The hard questions for an authentic life - sample questions and book summary
Table of contents
Susan Piver's 2004 book The 100 Hard Questions for an Authentic Life provides a wonderful perspective and guide for self-knowledge and development. This beautiful book covers topics such as family, friendships, intimate relationships, work, money, creativity, and spiritual life. Questions lead the reader through a process of ever-increasing understanding that, hopefully, clarifies the path to a more passionate and deeply-felt life.
The self-questioning process is immensely useful in developing self-knowledge, and Piver's book, and the thinking within it, are extremely accessible. Use the sample questions to help you reflect on your own situation and how you can change. If you are involved in developing others, encourage them to read the book and use its process to find clarity, purpose and peace of mind.
The following summary is extracted from the book and used with permission from the Susan Piver, which is gratefully acknowledged.
What does it mean to live authentically? Living authentically is what you're doing when you find congruence between your inner world: your feelings, values, gifts, needs, spirituality, and passions, and your outer world: your job, relationships, home, and community. When you live an authentic life, these things support and synergize each other. It doesn't mean that you have no worries, conflicts, or fears; you may even have more as you choose to live authentically. There is one key difference, though: they no longer have the power to unseat you. When you have discovered what you can offer to others, when you feel that we are on your unique path, when you have an ongoing, honest, reliable connection to your inner wisdom, then you have found your unique spot in this world with all its craziness, sorrow, and joy. This discovery gives tremendous ease. You finally have a way of relating to work, lovers, friends, and spiritual practices with open-heartedness and intelligence. Problems, no matter how intense, are workable.
- What values did I gain from my family of origin? The three most helpful? The three least helpful? Where do I notice these values showing up in my current life, with my current family (if applicable) and with my friends and intimate partners?
- What conflicts exist within my immediate family (whether of origin or marriage)? Is there any way to resolve them? Is there anyone I need to forgive? If so, for what? Whether or not the conflict involves me directly, what can I do to create healing within the family? Is there a conversation I need to have, a letter I can write, or an internal shift I can make to start the healing process?
- Do I want to broaden my group of friends or am I happy with just those I have now? (Some people need a lot of friends, possibly to satisfy a variety of needs, while others are happy with just a few, close friendly relationships. Which group do I fall into?) If I want more friends, why is that? Am I in some way dissatisfied with those I have? Am I seeking something from my friends that they are unable to give?
- If I am somehow dissatisfied with or disappointed by one or more of my friendships, why do I feel that way? Are my expectations perhaps unrealistic? Am I seeking something that this friend is unable or unwilling to provide? Have we outgrown one another? Have my feelings for this person changed? Have my friend's feelings about me changed? How might I develop a deeper understanding of the dynamics between us?
- What special gifts do I have to offer as a lover or partner? Am I steadfast, giving, exciting, patient, sensitive, loyal, protective, fun? What other qualities can I identify as special in me?
- What qualities prevent me from being a better partner? Am I jealous, clingy, selfish, too demanding, unreliable, flaky, fearful? What other negative qualities can I identify in myself? Am I willing to change?? How capable am I (and my partner) of recognizing and working with these issues in a healthy way?
- Are there problems that seem to crop up for me in one relationship after another? Have I been able to identify them for myself? Am I experiencing any of these problems in my current relationship? Have I discussed them with my partner? Are we trying to work on them together?
- Am I able to elucidate my professional values, goals, and aspirations? If so, what are they? Even if I can't be specific in my description, what do I know about myself in this regard?
- Which, if any, of the aspirations I've identified am I not allowing myself to manifest? Do I have gifts or goals that I'm too afraid to pursue? Do I have a skill that I'm not using at work? What is it? Do I use it elsewhere in my life?
- How much (or little) does my current job reflect my values, goals, and aspirations? Is there a connection between my work and these ideals? If I want more of a connection, is there anyway I can cause my current work situation to more fully reflect my values? How? When?
- What purpose does money serve in my life? Do I value it for the security it brings, the options it gives me, the pleasure it provides?
- How much money do I have right now? How much debt? How comfortable or uncomfortable am I with the amount I have and the amount I owe? How can I increase my comfort levels? Am I on a budget? Do I need one? Do I have a plan for paying down debt as quickly as possible? Do I need one? Who or what can help me become clear and responsible about saving money and paying off debt?
- Do I think of myself as a creative person? Everyone has special gifts of intelligence, compassion, insight, ingenuity, style, etc: what are mine? Am I able to "own" my gifts, do I feel comfortable admitting them, even to myself?
- If I had to rank the areas of my life to reflect my deepest values and core inclinations, how would I order the following: Family, Friends, Intimacy, Work, Money, Creativity, and Spirituality? To which areas to I devote the most time, energy, resources, and thought? Am I content with this ranking? Would I prefer to reorder some of these priorities? If so, how might I go about doing that? Are internal and/or external shifts required? Who might be able to help me make those changes? Are there any books, groups, organizations, or friends I could call on for support? If my priorities were ordered correctly, how would my life be different from what it is now?
- What place do spirituality and spiritual practice play in my life? Do I have a spiritual life? Do I have spiritual beliefs? Are they the beliefs of a specific religion or are they self-created? A combination of the two? Am I able to express them clearly? To myself? To others?
- Do I believe in God or any form of deity? If so, what makes me feel most connected to this divinity? What is the nature of my relationship with this divinity? When do I feel it most strongly? Daily? In church? In nature? With my family? Others? What can I do to make this relationship stronger?
More information about Susan Piver and her work at https://susanpiver.com/. The use of this material is gratefully acknowledged.