The Most Important Question of my Life: An Enquiry into my True Values.

Via Monika Volkmar
on Dec 31, 2015
get elephant's newsletter


For many of us, the impending New Year brings with it a heightened introspection as we itch to discover how we can become better people (often causing us to spend vast amounts of money on blenders, gym memberships, and self-help books).

It can also couple with a warm feeling of nostalgia (or acts of hindsight—facepalming) as we reflect on the year coming to a close.

My own introspection and nostalgia raging, I find myself thinking back to a moment four years ago when I was asked the most important question of my life—an enquiry into my true values:

Suppose you were to die tomorrow and no one would even remember that you existed. That you were completely erased from history. What one thing would you like to have changed about the world even though no one would remember you for having changed it?

Answering this question helped bring to my awareness that I had the ability to contribute to something transcending my primitive needs for basic survival and social acceptance: My truth. Four years later, my answer has evolved, but not changed fundamentally.

“Becoming better people” starts by taking an honest look within. Finding our “why.”

This questions strips away our attachment to recognition and acceptance by forcing us to reflect on the processes that have allowed us to grow from challenging experiences; would we still find those experiences valuable if no one else cared?

It’s interesting to see how many people go blank in response to this question. Funny how by removing recognition of achievement, many of us have no clue what we truly value.

We do things only for the credit or to impress someone (hell, I’ve done it!). We crave praise and acknowledgement to feel that what we’re spending our time on is worth it. But without the recognition, piece of paper proving our value, or letters behind our names, would we still have done those things?

Many people who go to med school to become doctors, for example, do it because their parents want them to (to please), for the money (to survive), or social status (to be recognized). I’d like to know how many of these doctors would honestly be able to answer my question: “Teach people how their bodies are self-healing machines, hardwired for health if given the correct guidance.”

Now consider the doctor who, inspired by his own health challenges, pursued a career in medicine to teach his process to others, despite his lack of money, and parents who did not believe he was smart enough.

The former, praise-motivated doctors, are the ones sitting by the river studying it, recording its variations, understanding it very scientifically. The latter doctor actually jumped in.

It’s also interesting how many of us will answer this question with something incredibly, globally gallant like “abolish poverty,” or “create racial equality.” Definitely noble causes, but not realistically possible for one person alone to create a significant dent in.

As a naïve, idealistic, and annoyingly optimistic individual, I do believe that the actions of one person can change the world, but even I can recognize that global change requires many local actors. One person can create global awareness, but only the actions of many can create the desired change.

These people who answer my question with the global cause to “abolish poverty,” have not yet conceptualized their “why”. They aren’t thinking for themselves. They are likely to not have even experienced the poverty they wish to abolish. But they know it is a bad thing because it’s on the news every day. This is the danger in not knowing our truth.

If we don’t know our truth, we must do as society tells us is important rather than act according to our unique talents and values.

Regurgitating something we’ve been taught to be important but that doesn’t reflect our true experience of what is meaningful in our lives and what we are truly capable of teaching to others.

Don’t be the entrepreneurial coach who has never started a business. Be aware that focusing on a problem is not the same as sharing a process-based solution to it.

What my question is really asking is:

In what particular domain have you made a sufficient number of mistakes to provide awareness of a solution? Why is it that you care about this? And would you still care if your efforts were not recognized? What do you think could happen if you could raise awareness of this? How could this help people?

This thought process often leads people to similar answers, often one that is awareness-based: A desire for people to understand. To see what we can see after years of hindsight. To inspire local actions that can collectively become the global improvement we seek.

Look globally, act locally.

What I think is so beautiful is that everyone has their own specific talent for a particular type of awareness, and it’s waiting to be illuminated and shared. Fear not the truth, own it.

By owning our truth we can help others to see theirs. Imagine world full of people like that. People who transform the worst of their obsessions and fears into a fulfilling path.

Let’s illuminate the new year with the brightness of our truth, shining awareness on the real processes that allow us to grow, sharing them with the world.

I love hearing answers to this question. Help illuminate the world by posting an answer in the comments.


Author: Monika Volkmar

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr


About Monika Volkmar

Monika Volkmar is a strength and conditioning coach, Thai massage practitioner, and owner of The Dance Training Project. When Monika isn’t doing yoga or lifting heavy things, Monika can generally be found wandering the streets of Toronto in search of the perfect scone and doing her best to avoid dance-induced whiplash. The best way to make her angry is to try to engage in conversation while she’s reading. Don’t do that.


15 Responses to “The Most Important Question of my Life: An Enquiry into my True Values.”

  1. Annett says:

    Poignant subject matter Monika : ) This explained my struggles for the few decades while I tried to fit into what others expected of me. I felt very uneasy and unauthentic as I tried to be everything to everyone. Thank you for addressing this.

  2. Peter Hill says:

    What is the quality of your love? For yourself, for your family for your friends? We treat others in direct proportion to how we feel about ourselves – we value ourselves, we value others, we value life – then we can find our gifts and serve wherever we are and g.e.t.i.t. together 😉

  3. Sandra says:

    Great take on an age-old question. I’ve been working on this for awhile…I think the answer at this point is how to operationalize acceptance, inclusion, and compassion. I know, I know. It’s been done before 🙂 I just want to be one of the people who contributes to the positive polarity. Thank you for providing a forum for getting the word out!

