What is the aim of life? What does it mean to live fully? Rudolf Steiner writes: "The student must, from time to time, glance introspectively into himself, sink back into himself, take counsel with himself, form and test the fundamental principles of his life, run over in his thoughts the sum total of his knowledge, weigh his duties, and reflect upon the content and aim of life."
Bertrand Russell weighs in: "In regard to every form of human activity it is necessary that the question should be asked from time to time, 'What is its purpose and ideal? In what way does it contribute to the beauty of human existence?'"
In both of the above quotes we find the expression "from time to time." We must ask ourselves how often this should be. Twice a year? Once a decade? Thrice in a lifetime?
I nominate every day. Nay, several times each day. Moment to moment.
You are already doing everything for a reason. The unconscious mind, which is largely hidden from awareness, governs most of your actions. Even mistakes are intentional! But part of the inner voyage is to find out the reason for your every thought, word and action, to bring your motives out from the depths of the unconscious to the surface of your mind. This is how you expand your awareness. This is how you connect with the divinity which dwells within.
Some of the common reasons for doing things include to earn money, to win praise, to distract oneself, to be creative. Less common reasons include to be of service to others, to contribute to the beauty and grandeur of existence. Or simply to pass the time. But if as the scientist says every action has a reaction, the spiritualist replies that every deed also has a reason.
As I observe myself going about my day I see that everything I do is for a purpose. I eat to nourish myself, brush myself to maintain white teeth and avoid cavities, wash my laundry in the interest of cleanliness, and because my dog vomited raw chicken on my sheets. I exercise because I enjoy it, and because afterwards I enjoy food all the more. I take sun for the vitamin D, and because I look good with a tan. I walk the dog because that makes him happy. Etc. I put myself in social situations at times to watch how I will behave in unfamiliar settings, and listen to the words that come out of my mouth when I'm around strangers. A subtler side of you is revealed in your interactions with others. But it is harder to determine the cause and purpose of thoughts. Every thought that arises has a source and a stimulation. Often it is something we see in the environment that reminds us of something else. Then up springs a thought and we call it inspiration and wonder whence it comes. If only we knew!
It is said that in the afterlife, we are judged not by our achievements but by our motives. It seems that while on earth, outcome is given precedence over intention. But at death it is the other way around! So in the hereafter the massively successful investment banker who has amassed a huge fortune effectively and often times legally swindling others is far inferior, in the soul sense, to the nearly homeless janitor who cleanses his soul with every toilet he scrubs. And if the investment banker cries, "I did not mean to take advantage of other people's trust, and when I told those gullible clients that I could make them a profit if they parted with their hard-earned cash on that 'once in a lifetime opportunity,' I truly believed my lie!" the answer that he will give himself when he dies is "Of course I knew what I was doing, I just wasn't aware of the fact at the time."
But the unconscious sees all. And the more you expand your consciousness to include hidden motives, secret desires and private agendas, the more your actions and thoughts and words are purified, the more you become an instrument of the highest good, and at the very least you save yourself a ton of aggravation (and possibly reincarnation) when your time on earth is done.
How much less chaos there would be if more people first asked why they do what they do, and acted only after verifying that their motives were pure! There would be a lot more harmony, and fewer brands of cereals, that's for sure. The Sanskrit chant is "Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu." Translation: "“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”