“The first step towards philosophy is incredulity.” —Denis Diderot 

Every Sunday, there is a band of steel drummers that plays for the crowds where I live. This mentally handicapped guy, pictured above, comes down and stands in front of the steel drummers and just laughs and dances. He stays there for hours and has fun.

I’m sure you’ve read this quote before: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates said that at his trial for heresy. He was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. The sentence was death but Socrates had the option of suggesting an alternative punishment. He could have chosen life in prison or exile, and would likely have avoided death.

But Socrates believed that these alternatives would rob him of the only thing that made life useful: Examining the world around him and discussing how to make the world a better place. Without his “examined life” there was no point in living. So he suggested that Athens reward him for his service to society. The result, of course, is that they had no alternative and were forced to vote for a punishment of death.

Luckily, we don’t have to choose between an examined life and death. But the sad thing is, most people avoid leading an examined life. It’s not that they don’t have time or make time. They actively avoid examining their lives.

People who do examine their lives, who think about where they’ve been, how they got here, and where they’re going, are much happier people. No one has all the answers. And no one’s life is free from trouble and strife. But those who have some sense of where they belong in the universe also have a context for understanding how all the elements of their life fit together.

If there are two people, one with a map and one without a map, who has the better chance of reaching her destination? The one with the map, of course. When you set aside time to examine your life, You get to choose your destination; You get to set the goals; You get to determine the path; You get to decide how long it will take; You get to decide whether you’re on the right path or the wrong path.

In other words, you begin to know your self and to take control of your life. You decide who you want to be and begin to become the person you want to be.

Examining your life brings tremendous freedom.

I have begun the process of examining everything in my life, and then re-patterning the quick draw reactions that are my go to actions. Our society tells us that if someone cuts you off, you honk, curse at them, or get in their face and threaten violence. I, like many people have demonstrated these behaviors in the past. I have examined them. Not only do they lack peace, but they are wholly ineffective.

The other day while riding my bike a couple of young men in a “fast and slick” car came harrowingly close to hitting me. I resisted the old behaviors, and when I caught up with them at the next two lights I calmly and humbly explained to them how they had made me very scared. I admitted my own vulnerability. I didn’t yell at them, curse them, or evidence any violent behavior. I merely extended to them my understanding of frustration at bicyclists, how powerful they were, how afraid I was, and how my safety was in their hands. They said nothing, but both looked sheepishly embarrassed. I didn’t condemn them, but freely admitted that I understood them, and kindly asked if in the future they could give a little more room to cyclists, I and others would surely appreciate it.

It is in everyday situations like this that I have changed, or have begun to change all my modus operandi; my quick draw reactions. The overarching question being how do I best love or serve others in my path. This is hardest in my coaching. I have been coaching in a certain style for so long, that reactions are so visceral and inherent that they seem to be the last to want to change. But this is exactly what the Dali Lama said if here were to summarize Buddhism: Mindfulness. This is essentially it. Being mindful of every thought, reaction, response, and action…and as Socrates stated…examining them for their truth.