Why are we on this earth? I don’t claim to have the answer, but I will make a case that a purpose of life is to grow and improve – to be a better version of ourselves over time. We should first acknowledge that people have different ideas about why we are here, some of which include:
- Serving God
- Doing good in this world
- Being a good partner, parent, friend
- Loving others
- Having/raising happy, healthy kids
- Being happy
- Finding our purpose in life
- There is no purpose to our existence.
“Why are we here? Because we’re here. Roll the bones.” – from the song, Roll the Bones, by the band, Rush
It’s okay to have multiple ideas about why we are here on this earth, but consider that one of these reasons is to be a better version of ourselves through growth and improvement. This idea fits within evolution because we evolved to be adaptive…or perhaps we evolved through adaptation. If we didn’t learn and adapt, if this wasn’t hardwired into us, we wouldn’t be here today. So, seeking growth fits squarely with our evolutionary heritage.
The idea of growth also fits with our daily experiences. In school, we try to learn and master different skills, concepts, and ideas. This continues on through college and into our careers. Whether we are playing sports or games, we strive to get better. There is a certain level of satisfaction we gain from improvement. This satisfaction itself reinforces this notion that seeking to grow and improve is a good thing and one purpose of our existence.
This isn’t to say that we should be dissatisfied with our lives. Within the worldview of nondualism, we can accept ourselves just as we are and seek improvement. These seemingly contradictory ideas can co-exist.
The better version of you is the one who grows and improves over time. No, this is not going to be a straight line. Sometimes this growth process is like climbing Jacob’s Ladder. But it’s hard to argue that seeking growth is not a goal that we share in this life.
How to Be a Better Version of You
The natural question is, how can we grow and improve in this life? There are endless ideas about this. In short, I’d say be open to ideas and try different things—experiment! Indeed, we grow as we seek growth.
I get really inspired by wisdom, traditions, and stories. I’ve heard a version of the “Two Wolves” story a number of times, and I’m going to pass it along to you. I’ve included my video version of this story for those of you who might be interested in that format. In line with a traditional Native American introduction, I don’t know whether this story really happened or not, but it’s true:
Which Wolf Will You Feed?
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
How Do You Feed Your Wolf of Good?
Feeding our Good Wolf is much like nourishing our bodies. There is truth to the saying, “You are what you eat.” When it comes to growth or becoming a better version of ourselves, we need to feed our Good Wolf.
Every day, we have choices of how to spend our time and/or the attitude we bring with us. Reflect on your own life. What helps you to be the best you? Conversely, what brings you down? Brings out the worst in you? Think of:
- The friends you hang out with
- How much alcohol you consume
- Volunteer work
- Spending quality time with your family
- Charitable giving
- Consumption of news/media
Reflect on those times when you are at your best. Chances are, at those times, you were feeding the Good Wolf. When you have been at your worst, you were probably feeding that Evil Wolf (I know, that’s a strong sentiment, but I’m just milking the story here).
The good news is that every single day we have choices to make. No matter what decisions we made yesterday, we have opportunities to feed our Good Wolf today. What can you do to feed yours? Make this a practice—something you ask yourself every day. Consciously, purposefully, seek ways to feed that Good Wolf. That’s a way toward growth and the better version of you.