th century root word meaning an animating or vital principal, from old French and Latin words meaning soul, courage, and breath.

Curiously, inspiration and aspiration¸ all share that same common root word meaning to breathe or to breathe in. And the older usages all point toward a form of "divine inspiration" as in "the breath of life," often referred to as spirit.

In that odd moment on a strike line about civil rights, I was indeed inspired to seek a higher level of goals in life. Mine was to move from achieving the kinds of things you could measure with a check list, to a life of aspiration. To me, this was a moment of divine inspiration.

That divine inspiration came from within. No preacher, sermon or set of dogma told me what to do. I began awakening to that which resided inside of me, to my Spirit, to my Soul, to my connection with the Divine.

It became increasingly clear that I wanted my life to be about making a difference in the quality of life as measured by the qualities of loving and caring.

I have focused my work on enabling others to expand their own awareness of what matters most to them while also enabling me to live a good and abundant life. These columns are but a current form of sharing insights and awareness, most often in the form of exploring common, sometimes current events and experiences.

Underneath it all, you will find a common thread in the form of a question, often unspoken: what is it that matters most to you? Why does it matter? What are you hoping to experience?

My thought is that most of us are seeking to live a life of aspiration and inspiration. What inspires you? Are you focused on goals? Just getting by? Would you prefer to lead a life characterized by higher levels of aspiration, of service, and of caring?

What if you could aspire to an inspired life? And what if that life could also be one of success and fulfillment?

We will explore these themes and more in the coming weeks. Please let me know what matters to you, what questions you would like to see us explore, and any thoughts or advice you have for making life more rewarding and more fulfilling.

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)