  4. penny says:

    “transform the worst of their obsessions and fears into a fulfilling path.”
    powerful. this is is it really. for each person to heal themselves from whatever healing thry need and to take what has been really transformative, what have been deep lessons and learning, to pass that on. everyone has theor own unique healing experience story and history and i believe that we are meant to teach and learn from one another, to aid in one anothers healing.
    so mine, (still in process :), ive learned forgiveness and i can pass that on. im learning about my anger and self knowing, and how to go deeper to get at the truth of what is really asking for attention. i know about loneliness and desperation and what it means to find your guidance and anchor through your higher self. i know about intuitution and bodily sense. these are things that its becoming clear i must pass this wisdom on to whomever wherever. each of us has a unique medicine to put out into the world. thank you so much for this article. you really helped me get some wanted clarity. you see? thats exactly the idea!!! be blessed

  5. Angela says:

    Great article, Monika! I struggled with debilitating depression and anxiety most of my life. My journey to the light began with a suicide attempt, which led me away from psychotropic meds and towards energy healing. I eventually became a Reiki Master, EFT practitioner, meditation instructor, and hypnotist. My "why" is simple: I am here to help people feel better and live happier lives. I do that through energy work and by writing about spirituality, energy work, and living from your soul at and So many people are unhappy with their lives and they don't understand why. Your article helps them ask the questions that MATTER. Thank you so much for sharing this! I hope 2016 is your best year EVER! Blessings! Angela

  6. juliemwithers says:

    I want to have made a contribution to the field of understanding around the insidious & infectious patriarchy within all of us, which is acted upon especially in our intimate relationships. I have made SO many mistakes in this realm, and I know that it is key to a more beautiful world, we can all make improvements here, perhaps especially so if there are some of us who go 'all out' to set the (invisible) ball rolling… For instance, did you know that the standard form of sex with its focus on male ejaculatory orgasm has only become normalised in the past few centuries? Male orgasm & ejaculation don't have to happen together, they are separate events. With true presencing, & receiving of sexual pleasure without a focus on an orgasmic / ejaculatory goal, we can take our sexual pleasure to a higher order, experience expanded, non-genital even orgasms. Now, if we were all doing this, would be bother to make wars? Or even bigger profits? Our (co-)creativity would go thru the roof, our health & wellbeing sky-rocket, and our global population would be stabilised overnight… A bit radical I know but why not…? x

  7. Carolyn says:

    I suspect that I would like to be remembered as a person that listened with wholeheartedness to folks. I would like to be remembered as a person who spent much time and effort to help imprisoned individuals find another way to be in the world through meditation and Buddhist practice. I would like to be remembered as someone who remembered Social Injustice and worked to help every day in one way or another. Well – we will see!

  8. Sue B Yoga says:

    My domain is that of the human heart and it’s amazing capacity to love and forgive, suffer with others, rejoice in others and roll smoothly over any bump that this crazy,precious,diverse life experience brings us. We all have this and need to remember it. If we could all see clearly that we don’t need to fear each other, that the need to love and be loved is in all of us and that if we simply express and enact in the world what we desire (love, acceptance, appreciation) it will be returned to us a thousand fold. I have seen this come true time and again in my life- I call it the ‘love’ strategy. If I just extend my love, the things I desire, to others, it always is returned to me. We don’t have to be afraid of each other, we don’t have to prove our point of view or defend the longings of the heart. Our loving nature is right there beneath our skin. The human heart is big enough, courageous enough to hold this life, all of it. If people just understood that we are all going through the same experiences Just as different expressions of life, we’d see ourselves in each other. We would see that we are not alone. We’d be able to walk side by side as individuals keeping each other company, together.

  9. I love your point about people not having their "why?" for doing something, especially the question relating to those that are inherently doing something based on a cause. If asked, what is your reason for doing what you do, most cases, like you said it is because they saw it on the news and it a worthy ideal to pursue. Your why should be authentic to your true values and should be deep rooted. "You can bare any how if you have a why." said by Friedrich Nietzsche, highlights the need for a why because when it gets tough or the validation dissipates, what is your reason for sticking to your cause?

    Great post, seriously! We should connect, come check me out! Just search "Toronto Life Coach" on Google, I am studying under Master Life Coach Bruno LoGreco. Keep up the inspiring work!

  10. Alain Martin says:

    For this is an awareness type of a text. Specialy after this passage:

    In what particular domain have you made a sufficient number of mistakes to provide awareness of a solution?

    My answer : LIVING

  11. Katie says:

    Each of us have suffered our own trials through LIVING.There is something that each of us has learned that may help another or possibly many others if we share our hindsights to offer them some foresight…to save them from the hardships that we have endured. Even sharing your pain for a tragic moment can help others to gather perspective in their own lives. I hope to be powerful enough to spread my strength to others who need to find their own.

  12. monvolkmar says:

    🙂 HA. But is there a solution to "living"? Does living need solving? Or do we just live, trusting the process?

  13. monvolkmar says:

    When we can’t fix something (which, when it comes to people, is not what we should try to do anyway) it’s even more important to offer compassion. 🙂

  14. Jamie says:

    Good guote from Mahatma Ghandi I believe:
    The key to life is finding your gift – the purpose in life is to give it away.
    Another from an unknown is:
    The two most imortant days in one's life is the day you were born
    and the day you realize why.
    I guess LIVING is the process through which we come to realize our gift and hopefully give it away.

  15. Hey Monika

    A beautiful person shared your post with me knowing that I gonna like it. Indeed, I like it a lot. Your perspective goes so well with my.

    I just want to share one think how I try to live my life. My reality is that if you're honest with your self and don't only talk about it. You start living a hundred percent your world how it should be you changed the world completely.

    Thank you for your great article.
    Hug Sevi